Alongside her husband, Claire Musters offers pre-marital classes to engaged couples and marriage ‘check-ups’ to those in their local church, and together they have also written a book on marriage. However, Claire says the best piece of marriage advice she was given was something it took her years to accept.
There is a lot of advice out there for married couples – and much of it is really helpful. The concept of a date night helps busy couples to work on the important principle of prioritising one another, and learning one another’s “love language” in order to show love in a way most meaningful to your partner has been a revelation to many marriages. We have included these tips, and many others, in Grace-Filled Marriage – and yet the most life-changing advice was given to me years ago, early on in our marriage.
I can’t remember the context of the conversation, but my mum was sharing her wisdom with me, openly discussing the times of heartache and frustration she had had over the years – often due to the fact that dad wasn’t a Christian and she was. She faithfully prayed for his salvation every day (something my sister and I now do as she is with Jesus) but each time she prayed that God would change him in some way, God would gently remind her that she was responsible for her own actions and heart – not his.
So this is the piece of advice she gave me: When you are desperately looking for your husband to change, you are looking at the wrong person.
When I was first getting used to living with another person, and there were little things that bugged me, I used to ask God to change my husband’s behaviour.
I bristled when she said it to me – and continued to do so the many times her words popped into my mind over the years. When I was first getting used to living with another person, and there were little things that bugged me, I used to ask God to change my husband Steve’s behaviour – and that phrase was the response I heard. Even in times when my heart was breaking and I was absolutely convinced the fault lay solely with him, God still reminded me of those words.
Why? Because we can only be responsible for ourselves. By not searching my heart for my own sin, by not keeping a check on whether I was apportioning blame, giving in to bitterness and/or holding on to offense, I was no doubt causing extra friction in our house. I wasn’t being a peacemaker.
I know I can have a tendency to complain about the things that really grate on me, not only to Steve but also to God. And yet, deep down in my heart, I have always known that it is usually my attitude that needs to change. Often Steve just approaches life in a very different way to me.
I know I can have a tendency to complain about the things that really grate on me, not only to my husband but also to God.
While this is still very much an area that is a work in progress in my life, I am much more aware that we all have blind spots, myself included. I have found weaving daily spiritual practices into my life (such as the Daily Examen) help me to be open to God searching and revealing my heart to me, as David prayed: “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23-24). Yes the process is painful and extremely humbling – and yet the result is an enriched and more fulling life…and marriage. Isn’t that worth it?
In this piece I’m talking about everyday tensions and niggles rather than serious issues of neglect or abuse – if at any point you do not feel safe in your own home please seek help from someone you trust or contact Premier Lifeline for support.