Iron Sharpens Iron Series: Marriage Should Make You Better People!

by | Jan 8, 2020 | Resolving Conflict, Uncategorized | 32 comments

Iron should sharpen iron in marriage: how to change a marriage

Keith has made me a better person because I am married to him.

First, there’s the little things. I notice that when I’m alone for several days, for instance, I tend to cocoon and just do whatever I want, which tends to consist of a lot of time wasters. When he’s here, I’m much more intentional about eating well, spending my time well, doing things with other people.

But then there are the bigger things. There’s the time I had to sit down with him about 12 years ago and tell him that I thought he was pushing Rebecca away because he was being too harsh with her. That was about 6 years after he had to sit down with me and tell me that I was being too easy on Katie, and she was wrapping me around her little finger (she was, too!).

I’ve helped him get more organized in his personal life. I’ve helped him make better food choices. He’s helped me stick to exercise goals and encourage me to keep up friendships when I’d rather cocoon.

We make each other better people by being married, and that’s what’s supposed to happen.

This year, in 2020, I want to get even more practical about how to grow your marriage and your sex life in the right direction.

I want to start the year with this January series: Iron is supposed to sharpen iron.

 

As iron sharpens iron,
so one person sharpens another. 

Proverbs 27:17

It goes along with the verse that I pray over marriages all the time–my kids’ marriage, my own marriage, whenever I’m at weddings:

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds 

Hebrews 10:24

That verse has to do with Christian community as a whole, but I think it applies even more in the richest and deepest of communities: Marriage. We’re supposed to be spurring one another on to love and good deeds. We’re supposed to be making each other better people.

However, marriage does not universally make people better people.

The purpose of marriage may be to help us grow, but that doesn’t mean that marriage always does. In some marriages, people get more and more selfish, and even potentially verging on emotionally abusive over the years. In some marriages, people get lazier and lazier. In some marriages, spouses disconnect from kids and each other and focus only on work.

That’s what I want to talk about this month. And to do that, I want to propose two big truths (and one caveat!):

CAVEAT While SOME spouses come into marriage with bad character and narcissistic tendencies, and will likely never grow to be good people absent an extreme work of God, MOST spouses are good-willed people who want the best for their spouse and want to make their marriage work. HOWEVER, even good people can develop bad habits in marriage and can learn to treat each other badly because of these two truths:

  1. Actions which are encouraged tend to be repeated.
  2. People tend to keep traveling in the road of least resistance–so the direction that they are going will continue, and even accelerate, unless something stops them and causes them to change course.

When a marriage goes south and people treat each other terribly, sometimes it’s because of a controlling and manipulative character. But it can also be because of marriage dynamics that fostered the wrong type of behaviour.

I do believe that many abusive marriages cannot be saved.

BUT–and this is a big “but”–I also believe that we can get into negative patterns early in marriage and fail to address small things, and those small things can then become big things.

Emotional abuse is sometimes about bad character and can’t be changed. But it’s also sometimes about relationship dynamics, and that often can be changed–or, more importantly, can be prevented.

Let me tell you the story of Dave and Susan (not their real names), and how marriage reinforced bad behaviour.

Susan was a wonderful woman. She ran a home daycare, and all the neighbourhood kids loved her. She ran the Sunday School at her small rural church. She was the mom to 5 kids, and her house was the “hangout” house for the neighbourhood. She was the first to bake a casserole when someone had a baby. She was just a lovely, lovely woman.

She was also very, very soft-spoken, and never had a harsh word for anybody, including her husband. And her husband had some addictive tendencies. So when they got married, he kept going to the bar. Over the years, as the kids came, it became too loud at home, and he spent more and more time at the bar. He became a full-blown alcoholic, with frequent angry outbursts.

Then, out of nowhere, Susan contracted a brain tumour twenty-two years into their marriage. She died within 7 weeks of diagnosis.

Her husband fell apart.

But within a few years, Dave had met another woman, that we’ll call Trina. Trina was also a lovely woman, but she was confident and loud. When they married, she immediately put her foot down and let it be known that there would be no going out to bars.

Within 6 months Dave was completely sober, and had become a teddy bear of a man.

