For this week’s #MarriageMonday, we are looking at the God-tool of acceptance, one of the God-tools we cover in No More Perfect Marriages. When we use our God-tool of acceptance, it’s actually a gift to our spouse because we’re letting them be themselves. Let’s explore what it looks like to accept our spouse as they are.
Mark: In Romans 15:7, it says, “Therefore accept one another as Christ has accepted you.” Another version says this is “in order to bring praise to God.” And think about this: When Christ accepted us, that honored God. When we accept our spouse, we honor God as well. What a powerful tool we have in the God-tool of acceptance.
Jill: If the God-tool of acceptance isn’t being used in our marriage in some way, here’s what that looks like: We feel either highly-criticized and judged, or even all-out rejected by our spouse. If it’s not being used by either party, you’re going to experience judgment or rejection.
Mark: When acceptance is not used, it can also tap into the lies that some of us might hold that say we’re not enough and will never be good enough. That can take a really deep emotional toll, and is a great reminder of the power of our words. The words we choose to say to our spouse, as well as the words we choose not to say to our spouse, are a big part of the God-tool of acceptance.
Jill: Let’s think more about what it looks like in real life: First, when we use our God-tool of acceptance, we are resisting the urge to change our spouse. There’s nothing more dissatisfying in a marriage than feeling like you’re always being told that you do things wrong.
Mark: Right. Always corrected, always challenged, and ultimately never accepted. That can be so destructive.
Jill: Second, we allow our spouse to do things differently than we do them. Honestly, this requires us to look at where we think that our way is the only way, which would really be defined as pride. I know we don’t like to think of it that way. Most of us would say, “I’m not prideful,” but the truth is we do a lot of demanding that things are done our way. It’s such a gift when we actually give our spouse the freedom to do things differently than we would: Load the dishwasher differently, fold laundry differently, put the kids to bed differently.
Mark: We also hear all the time, when we meet with couples in our marriage coaching, that they feel parented by the other spouse. It’s not always the women parenting the men; there are also men that parent their wives. So it works both ways. Most likely the one of you that is more of a perfectionist, who really thinks things need to be done a certain way, is probably the one that more often causes the other spouse to feel parented.
Jill: So we’re resisting the urge to change them. We’re allowing them to do things differently than we do them. We’re also allowing our spouse to like things that we don’t like and to not like things that we do like. Now I know that may sound funny, but even down to our likes and our dislikes: Some couples find themselves in these power struggles, struggling with their spouse not liking the same things they like.
I’ll give an example: I love musical theater. Mark does not particularly enjoy it. He will go with me on occasion, but if I want to do that more often then I know it’s a loving sacrifice on his part. Often I will ask one of my girls or a friend to go with me, instead, because I recognize this is something I love and want to prioritize. I have to accept that he doesn’t enjoy it in the same way that I do.
Mark: That has been a relief for me. Another simple example is that I love coffee, and Jill doesn’t. I can’t force my enjoyment of trying different varieties of coffee on her. In accepting our differences, it has brought a lot of calm into our marriage.
Jill: Finally, when we use the God-tool of acceptance, we’re understanding that our spouse’s brain works differently than ours does. Instead of criticizing that they come to a conclusion or a decision differently, or that they process life differently, we embrace that. We recognize that the difference is normal. It’s okay, and it’s not wrong.
Mark: Jill is much more analytical and detailed than I am. I am much more random in my thinking. That is how both of us are wired, and we’ve had to learn to not view each other as “wrong” when we think in the ways we’re wired to think.
Jill: You know, acceptance has really allowed me to honor my husband and to allow him to be who he is.
Mark: And acceptance has really allowed me to love my wife and to allow her to be who God made her to be.
Jill: To close, we want to leave you with three practical steps to better use your God-tool of acceptance:
Let’s take a look at each of those briefly. The first one is reframe: Instead of seeing what they do as negative, reframe it as positive.
Mark: For me, in the first half of our marriage, I rehearsed the negative over and over again, which totally fueled my unwillingness to accept. Reframing turns that negative into a positive. What is the good that is coming out of this? What is the good that Jill is doing? What is the good in the way that Jill is thinking? I began to focus on the answers to those questions.
Jill: Exactly, and I’ve had to ask those same questions to reframe how I view Mark’s differences.
Then we need to resist. This is where we need to resist unnecessary comments or corrections, which was a big one for me. You might even need to literally bite your tongue when you feel the urge to make an unnecessary comment. When we first started focusing on this, I felt like I was biting my tongue all the time because I was in such a habit of making constant comments or criticisms.
Mark: It’s so easy to make those comments (which are often passive-aggressive), but they truly are not needed or helpful.
Finally we need to rejoice. Rejoice in those differences. Recognize that your relationship would be boring if you were both exactly alike. Not only that, but it would also be very limited in its perspective.
Jill: Together, you balance each other out. You each bring something different to the table. So there is something to celebrate and rejoice in.
Mark: I was so driven by my anger over our differences. Because of my frustration, I just felt so hopeless in them. It wasn’t until I found power in moving from that anger and frustration to rejoicing and celebrating those differences that I began to transform, and that was the power of using the God-tool of acceptance.
Jill: This week, let’s focus on using the God-tool of acceptance. Give your spouse the gift of being themselves, and we know you’ll see deeper connection as a result.
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