5 Ways to Protect Your Marriage
by Cindi McMenamin
If I asked you about your husband’s “little offenses” I’m sure you could give me a list. But over time, little offenses become big ones if we don’t learn how to let them go.
As I was writing my book, 12 Ways to Experience More with Your Husband, it occurred to me that the more we can let go of little offenses, the more we can forgive, move forward, and experience more joy in our marriages. Here are some helpful tips for keeping offenses from hurting your marriage so you can experience more trust, more passion, and more communication with your husband:
- Identify what triggers pain in your life.
A friend of mine – who is a licensed marriage and family therapist and sees women and couples in her practice every day – told me that people often react the way they do out of their pain. Certain words or situations will trigger pain in us and we end up reacting defensively. We get triggered and then we believe the lie – for example, that we’re not valued or we’re alone or we’re not appreciated or respected. The first step is recognition. We have to recognize and identify what is causing our pain. And most of the time your spouse is not the root of the problem. The problem is often connected to past wounds or present pain in your own life.
What triggers your pain? Is it the fear of being rejected? The fear of abandonment? The feeling that you’re being criticized or devalued? Do you get triggered by the idea that you are suffering by comparison or not measuring up to one’s expectations? Identify your fear and your pain. Name it. And then move on to the next step.
- Surrender your pain to the Only One who can heal it.
Jesus is our only risk-free, safe place. He’s the Only One who can meet our emotional expectations and heal us of our deep-seated wounds. Yet we often expect our spouses to be the cure-all for us and to know exactly what to say and how to treat us to eliminate our insecurities and treat or heal our wounds.
When we expect someone else to give us value or security or significance, we will always be disappointed. When we expect our spouses to heal our pain they will fail every time. We can only find that deep sense of security and fulfillment from the Maker of our soul. Let Him heal those deep wounds in your heart by surrendering them to Him and taking the expectation off of your husband to do what only Jesus can.
- Know your true identity so you can combat the lies.
If you are trusting in Jesus Christ alone for your salvation, you become His loved child (John 1:9). You are no longer an orphan, but one who is valued, cherished and given an inheritance in heaven (Romans 8:15-17). As you become aware of Whose you are – a child of the living God – and your identity in that deepens, you have a greater capacity to filter offenses and become more emotionally tuned in, understanding, and accepting of your husband. It is then that you can realize you may have acted poorly and the problem isn’t really with him.
When you understand your true identity in Christ and combat the lies that say “you are unloved,” “you are insignificant,” and “you are incapable,” you can then more easily recognize the lies your husband might be believing – lies such as “she doesn’t respect you,” you are not measuring up” and “you will never amount to anything.” The two of you can begin battling the lies of the enemy more easily when you both know you are firmly rooted and beloved in Christ.
- Practice grace and forgiveness.
Grace is the glue that holds the two of you together. To show our spouse grace and forgiveness, we need to let go of our pride, and our insistence on being right, and humble ourselves. James 4:10 tells us “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” And Philippians 2:3 instructs: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” It’s easier for us to let offenses go, and not take things so personally, when we are humble, thinking of others before ourselves.
Furthermore, Colossians 3:13 tells us to “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Living with the awareness that grace and forgiveness have been lavished on us will help us show a generous amount of grace and forgiveness toward our spouse.
- Leave the past where it belongs.
Proverbs 4:23 warns: “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (NIV). I believe we are told in this verse to not only guard what we let into our hearts, but to guard our hearts, themselves, from hardening so they don’t become a harbor for our hurts, resentments, and eventually bitterness.
Keep your heart guarded, softened, flexible, and forgiving by leaving the past where it belongs. Being able to “bury the hatchet” is essential to staying strong in your marriage. Leave the past in the past and if it has been resolved, leave the old issues out of new discussions.
Cindi McMenamin is a national speaker and award-winning writer who helps women and couples strengthen their relationship with God and with others. She has authored more than a dozen books including When a Mom Inspires Her Daughter, When God Sees Your Tears, When a Woman Overcomes Life’s Hurts, When Couples Walk Together (co-authored with her husband, Hugh), and Drama Free: Finding Peace When Emotions Overwhelm You. For more on her resources to help strengthen your walk with God, your marriage, or your parenting, see her website: www.StrengthForTheSoul.com.