As temperatures begin to rise and flowers burst out in blooms, many of us get the itch to do some cleaning. We need to clean out those flower beds and make room for new plants. We need to clean the closet and under the bed. But what about our relationships? Is your marriage in need of some spring cleaning?
It’s easy to express our frustrations when it comes to our spouses. But let’s not go there right now. Let’s take a few minutes to think through these five suggestions for a little spring cleaning to see if there is anything we need to clean up a bit.
“You never…” “Why can’t you…?”
Let’s be honest – it’s easier to criticize another person than to accept responsibility for our own faults, isn’t it? However, those critical words we sling do a great deal of damage, both to our spouse and to our relationship.
Sometimes we have to consciously choose not to use those hurtful words. Instead, let’s look for opportunities to encourage our spouses, and to praise them for things done well. Appreciation goes a long way. And who knows. Maybe those areas where the criticism previously flourished will gradually disappear altogether.
Reduce the Ruts
If you’ve been married for a while (for some, that may be longer than others), you may find yourself going through the motions in your marriage. You’ve found routines that seem to work, and so you simply continue on each day.
Routines are great. I personally love them. However, in our marriages, routines can be dangerous. They allow us to slide along… and sometimes apart. We just move through them without thinking.
Break out of the rut and do something completely new together! Or choose to do something that you used to enjoy together but just haven’t done in forever. You’ll throw some fun into the mix and hopefully put a sparkle back in your mate’s eyes.
Forgiveness is a tough one, isn’t it? Many people mistakenly believe that offering forgiveness communicates to the other person that what they did was okay, or that they can do it again and expect to be forgiven again. The Bible does tell us to forgive seventy-times-seven times. And we should. But forgiveness does not mean allowing a pattern of sin or abuse to continue. We are also to speak the truth in love. This is a much more complicated issue than can be addressed here, but please understand that I am not talking about giving up in the face of an abusive situation.
However, we do need to give up the grudges we hold over petty things. Whether it’s shoes that seem to live in the living room or toothpaste squeezed incorrectly, if we allow our grudges to take root, they will grow like weeds. Choose today to let go. Offer forgiveness where it’s needed, and release that burden.
Tame the Tongue
If you’ve read the book of James, you’ll know I’m asking the impossible! But our speech can be a serious issue in our marriages, particularly if we use critical or derogatory words about our spouse in the presence of others. As hard as criticism is to hear in private, it is even more so with others there to hear it.
We need to build our spouses up, not with flattery, but genuine praise. We need to show respect with the things we choose to discuss with others. Whether it’s hanging with the guys after work or gabbing with a girlfriend on the phone, keep your tongue under control when it comes to sharing about your spouse.
Pray for Positives
Some times are tough. There’s no denying that. If you’re going through a tough time, I encourage you to pray. Ask the Lord to show you things you can be thankful for each day. Ask Him to help you to focus on the positive things, the blessings, in your life. They are there, but when times get tough, we somehow struggle to see them.
When we choose to focus on those things that are good (rather than dwelling on all the bad), we are putting into practice 2 Corinthians 10:5,
“We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” (NASB)
Need a prayer partner as you tackle this spring cleaning? You can leave a comment (or to keep it more private, contact me directly), and I would be happy to pray for you.