How to Change Your Spouse in 4 Easy Steps: Step One
"FINE! I’m going for a run,” I nearly shouted, closing the door a little too heatedly behind me.
THUD. THUD. THUD. THUD.
My feet pounded the pavement at a heavy pace. “How COULD he?” I thought, mentally hissing in rage as I ran down one of our neighborhood side streets, replaying the argument with my husband in my head. I quickened my pace.
THUD. THUD. THUD. THUD.
I was in the middle of composing some really excellent retorts to the now hypothetical continuation of the quarrel in my head, when something niggled in the back of my mind. I hadn’t prayed my daily rosary yet.
“I don’t want to,” I thought petulantly.
“You don’t have anything else to do right now,” my better nature gently prodded. I looked through my favorite Podcasts and saw that I was all caught up. I was sick of my current running playlist. With a groan, I grudgingly crossed myself and began quietly reciting the Apostles’ Creed in clipped tones, matching the words to my run tempo. It was Tuesday, so the Sorrowful Mysteries were on tap. “How appropriate,” I thought cynically.
THUD. THUD. THUD. THUD.
As I continued to pray, my pace began to slow and assume a more regular cadence. After I finished the Rosary, I looked up at the dusky sky and miserably asked God, “But what do I do next? How do I get him to agree with me?” By the time I finished my run, I didn’t have any answers.
In the following months (and years) however, I learned a few key insights on changing my husband into the man I wanted him to be. The ironic thing, however, is that everything I learned has nothing at all to do with my husband. In fact, it all has to do with me. And, further notwithstanding the title of this post, while these steps are simple enough on paper, putting them into practice is usually much easier said than done.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting a series of four “steps” I’ve learned in dealing with areas of marital discord. While I’m certainly not perfect at executing these steps every time, when I do, it’s incredible the difference these few small changes can make. I hope you’ll find them helpful, too.
STEP 1: PRAY.
When faced with an area of contention with your spouse, bring it FIRST to God. Lay it all out to Him. Be honest. Talk to Him like He’s sitting in the chair across from you. Because God is omniscient and omnipresent, it’s tempting to just skip the dialogue part with Him and get right to your petitions. After all, He already knows it all, why bother telling Him the messy backstory?
The problem with this is that our relationship with God isn’t some sort of master/slave dichotomy. Neither is God a vending machine. It’s a covenantal relationship – a family. God is our Father, and we are His children. Like any loving father, He wants to hear your voice. He wants you to come to him meekly, like a little child. So talk to Him, really talk to Him. Take the time to lay it out.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus pleaded with God to take the “cup” of his crucifixion away from him – to the point where Jesus’s sweat fell like drops of blood and he was “overwhelmed and sorrowful to the point of death” (Matthew 26:38-39). That’s the kind of raw honesty God wants from us in prayer.
Once you’ve laid it all out, pray for an alignment of your will with God’s. While Jesus petitioned God ardently in the Garden of Gethsemane for a different path to redeem humanity, that isn’t where Jesus ended His prayer. Jesus immediately went on to submit humbly, praying: “Yet not as I will, but as You will.” Like Jesus, ask for the humility to accept that God’s answer to your prayer may not be what you had in mind.
As a mother, I’ve noticed my children frequently disagree with me on what is best for them. They want to watch TV endlessly, they don’t want to take their naps, and they do NOT want to eat the lovely, balanced meal I’ve placed before them. In my wisdom as a mother, however, I know that for them to grow into their best selves, they need to do the things they don’t want to do. They need imaginative play, adequate sleep, and good nutrition. Despite this, they can’t for the life of them understand why I torture them with horrors like broccoli and a regular bedtime.
It’s the same with God. God is either a good Father who loves us, or He isn’t. If we believe the former, then we should be willing to accept that God, in His infinite wisdom and goodness, probably knows better than we do. Often what we pray for is the spiritual equivalent of a fast-track to diabetes, but like little children, we can’t see it.
God’s will can be hard to accept, especially when He typically doesn’t do us the favor of laying it all out neatly before us, step by step. It’s an exercise in trust. So as you continue to pray about whatever situation is before you, pray for the willingness to accept His will, and pray for an increase in trust. In doing so, go forward with the full confidence that whatever His will, our Lord is good and upright, and all His paths are mercy and truth (Psalm 25:8-10).
Once you’ve said your piece, take time to listen. Prayer should be a dialogue, not a monologue. Often, we treat prayer as a one-sided conversation, where we rattle off a litany of complaints and then get frustrated when things don’t immediately go our way. In fact, it’s rather similar to the times when my husband and I are talking at each other rather than talking to each other and taking the time to really listen. I probably don’t have to tell you that those do not tend to be our most fruitful marital discussions.
So sit in the quiet with Him. Really try to hear what He is saying to you, and be prepared to wait. I find that God frequently seems to move at a glacial pace by human standards. St. Monica prayed for the conversion of her son, St. Augustine, for 17 long years before God finally answered her prayer. Even more egregiously from the human point of view, God took multiple thousands of years to fully redeem humanity from Adam’s fall in the Garden of Eden!
Look for the Fruit
In the intermediary following St. Monica’s first tearful plea or Eve’s bite of the apple, however, God wasn’t just sitting back, twiddling His divine thumbs. He was working quietly, in the still moments, unseen in the hearts and minds of the supplicants and in the hearts and minds of those they prayed for. It wasn’t until after Christ’s resurrection that the work God was doing over the two thousand years covered by the Old Testament became clear.
In the same way, you may not be able to easily identify the fruit of your prayers until years after the fact. In the meantime, however, pray for an increase of trust and faith that our God is a God who keeps His promises and that He is working. The fruit of your prayer may not result in any discernible difference in your spouse whatsoever. What I guarantee, however, is that prayer will change you. If you don’t take the time to sit quietly, reflect, and listen, however, you may miss it.
This is part one of a series of posts on How to Change Your Spouse in 4 Easy Steps. If you enjoyed this piece, please be sure to share and subscribe at the link below or follow me on Facebook or Instagram @thecontemplative_homemaker.