I was not fully aware of the fact that I was that bad until I got married.
Before I got married, I didn’t have anyone in my life to “tell it like it is,” to make me aware of things I needed to improve in my attitude, behavior, or way of thinking. Of course, people tried, but I would justify my actions and wave away their suggestions. When you’re married, however, you can’t justify your actions as easily.
The best cure for selfishness is to take advice from the only person who knows what your morning breath smells like.
Since being married, I’ve learned that I talk a lot about myself, I overfill the garbage can, and I don’t listen as well as I’d like. Sometimes I can be grumpy, and sometimes my words can offend people. When my normally-quiet husband talks to me in general, I treasure his few words like gold. But when he says things about me that rub me the wrong way and make me uncomfortable (but are true), I have to hold that with the same weight that I hold his compliments.
There’s this running joke among married people that the things that were cute little quirks about your boyfriend or girlfriend are the things that bother you the most when you’re married. We laugh about it, but I believe that there is a purpose for this. It reminds me of our relationship with God. When God draws us into a relationship with Him, He accepts us, flaws and all. But as we grow closer to Him, He begins to show us things in our lives that we need to change.
Whether your husband leaves his dirty socks all over the floor, talks with his mouth full, or always leaves late, you may think it’s a funny trait at first, a quirky part of him that you can deal with. In the beginning, you are infatuated with everything about that person, even habits that you never put on your “list” for a potential mate. However, over time, as you’re picking up his socks, becoming nauseated by the food hanging out of his mouth, and arriving to events late, you may discover that these “little” things that bother you are not so little anymore. These are things that may bother you because they need to change. You can find healthy and polite ways to share your frustrations with your spouse in love. Then, when you share the things that bother you to your spouse, it is up to your spouse to make the decision to change. You don’t have to parent him and make him follow your every command.
Admittedly, it’s more fun to be on the giving end of criticism than on the receiving end. However, both sides are important, and need to be dealt with in love. If I’m giving criticism to someone else, I need to make sure that my words are not condemning or insulting. There’s a difference between, “Why don’t you pick up your socks? You’re so lazy!” and “Honey, I notice that you leave your socks on the floor, and I would appreciate if you put them in the hamper.”
If I’m accepting criticism from my spouse, I cannot harden my heart. I have to trust that my husband loves me enough to tell me the truth. Although it feels like his criticism of me is an attack, his criticism is simply a way for me to grow. If I disagree, I don’t have to snap at him. If I want to explain myself, I should use my words wisely.
In both of these situations, we should be praying. We love because God first loved us (1 John 4:19). Therefore, God will show us how to love our spouses, no matter if we’re pointing out a flaw, or accepting criticism about one of our own flaws. Remember that the ultimate goal is to grow closer together so that you can serve God better together.