How Respect Saved My Marriage

When you get married, you bring your normal with you.  He has a normal.  You have a normal.  You have to find a new normal together.  This is part of the marriage journey and it is hard and challenging.  Both of you have to be willing to give, grow, and listen.  This is not a blog about my marriage being perfect.  This is not a blog about how you can have a great marriage in 10 easy steps.  It is about me and how I added value to MY marriage.  I am putting it out there in case it helps someone.  This is not to send people on a guilt trip. The intent is to be honest and real.

Six years ago, John and I were in our marriage up to our ears.  I was a principal helping to run an organization of over 300 students and 30 employees.  John owns a small business.  We were both stressed out to the max and we had a nine-year-old and a seven-year-old.  We were okay.  We were fine.  Except when I got home, I never took my leadership hat off.

One night it came to a tipping point when John said, “Nik, you are not the principal of this house.”

“What?”

“You treat me like I am one of your students.  I am your husband.”

Ouch.  OUCH.  OUCH!

“Do you think I do not respect you?”

“No.  I do not.”

OOOOUUUCCHHH!!!

Of course I did what any woman would do.  I took it to my girlfriend and hoped she would make it better.

“He says I do not respect him.”

“Do you?”

“Yes.”

“How do you show it?”

“Ummm….I do the laundry. I cook.  I am busy.  My job never ends.  Then there are the kids.  I am so tired.”

“How do you show it?”

BIG PAUSE.  HUGE PAUSE.  Did I show him that I respect him?

“I don’t.”

There comes a point in time when the truth shines in your face so bright that it actually hurts your eyes.  We shield our eyes from it because it is so bright.  It hurts to look at it.  The longer we look at the light, our eyes begin to adjust and we can see it for what it is.  That is what happened to me.

I cannot change anyone but myself.  I knew I had to do something and it started with me.

I wanted a biblical marriage.  God calls the husband to love his wife as he loves himself and the wife must respect her husband.   My husband is not perfect, but he is easy to respect. My pride stopped me from doing it.  I like to be in charge.  I like to be in control.

The goal wasn’t to fix my husband.  The goal wasn’t to save my marriage.  The goal was to honor God.  I wanted to be more like Christ and in order to do that, it started with my own heart. The first thing I did was pray for my husband even when I didn’t like him.  I then had to examine my heart and my motives to grow myself.

Pride vs. Humility

I had to surrender to the constant battle of pride vs. humility.  Pride was winning and I wasn’t even sure what humility looked like.  Since I was a goal setter and I always start small, I decided to humble myself in small ways.  Since I always have to have the last word, I started there.  I just chose to not say some of the things I was thinking. I would truly pray, “Lord, help me to keep my mouth shut and look for the good.”   Eventually, over a LONG period of time, the critical spirit began to evaporate.  (notice I didn’t say it happened quickly or it is completely gone.)

Do not keep records of wrongs.

I was the master of this.  I could store up everything he said, did, and didn’t do for years.  I would then unleash it on him when we argued.  That was a step up from the critical spirit.  It is now an important rule in our house from 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.  Love does not keep a record of wrongs.  Neither does respect.

I built him up instead of tearing him down.

Once you get yourself in a hole, it is easy to stay there.  You become so negative and gritchy.  That was me.  I was the poster child for this.  Seeing the negative is easy, looking for the good in your spouse is harder especially when life is weighing on you like a boulder.  That is when I would pray, “Lord, help me to see the good.  I can’t see the good, but you can.”  Slowly, I did.  I even got to the point where I started flirting with my husband again.  That was and IS REALLY FUN!

I would text him, “Good morning you sexy beast.”

And today, I sent him this:

“Roses are red.  Foxes are clever.  I like your butt.  Let me touch it forever.”

Yeah….we have become that couple that makes our kids sick.  It has been quite the journey getting here.

Finally, my truthful friend gave me a challenge.  Look him in the eye and tell him you respect him, then see what he does.

I will not give you the details on that.  But, it was such a great response.

One of my top 10 movies that I love is “50 First Dates”.  I love this movie because every day, he has to show her what she means to him because her short term memory is gone.  To me, every day, I need to show my husband what he means to me. (sometimes I nail it…sometimes I fail it)  I need to put as much in our marriage bank that I can because WHEN your vows are tested over a course of time, you need to have some cushion and memories in the bank.  When John couldn’t get out of bed, I dipped into the investment of my marriage the last 6 years, let alone the 17 years.  I had to because it was harder than I ever thought it could be.  It still is.

Respect changed my marriage.  So did humility, forgiveness, and the quest to be more like Jesus.  Good marriages do not just happen.  John’s response to my effort was equal.  He began to show me that he loved me the way God calls him to and that fueled the growth.  We were willing to be honest and real.  It took consistency, time, work, and acceptance of flaws that just are. (This is called grace.)  I am thankful, so thankful, that he accepts me as the beautiful mess that I will always be and we continue to grow one small respectful step at a time.

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