“One winter a Farmer found a Snake stiff and frozen with cold. He had compassion on it, and taking it up, placed it under his coat. The Snake was quickly revived by the warmth, and resuming its natural instincts, bit its benefactor, inflicting on him a mortal wound.” (Aesop’s Fables, Eliot/Jacobs Version)
Just like the snake, humans have natural tendencies toward specific behaviors because of the influences of this world. Because of the Fall, we have tendencies to sin and to fall short of perfection. However, we expect people to look a certain way, act a certain way, and say certain things. We get annoyed that people don’t fit into our molds of what the perfect husband, the perfect parent, or the perfect child looks like. But when we actually try to control them, we find out that there’s nothing we can do to change them. Some people are just the way they are, and we can’t fix them.
I tend to be a control freak. I really like perfection, whatever that is. And most often, my lack of perfection and the lack of perfection in others leaves me pretty dissatisfied with relationships. I keep having the same conflicts with the same people and I keep doing the same thing to try to fix it. Doesn’t Einstein define that as insanity?
For those who want to change their spouses, remember the analogy of the snake. If he has been trained his entire life to run away from conflict, then don’t get mad at him when he fears you raising your voice. If she has been influenced to clean when she’s stressed, then don’t be surprised when she can’t sit still. We have all been influenced by the way we’ve grown up, the people we’ve met, and the experiences we have undergone. The patterns we have developed are not going to change overnight. If they change, they will take time. And they will take grace.
My advice to you today is from my dear friend, Elsa: let it go. My husband would not be happy, because he has vowed never to see this movie. But the simplicity of the lyrics and the sweetness in Idina Menzel’s voice as she sings these words reminds me that it truly is that simple. You can’t control when your husband likes to check his phone every night before bed, thus shining the light in your face? Let it go. You can’t control that your wife likes to talk a lot right before bed, thus keeping you from precious sleep? Let it go. Just take a deep breath and walk away. Don’t bring it up. Just…let it go.
If it’s really an issue that makes your blood boil, pray about it. God can intervene, and He will either change the habit or change your heart about it. Be open to both.
I must add that there are expectations in marriage that are normal and healthy. You expect your husband to remain faithful to you. You expect your wife to honor the budget that you created together. I know gender roles have changed a little bit over the years, but either spouse or both are expected to do their share of cleaning the house, shopping, raising the kids, and keeping the romance alive. Your spouse is supposed make you feel safe. Your spouse is expected to seek reconciliation and peace in your marriage, not to tear you down or talk bad about you.
Just like the snake analogy, people who are abusive, unfaithful, and lazy have also been shaped by their natural tendencies and by their environments. Jealousy may also ensue from people who have been abused, cheated on, or neglected in past relationships, and this jealousy can manifest in anger, controlling behavior, or the silent treatment. Knowing this, it is easy to feel sympathy for those who hurt us. We have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God. But abuse, infidelity, laziness, and jealousy are all detrimental to a marriage, in addition to our well-being, and so they must be confronted.
If your spouse has an issue with these detrimental habits in your marriage, do not let it go. Pray earnestly, but do not be afraid to confront your spouse. If your spouse does not listen, consider counseling or other resources to help you deal with your spouse in a graceful manner.
Grace is God’s indescribable gift to us (2 Corinthians 9:15). When our spouses do not meet our expectations, let us extend this same gift to them. Instead of making them meet your expectations, let God reveal His expectations for you and your life partner.