Why was Dave a terrible husband to Susan and a great husband to Trina? I do think, from observing the situation, that part of it was certainly because Dave had regrets and grief from his first marriage and didn’t want to repeat that. But I also think it was partly because Trina didn’t tolerate certain behaviour, and made that known early in their marriage.

Now, Susan was not responsible for her husband’s alcoholism. Her husband was the one responsible for his choices.

But I do think that we can encourage bad behaviour without meaning to.

Nigel married Julie when she was already pregnant with someone else’s child, and Julie was so grateful to Nigel that she tended to push down her own needs. Once the baby was born and eating solid food, Julie wanted to start having family dinners at the table. So one night Nigel came home and Julie had the table set and the food all out in serving bowls.

Nigel sat down at the TV, and said, “I’d rather eat here.” So Julie filled up a plate of food and brought it to him.

From then on, Nigel ate at the TV every night, and Julie grew more and more unhappy and resentful. He’d come home and instead of connecting with the family, he went off in his own little world–and he expected Julie to wait on him. He would sit there and wait for her to bring him dinner.

I told their story in my first book, Bare Marriage. It was largely because of them that I wrote that book. I saw Nigel treating Julie worse and worse by the day, and Julie growing more and more sad. But I also saw her putting up with his behaviour and even enabling it.

What would have happened if, on that first night, she had said, “I’d prefer we eat dinner together as a family, so why don’t you join us here?” What if she had spoken up? What if she hadn’t brought him his dinner on the couch? What if, had Nigel continued to eat dinner on the couch, she had announced, “I want us to be together as a family and eat as a family. I have no problem making a family dinner. But if you don’t want to be with us, then I’m going to just make dinner for the baby and me and we’ll eat before you get home.”

Are you struggling with how to draw boundaries in your marriage?

God calls us to be GOOD, yet too often we’re busy being nice. And sometimes, in marriage, that can actually cause problems to be even more entrenched.

What if there’s a better way?

That’s why I wrote 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage. And if you’re flailing, this is the book you need!

I talk a lot about boundaries on this blog, but I’m not sure that many of us understand practically what they look like.

So this month, I want to take us through how iron should sharpen iron in marriage. We should make each other better people. And when we start with small things at the beginning of the marriage, we often prevent descents into selfishness like the ones that I’ve talked about.

This has been a passion for Rebecca, so I’d like her to have the last word on this one and share her story, too:


Iron Sharpening Iron in Marriage: Connor and Rebecca's story of speaking up early

Connor, Rebecca, and Alexander in our family matching PJs Christmas morning!

When Connor and I were first married, within the first few months we both had to draw some boundaries with each other.

Connor had been living with 4 other amazing guys (they were all his groomsmen, actually) who were still living with each other after our wedding, since we were the first in our little group to get married. When Connor had lived with them, they would all often stay up until 2 or 3 in the morning gaming together and having a great time.

So when we got married and Connor went over for the first time and didn’t tell me when he’d be home, we ran into a bit of a problem. Because now his staying out until 2 in the morning was affecting more than just him.

I sat at home waiting up for him since we didn’t live in a great area of town (and I legitimately was concerned for his safety biking around late at night since there’s some major crime activity where we lived–we ended up leaving because a guy was stabbed literally right outside our apartment door in the hallway, to give you a picture) and when he finally came home at 2:30 we went to bed and I told him, “I’m glad you’re home, but we’re talking about this in the morning.”

In the morning I told him I had no problem with him going out with the guys periodically, but he couldn’t impact my night like that by doing something that would make me worry. So he always had to tell me when he’d be home (or update me if the plan changed) and then either had to be home by midnight or he could just crash at their place–either was totally fine to me. He agreed, and we didn’t have any other issues.

Similarly, I got frustrated when he’d start online games he couldn’t pause in the evening.

It was cutting into our time after school/work together and it meant he was completely unavailable for minimum of 45 minutes at a time. So I told him I wanted to make sure gaming wasn’t getting in the way of us and we agreed that he wouldn’t start any game he couldn’t pause after 9:30 PM.

But Connor got frustrated, too–and had to set boundaries with me.

As many of you may have guessed, my mom and I are really close. About a year into our marriage, Connor started working more and I was working from home. As a result, it was a lot easier to talk to my mom about things than to talk to Connor, who wouldn’t be home for a few hours.

