Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The times, they are a changin'...

     There’s an old joke that says, “Women marry men to change them, and men marry women hoping they will never change.”  Some people willingly embrace change, and others resist it with all that is within them.  Change can happen instantaneously or slowly over time.  Change can last for a season, or it can last for a lifetime.  Change can bring immense joy or overwhelming pain (and sometimes it can bring both at once).  And often, one change—expected or unexpected—leads to a series of changes.  The reality is, change is inevitable, and (even for those who try to embrace change) it often does not happen like you want. 
     In marriage, change can bless a couple, and change can
wreak havoc within a relationship.  Even if you don’t like a specific change, or change in general, there are things you can do to help changes be a blessing to your marriage.*

  • Acceptance is essential.  Regardless of how the change came, bemoaning the change and making your mate feel shame or guilt over something that may well be out of his or her control will drive a wedge in your marriage relationship.  You may have to accept that your spouse can no longer do what he or she once did physically, socially, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually.  Certainly, you may need to grieve the loss you are feeling, but when you accept you mate for who they are, not just who you want them to be, you communicate a loving covenant bond that transcends any change.
  • Adjustment is necessary.  If a change affects one spouse more than the other, a husband or wife might make the mistake of carrying on with “business as usual.”  But every change will require some sort of adjustment.  You might find yourself doing things you previously did not have to do.  Or, you might find yourself learning new behaviors or new skills to help fill the gap caused by the change.  Every change, no matter how big or how small, will require some sort of adjustment.  Making adjustments without criticism or assigning blame is critical to your marital health. And most importantly, don’t forget to verbally communicate the new expectations and responsibilities each change brings.  Otherwise, you risk projecting unspoken expectations on your spouse and then resenting your spouse for not fulfilling a need that he or she may not even know is there.
  • Look for the blessing or opportunity God is putting in front of you.  It is often hard to see blessings in difficult or unexpected changes.  You might even be more tempted to ask “God, where are you at in this?”  (And, if you do think that, you are in good company.  Just read through some of David’s psalms or some of the writings of the prophets, and you will see that many of our heroes of faith asked the same.)  The change that is occurring is an opportunity for you grow into the image of Christ.  It might be a place to learn more patience, or to shed your pride and ask another for help, or to trust someone else with responsibility, or to show a whole new level or grace to your mate.  I don’t know what you are facing, but as life changes, open yourself up to God’s Spirit at work in your marriage relationship.

     The 10th Axiom of Marriage (which you can read about here) states, “In marriage, THINGS WILL CHANGE, and your relationship will be dependent on how you and your spouse navigate change.”  Whether you’ve been married 6 weeks or 60 years, change is inevitable.  Work with your mate to accept the change, show each other patience and grace as you both adjust to the change, and know that God is at work in your marriage and in you as in individual to use that change to your good and to His glory.

*This post is referring to life changes that are not precipitated by ongoing abusive behavior, extreme addictions, or other potentially harmful situations.  If you are in a state of fear for you or your family’s physical or mental well-being, please seek immediate protective and professional help.

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