Desperate for change
We’ve been in a serious rut in our marriage recently to put it nicely. I guess moving across the world, being on the mission field, and being together every waking minute while working the exact same job may have a little something to do with it.
We’re on the upswing now but things had gotten pretty bad and we were desperate for them to change. Well, more like, I was desperate for him to change. Sure I have my shortcomings, which are many in number, but I thought he was the real problem most of the time we argued and it was starting to get extremely irritating.
At the end of an argument I would always recap, make sure he knew the things he needed to do better at, the things he needed to work on for next time. I would walk away thinking things would get better when he finally changed his ways but all that changed was my frustration level which increased along with my level of nagging.
Then one day, I figured out the solution.
Doing something about it
I had a made quite a few mental notes about positive ways I wanted to start approaching my frustrations about our marriage. Well, to be honest, they were actually just my frustrations with Justin. I made mental notes of the negative habits, like nagging, and beliefs that were destructive that I wanted to ditch. It felt so cluttered in my head, there was no systematic way to approach incorporating these things into our daily interactions.
In the book Marriage Rebranded by Tyler Ward, he tells about a thirty-day experiment in which he graphed and plotted out changes he began to see in his marriage. I did something that was similar, I chose five things that I was going to intentionally incorporate into my interactions with Justin daily.
The things I began to incorporate included;
Speaking kindly regardless of anything of else
Intentional saying one encouraging thing to him each day
Initiating connection (whether that was conversation, sex, or just intentional time together)
Stopping negative thought process about him
I jotted little notes at the end of each day about how we interacted, what went well and what didn’t. Looking back I can see clearly how each of those individual items played an enormous role in the weeks I was intentional about them.
But the one that suspired me the most was the last item on the list.
The shocking discovery
When I intentionally began to halt a negative thought processes about Justin I realized something that shocked and wrecked me.
I think so negatively about my husband sometimes.
During these few weeks I wrote down what exactly it was that set me off on a negative thought path and I was astounded by what sparked those thought processes. They were the pettiest things.
Looking back through my notes, there was one day that I stopped eight negative thought processes about him! And you know what set them off?! Things like
he forgot to take the trash out
he threw his dirty clothes on the floor instead of in the laundry basket
he left his coffee mug on the dresser
he had an ADD moment when I was trying to ask him something important about bills
You get the picture. Though maybe annoying, they were all miniscule things.
What’s even worse is that I got so irritated about these little things I began to think thoughts that are 100% untrue in every way about my husband!
My thought process would go something like ‘he clearly doesn’t care because he forgot to take out the trash after he already said he would and he threw his freaking sweaty clothes from the gym on the floor instead of in the laundry basket, I mean, how hard is it?! He is so lazy sometimes; all he does when he’s not working is watch Netflix! Sometimes it feels like he’s more of a child than a husband because I’m always having to clean up after him!’
I would then proceed to nag him to death about taking out the trash until it was finally done. It was the same old story with dirty clothes on the floor, dirty dishes, whatever it was at that given moment. Nagging, Nagging, and then some more nagging.
The undeniable correlation
When I revived my notes thoroughly, the amount of negative thoughts and amount of nagging were linked every time.
I found an undeniable correlation: the more negatively I thought the more I nagged.
All the things were miniscule, yet I was letting my thoughts run wild all at the expense of polluting my mind, damaging our marriage, and demoralizing him.
The fact of the matter is that most times, he just forgets to take the trash out, or he aimed for the basket when he tossed his t-shirt and missed. He really does care about what I’m saying or trying to ask him, he just gets distracted easily.
The truth is he is that he is the most hardworking, intentional, aware, kind, compassionate, and selfless, and person I have ever had the privilege of knowing and I completely discredit, diminish, and destroy him when I let my negative thoughts take over.
Radical change only came when I initiated it
So I began to stop the negative thoughts in their path. I gave him the benefit of the doubt first. I would try to instead think
‘oh it’s ok he probably just forgot to take his coffee mug back to the kitchen’
‘I bet he’s still planning to take the trash out but he’s working on something else right now’
‘I may have interrupted something he was doing and that’s why he was a little scattered when I was trying to talk to him.’
And what I found out shocked me even more this time.
He really did forget, or he really was still planning to take the trash out and he wasn’t trying to make me feel like he didn’t care about what I needed to talk to him about!
When I started giving him the benefit of the doubt and quit instinctively thinking the worst, the entire ball game changed.
All this time I was waiting for him to change. But our marriage radically changed when I changed.
When I stopped thinking so negative about my husband and started not just seeing and believing, but actually thinking the truth about him, things were drastically altered.
Guess what else even happened? When I quit thinking so negatively and subsequently quit nagging him non-stop, my frustration level plummeted, he became quick to apologize when he forgot, and prompt to do things, like taking out the trash.
In this season, I am continually being reminded that I am only responsible for myself. I am only responsible for thinking and responding in a positive and healthy manner. I am only accountable for my thoughts, my words, and my actions regardless of what everyone else in the world is doing, including my husband.
There was a profound change that occurred in our marriage when I quit worrying about and trying to control what he was or wasn’t doing. When I examined myself first, it significantly affected the way we interacted.
That’s where I came to find the real work of change begins; with myself first.