Connor realized after a few weeks that my mom was becoming the person I told everything to first, not him. And so he sat me down and said, “I need you to tell me things first before you tell your mom so that it truly is OUR life and we don’t start living lives parallel to each other.” It was exactly what I needed, and he was entirely right, and I made a concerted effort from that point on to make Connor my primary emotional support.

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.
Proverbs 27:17

Does iron sharpen iron in your marriage?

But what if we hadn’t said anything?

What if I hadn’t said I wasn’t comfortable with him walking home so late, or if I hadn’t spoken up about the bad gaming habits? What if he hadn’t confronted me about how I wasn’t turning to him for emotional support and thereby creating distance in our marriage?

  1. I’d be experiencing a lot more resentment and irritation towards Connor’s friends and towards him. Connor would not be as considerate about how much time he’s spent away from home or understand the impact that has on me.
  2. Connor would not be as emotionally available if he were addicted to video games (which he does have a tendency towards) and our marriage would not have gotten such a great start if we didn’t have our evenings together
  3. I would not feel as secure and safe with my husband because I would not have given him the opportunities to be my emotional support if I were still turning to family instead of to him.

In short, our marriage would be a lot worse and both of us would be crappier people.

By speaking up, both of us were able to put our spouse back on a path that was healthy and beneficial for both of us.

And that’s why speaking up in the moment is so important: because whether we want to admit it or not, we do have the ability to influence each other, providing we married someone of good character. So let’s take that influence we have over each other seriously, and not resign ourselves to resentment, disappointment, and bad behaviour from our spouses.


Thanks, Becca! And this month, as we work through this series, we’ll look at how practically we can speak up, how confronting our spouse can be a positive thing, not a negative thing, and then, finally, what to do if things still don’t change.

Iron Sharpens Iron in Marriage

How do you sharpen iron with iron? What ways do you make your spouse better? Let’s talk in the comments!

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Founder of Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

Related Posts

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

Related Posts

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32 Comments

  1. Lydia purple

    I think something got jumbled up in the final question…

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Sure did! Fixed it. 🙂

      Reply
  2. Recovering from abuse

    Thank you for starting with the caveat for those of married to addicts who were addicts before we married them and hid it. It’s easy for us to believe we are responsible (and many have been told we are responsible) when we are not. This is a hard post to read because the good character hasn’t been there and I don’t know if the marriage will survive.
    It may seem like semantics, but I believe it is worth commenting on. Towards the end “we do have the ability to change each other.” I understand I believe what is meant by this statement, but it’s not true. And it can be a dangerous statement in the hands of those without good character. We cannot change anyone but ourselves. We can influence each other and it’s important to make that distinction. Yes- encourage spouses to influence each other towards good. Encourage parents to set boundaries and consequences that influence children towards good. But thinking one can change another has reaped havoc in my life at the hands of legalistic and controlling (even abusive) people.
    I’ve read enough at this blog to believe that you see that distinction and I think it was simply a word choice that may have a better one out there.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Good point! I’ll go and make the change to influence. And in the podcast tomorrow I talk a lot more about the abuse that we can’t change, too.

      Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Changed it!

      Reply
      • Recovering from abuse

        Thanks so much for modeling humility and going the extra mile to build others up. You are appreciated.
        I almost didn’t check for a response because I first assumed I wouldn’t be heard or would be told how wrong I was. But I recognized that as abusive messages I’ve lived with. I’m so glad I checked and was able to see your loving response. Thank you for helping me take steps towards healing.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          I’m sorry I didn’t catch it sooner! I’m glad you spoke up. I learn a lot from my commenters, too!

          Reply
    • Lea

      I think boundaries can sometimes be helpful both in highlighting bad habits/behavior *and* changing them, but which happens depends entirely on the individual with the bad habits or behavior.
      So they are useful, but that doesn’t mean they will change something. Sometimes they will make things worse and that can make it more obvious that something isn’t working at all. If that makes sense.
      My goal in my next relationship (or the current beginnings of one that I’m apparently going to have to end) is to get better at hard conversations.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        This is very true. But boundaries are also something that you set up to make life easier on you. You do something so that, even if things don’t change, you can live with your life easier.

