Maybe your marriage doesn't quite need "saving". But, there’s a phrase that Dr. Phil coined—or at least popularized—that's a good one to ask ourselves now and then.
Often, when he has a guest on his television show who’s telling him their dilemma and how they’ve tried to solve it without success, he raises his eyebrow, gives them a pointed stare, and says, “How’s that workin’ for ya?”
That simple question usually causes those on the show to view their problem from another vantage point and seek new ways to solve it.
If we are consistently running into the same marriage problems, if we’re applying the “wisdom of the day” and still feel hopeless, if we are repeating the same mistakes we saw in our parents—that we promised we would never make, it’s probably time to ask ourselves this question: “How’s that working for you?”
Most of us wouldn’t say we entered marriage hoping it would be “typical” or “average.” But by listening to the world tell us what marriage is supposed to look like—from the movies we watch, magazines we read, television shows we binge on, even the conversations we take part in around the office—we are unconsciously settling for just that…average.
Sometimes the best way to spotlight the ways we’ve settled into this rhythm of an average marriage is to compare and contrast it with the marriage we really desire to have.
Average VERSUS grace-filled marriage?
Here are some ways an “average” marriage will differ from a “grace-filled” marriage:
- In an average marriage, spouses keep a running list of things they’ve done for their mate, expecting to be “paid back".
- In a grace-filled marriage, we give without expecting anything in return.
We take our cues from Jesus, who served His disciples, knowing that they would not recognize or appreciate Him fully.
- In an average marriage, people complain about their spouse to their friends.
- In a grace-filled marriage, we strive to focus on the positive and never put each other down—either in public or in private.
We should be each other’s biggest fans! Let’s err on the side of being too adoring of our spouses (if that’s actually possible). I’m not saying you should openly brag on your spouse, especially if it will make a friend feel inferior, but you should make a resolution to never participate in “spouse bashing”.
Side note: Even if you’re not complaining in public, complaining to your spouse in private will most likely discourage them and will actually de-motivate them from making positive changes.
- In an average marriage, people hold grudges.
In a grace-filled marriage, we forgive and are quick to seek forgiveness.
Colossians 3:12-13 says, "Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”
- In an average marriage, the partners let adversity pull them apart.
In a grace-filled marriage, we allow it to glue us together.
One of God’s greatest gifts in marriage is the ability of one partner to pull the other one out of the mud, spiritually and emotionally speaking.
There are times when one person is weak and down, and those are the perfect times for their mate to lovingly lift them up. Fortunately, our down times don’t usually hit us both at the same time, but even when they do, we can use adversity to glue us to each other and to God.
Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”
- In an average marriage, both partners look to each other for their happiness and fulfillment.
- In a grace-filled marriage, we look to God to fill us up, as only He can.
A famous line from the hit movie, Jerry Maguire, came when one of the main characters said to the other, “You complete me.” While romantic sounding, this is actually a recipe for disaster. Our emotional and spiritual tanks can only be filled by the One who created us, knows us fully, and loves us perfectly.
- In an average marriage, people assume the worst.
- In a grace-filled marriage, we believe the best!
If your feelings are hurt through some sort of misunderstanding, you don’t have to automatically assume your husband had sinister motives. In fact, you can tell yourself, “I know he wouldn’t hurt me on purpose, so there must be something I’m missing.” People are much more likely to enjoy being around each other if they’re not walking on eggshells and constantly having their motives questioned.
If, after reading through this list, you realize your marriage more closely resembles the average marriage, then ask yourself, “How’s that working for you?”
And then ask God to make you into the grace-filled spouse He wants you to be.
Jennifer Bell has been married to her high school sweetheart, Brant, for 30 years. They’ve raised three sons and one daughter to adulthood, and are still best friends. She recently became “Mimi” to a new grandson, Elijah. She enjoys being part of the worship team at church, reading, and spending time with her book club friends, and just hanging out with her family in Franklin, TN.