        Reply
      • Maria

        Setting boundaries can be scary because, a person’s reaction might let you know that there was never a real, reciprocal, relationship there in the first place. And then you have some hard decisions to make. Extract yourself (if safe to do so)? Pretend that everything is ok? If it’s not safe to leave, and you don’t want to bury your head in the sand, how do you cope?
        Not that every bad reaction means the relationship is doomed. Just that boundaries can reveal a person’s true character.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Very true, Maria! And that’s why it can be so scary. We need to do this first doing some hard work on ourselves, realizing that our worth is in Jesus, not in the marriage. And realizing that He is whom we seek before anything else. It’s only when you have that inner strength and peace that comes from the Holy Spirit that you can do this with emotional and spiritual safety.

          Reply
  3. Mrs. B.

    This is totally true. Too bad for me, it took about 15 years of marriage before I even had an inkling about this. I tried to fix problems by being nicer and nicer, and the problems just got worse and worse until I was being treated abusively on a daily basis. It wasn’t until I learned about boundaries (through an online course with Nina Roesner) that things started to change.
    After being waaaay too nice and submissive for many years, when I started to stand up for myself a little and have healthy boundaries things got even rougher for a little while as this “new me” totally freaked him out…but eventually things calmed down, and then started to get better and better, and now, after I have been “putting my foot down” for several years, I might say my marriage is actually starting to become happy. My husband is not a bad man, but he does have selfish tendencies, and instead of encouraging him to be the best he could be, I was only enabling his bad habits and childish behaviour.
    I am so grateful that God led me to learn about boundaries…it is crucially important, unless you are married to an angelic man, which few of us are…:)

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thanks so much for sharing that, Mrs. B! You’re right; when we start implementing boundaries, things can get rocky. But in the long run, it is really worth it!

      Reply
  4. Lindsey

    This was so, so good! I really appreciated this article immensely. The worst year my husband and I had in our marriage was the first one. We basically survived on white-knuckle commitment and intense sexual attraction. He had a real temper, and did not like not getting his way or me arguing with him. I had raging insecurity and an insane dose of homesickness. We both really loved each other, but we both had a lot of growing to do.
    But we are not the people we used to be any longer. In fact, my husband has grown tremendously. He is the ONLY person in my entire life that I have ever seen change an engrained personality trait. I admire him for it tremendously! He is my best friend and I don’t want to imagine what my life would be without him.
    People will always change throughout their lives, but in the best marriages we find a way to change together and for the better (most of the time).

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, that is lovely! Just lovely.

      Reply
  5. Doug

    Great post. Something I would add, is that the Biblical concept of iron sharpening iron extends to those relationships outside your marriage, that you cultivate to help strengthen your marriage. Very early in my marriage, I was a soldier in the Army. My wife and I were separated by an unaccompanied overseas assignment within months of our being married, so we pretty much continued our lives as single. Back then there were no cell phones or even e-mail, and to even make a phone call, I would have to catch a ride into the nearest town and call from the post office. 6 months after I got home, we were separated by another deployment to Honduras that lasted for 6 months. In a sense, neither of us got into the habit of being married. We were married but our lives didn’t reflect that reality. We continued making decisions as if they didnt affect the other because really, they didn’t. That was a bad way to begin, and I am sure it set us up for a lot of difficulty down the road. If we had had relationships outside of our marriage that mirrored a good functional marriage, it would have been better, but in the military, you yemd to associate with your peers, and for the most part, they were as lost as we were.
    After a rough 35 years we finally settled in a community and a church, and started forming those relationships with other couples, that actually strengthed us. Some looked to us for wisdom, because we had weathered so much, but we learned so much ourselves. Two couples, in particular, have become incredible allies in our marriage, just by the example they set.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That is so true, Doug. We do need community. I’m glad you’re in a healthy place and a healthy church, too! And it’s great that you can then even be mentors. It’s wonderful to be mentoring others, and then also being mentored ourselves. I think that’s the way it’s supposed to be!

      Reply
  6. Noel

    This was great. I’ve been thinking about this recently, because I have noticed bad habits in my husband that I think I have encouraged to develop. (I tend to be a peace at any cost person.) I also have noticed that our intimate life has gotten worse (for me) as I have not “talked to him first” for emotional support. Of course, the difficulty there is that he WILL NOT talk about the losses we have experienced and I’ve been more or less depressed for the last year and a half.
    So I’ve wondered if it was important to strive for the ideal, or just be grateful for what we have.

    Reply
    • Doug

      Noel,
      Losses can be an especially difficult subject if there is not already an intimacy in place. My mother once told me that grief was the most selfish of emotions. She was speaking of her response to the loss of my brother many years ago. I didn’t really understand it then, but I do now. It isn’t that way for everyone, obviously. It depends on how one processes. What I can tell you from my own experience, is that it is hard to be there for someone when you are grieving yourself. Also, for men, it can be extremely difficult to even define thise emotions, much less talk about them. My counselor as well as others, have helped me down that path, and I still have difficulty discussing some things with my wife. I don’t think your husband is unusual if he has difficulty there, especially if it hasn’t been practiced before.

      Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s a hard one, Noel, because, as always, there’s a balance. But I think we can give grace while also speaking up when we need to. I think if there are so many losses, you do need time to grieve, and that can be a hard process. I know. I’ve been there. But I think fighting for intimacy is also important, because that connection will help the grief so much.
      I’m not saying that we need to nitpick everything (again, there’s always a balance), but I do think that speaking up is often better than stuffing things inside. I hope you can find a new normal. And I do wish you all the best as you process things.

      Reply
  7. Natalie L.

    This is a much needed message to me right now but also hard to know where to go next. When we got married 10 years ago both of us were stuck in some nasty legalism, so I didn’t think I could speak up about the little things. Now we have both grown immensely and shed most of the legalistic teachings, but those little things that weren’t dealt with early on have gotten worse. I do speak up now, but among many other issues, my husband deals with depression, so even if he knows I hate it when he hides in his phone and video games, he doesn’t have the strength to stop or even care. Also, he can’t handle my emotional stresses without feeling even more depressed so I do turn to my mom more than I should. However, I finally took the first step and reached out to a counselor, so hopeful that will help.

    Reply
  8. Roxy

    Oh, boy; where do I start? My marriage (10 years) is in the process of rapidly changing this very moment because I finally drew a very hard line in the sand and told my husband, after his rather half hearted battling of the issue off and on for years, “Make the choice: me or porn.” Things blew sky high a few weeks ago and I said some very hard, very necessary things that finally got through to him. My husband is a excellent man, but he was drowning in this area and couldn’t pull himself out, even though he wanted to (crucial, of course). It had slowly destroyed me over the years, like a trickle effect, and had deeply affected our intimacy and communication. And he didn’t even watch “porn” in the usual sense (because of a filter on his phone, ironically)! “Just” sexualized stuff on YouTube a couple times a week, plus masturbation (so not all that bad, right?). But it made him angry, anxious, distant, distracted, and a dozen other destructive things. I made several clear, non-negotiable requirements, and he has taken ownership of all of them, praise God. In the last few weeks he has become so much more peaceful, calm, and determined. He is a new man after only a few weeks of complete abstinence (we are doing a 90 day sexual detox together, as recommended by nofap.com, an awesome (secular) resource). We have had several hours-long, deep conversations which would have been impossible a month ago (and have never been easy for him). The rapidity of his initial recovery has stunned me. We are in this 100% together. We text and talk every day about it. He volunteers information readily now about urges, phases, etc, as his brain heals. He is seeking Christian counseling, too. It is a miracle. He told me the other day that his desire for me, while it’s always been high, is totally different now than it was even a month ago. He said it’s more focused, richer, and deeper. And then do you know what he said? “Thank you for hitting me up side the head with a 2×4.” I was speechless. All because my own (wise and godly) counselor had told me I needed to be a strong, equal, corresponding warrior-helper for my husband, and it is not in my nature anyway to sit by and watch my loved one flail for fear of being an” unbiblical wife.” (What, I ask, could be more Biblical than pulling someone out of the mire?!) I was not being either strong or a helper to him. I mean, look at God and Israel! He set countless boundaries for them out of love, and let them experience the consequences when they went too far. It was totally necessary and done in love and for their good. Yet this is the total opposite of the message I’ve gotten all my life from countless books, blogs, etc, almost all of which I ingested in order to be a biblical wife and fix my marriage. Now, we have a history of discussing this whole porn thing from time to time, and we didn’t have an awful relationship, and he is a good man, so I felt I could say these hard things to him, though I didn’t know precisely how he would react. I don’t know what would work for other women whose husbands are in deeper. I know my situation is not one-size-fits-all. But when my husband actually thanked me for blasting him out of the water in order to get his attention, that sealed it for me. I say none of this lightly, and I haven’t even shared a quarter of the details. Setting a firm, clear boundary does not make me an unbiblical wife! On the contrary: it has strongly helped my husband and is saving our relationship. We are not out of the woods by any means, but I now have hope, all because I drew a line in the sand out of love and respect (get it?) for us both.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Wow, Roxy. This is amazing. Simply amazing. I may run it as its own post on Friday. Thank you so much. It really is all about being a true “warrior companion” (which is what helper actually means in Genesis) rather than being a “biblical” wife who never speaks up (which I don’t believe is biblical at all)!

      Reply
      • Roxy

        Post away. I would be honored. I want to add that I’ve been in counseling for 18 months, and have done some very painful work on myself during that time. I knew I could not and should not approach him in a self-righteous way, like his sins are so much worse than mine. But my increasing pain and isolation and his increasing irritability and emotional disfunction made me realize I could no longer settle for the “duck/back off and let God smack/convict him” advice I had encountered so often. I am glad I had the courage and bravery to stand up for our marriage, and that he had the wherewithal to respond. The timing was right, by God’s grace.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Awesome, Roxy! I’ll add that follow-up to the post, too. That “Duck” advice is so bad. We hear it all the time. I talked about how destructive it can be in 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage.

          Reply
  9. Cynthia

    Great point, and should be added to the Newlywed course.
    Even though my husband and I had dated for 8 years before getting married, we still had to do this as newlyweds. Subconsciously, as soon as we were married, I started to sound like my mother, and he started to sound like his father. Now, our parents are good people, but they are not perfect and they would NOT make a good couple.
    So, on the honeymoon, we stopped by a casino. At the blackjack table, my husband suddenly snapped at me that I was “ruining his concentration”. I stared at him and said, “Oh no, that was your father’s voice, not yours. We’re not doing that.” He never did it again, and didn’t develop his father’s gambling issues either.
    Meanwhile, the same week, I made a condescending passive-aggressive comment, and he called me on it, pointing out that it was my mother’s voice that had come out. He was right, and we resolved that I would say things in a direct way and not be passive-aggressive.
    We each knew right away that the other one was right – we had subconsciously copied a parent, and we didn’t particularly like how that person did things in that particular area. So, it didn’t feel like a personal attack, and we were each receptive to a course correction.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I love that! You spoke up early, and you each were willing to hear. But imagine what would have happened had you NOT spoken up?

      Reply
  10. Susanna

    What is recommended if you suspect *you* might be the spouse with problematic tendencies that your spouse enables?
    Nothing abusive or addictive, but I often wonder if my husband is such a nice guy that he doesn’t let me know when something is bothering him, and I have started to suspect that I have a tendency to over correct and criticize him.
    I have told him to speak up if he is bothered, but I’m not sure that he does, and I also don’t take criticism that well… I can get pretty defensive and redirect blame.
    How would you recommend opening this conversation with him, if indeed I need to?

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s great that you’re seeing it, Susanna! I think you just talk about it. Openly. And if he doesn’t speak up, and you think it’s something specific, then talk about that specific thing: “Honey, I worry that I take you for granted and I often say snippy things that are cutting. Do you find that I do this?” And if he doesn’t want to point it out, then pray about it, ask God to reveal it in you, and talk to a friend to hold you accountable as well. And maybe even seek marriage counseling together as a couple. But talking openly is always the best step.

      Reply
      • Anon

        That’s really helpful advice, thank you! (And thanks to Susanna for raising the question) This is something I am aware could be a problem for me as my fiance is such a caring, servant-hearted person (not just to me but to everyone) that it would be very easy for me to take advantage of his good nature and become very selfish.

        Reply
  11. Shan

    What about when you speak up and state your boundaries, but your husband always justifies them with an excuse or reason not to change?

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      At that point I’d suggest seeing a licensed counselor. If he isn’t giving any heed to your wants or needs, that is a major problem, and I do think ideally needs some outside help. I’m so sorry.

      Reply

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