My husband and I are both perfectionists—meaning we have double trouble when it comes to being realistic in our marriage.
No wonder we had a very messy start and still dip into messy moments more often than I’d like to admit! 😉
And maybe, if you’re a perfectionist like us, you chant these words to yourself …
“I am able to do all things …”
But somehow trail off when it comes to adding the most important clause to this biblical principle found in Philippians 4:13 …
“through him who strengthens me.”
Yes, God is the remedy for our unrealistic expectations.
But just how can we tap into His strength instead of our own?
Before we dive in, allow me to start off by sharing some examples of unrealistic expectations.
We might be unrealistic when we expect our mates to …
- Apologize in the heat of the moment or even soon after
- Recognize their fault when deep wounds blind their view
- Focus on their fault when we’re not focusing on ours first
- Respond with kindness toward us when we’ve shown harshness or coldness to them
- Cooperate with us when they’re tired, wounded, fearful, insecure, etc.
- Never disagree with us or turn us down
- Yield to a boundary we’ve set the first or even second time we set it with them
- Read our minds—following through on meeting that unspoken expectation
- Want sex as much as we do, no matter the wounds of their past or current physical challenges
- Pursue God as much as we do, no matter their past or where they stand with God now
Do any of these resonate with you? Sadly, they do with me!
6 Steps to Becoming a More Realistic Spouse
1. Remember that expecting perfection leads to discouragement.
Not only will your mate grow discouraged by your relentless pursuit of perfection, but you will also grow discouraged by the burden of cracking the whip! 😉
No one on earth can shoulder the weight of perfectionism. Doing so actually weakens and weighs us down, as well as our mates and marriages. But when we strive to be realistic with them, it serves to strengthen our marriage!
So keep in mind this verse when you’re tempted to be unrealistic,
“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” —Luke 6:31
Living out this verse brings balance, since we all want to be treated fairly and with a realistic perspective.
2. Know, accept and communicate your limitations.
In the early days of my marriage, I did not do this—not the knowing, accepting or communicating! 😉
I feared looking realistically at myself, believing it might mean I was unlovable or not worthwhile. So I remained in denial whenever I hurt my spouse. Or I kept the secret of my sin to myself, rather than openly admitting it to my husband. Though the truth was undeniable, in most cases!
When I finally learned to admit my failures to him, it broke down the barriers that kept me from connecting fully with him.
We must learn to embrace this biblical truth …
“We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.” —James 3:2
James was being rather facetious about being perfect here. The only one who is perfect is God! I hate to burst your bubble, but you aren’t Him!
The sooner you accept this harsh reality of your humanity, the sooner you’ll be able to bridge the divide your unrealistic expectations have created in your marriage.
3. Know, accept and forgive your mate’s limitations.
When we don’t accept our own frailties, failures and even idiosyncrasies, it makes it harder to accept our mate’s issues. We hold them up to the same unrealistic standard that we hold for ourselves. Or worse, we make their personality quirks our pet project and/or fodder for frustration.
Notice that this key step ALSO involves forgiving our mates, not just accepting them. And the only way to do that is through the empowerment and mercy of God!
Which leads to my next point …
4. Surrender your challenges to God.
If forgiving your mate is a challenge, don’t let the enormity of it paralyze you. Surrender that challenge to God who can carry the weight.
Surrendering is a rather abstract concept. But Jesus demonstrated and illustrated this perfectly for us. At one very poignant and powerful moment, the night before His crucifixion, Jesus prayed …
“My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” —Matthew 26:39
[bctt tweet=”We surrender when we lay down what we hope for and want, at God’s feet—seeking His good and perfect will be done. #surrendertoGod #firststep” username=”BethSteffaniak”]
That’s the first step toward becoming realistic in your marriage. Bear in mind, it’s a step that you will need to repeat all.the.time!
5. Rely on God’s strength to work in each unrealistic task.
In this step, we look to God for the strength to deal with any impossible task in our marriages and lives, rather than relying on ourselves.
A quick way to know if you’re not relying on God is identifying whether you’re tired, frustrated and/or angry with your mate.
However, if you feel a peace about a challenging aspect of your mate’s attitude and/or behavior, then you’re probably trusting God with it.
Another sign that you’re trusting is when you show uncharacteristic love, mercy and/or patience with your mate. God is the Author of and power behind that amazing grace on display! Thank Him for it!
6. Prayerfully examine your motives and situation regularly.
This is one of the best ways to bring a realistic focus to your heart and marriage. If you do none of the others I’ve suggested so far, make this one your aim!
The following Scripture is one that I have regularly used as my template for self-examination …
“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
Whenever I feel confused or angry about a situation, in particular with my spouse, I pray this simple Psalm.
[bctt tweet=”Praying this Psalm invites God to reveal the ways that I’ve sinned against my mate. And God faithfully reveals what I’ve overlooked or wanted to ignore. Find out what it is at MM! #Scriptureprayer” username=”BethSteffaniak”]
Then I am able to take responsibility by apologizing and adjusting my attitude to a more realistic and gracious one moving forward.
If you don’t take the sins and faults in your life seriously like this, then you’ll harbor unrealistic expectations, whether you’re a perfectionist or not. It’s just the natural entropy and gradual decline that occurs without this vigilant approach.
[bctt tweet=”Take a quiz that will show you how perfectionistic or realistic you are as a spouse. Then follow the 6 keys found at MM to become more realistic in your marriage! #messymarriage #realisticspouse” username=”BethSteffaniak”]
Interested in the quiz to see how perfectionistic or realistic you are as a mate? Click here to download it—being sure to be honest when you take it! Also, if you’d like a prayer that can help you articulate your desire for a more realistic approach to your life and marriage, then be sure to click on the image below to download this as a printable!
Click the link to read more posts in “The Spouse I Want to Be” series. And if you’re confused about how to move through a process of forgiveness, be sure to subscribe to my blog! I offer an e-book detailing the steps of forgiveness and my Subscriber Library holds lots of tools for working through offenses in life and marriage.
Be sure to come back next week too when I’ll be doing a review and giveaway of Jim Burn’s latest book, Doing Life with Your Adult Children: Keep Your Mouth Shut and the Welcome Mat Out. You won’t want to miss out on this opportunity, whether to win the book for yourself or to give to your boundary-busting parents and/or in-laws! Lol! 😉
Which of the six keys do you need to work on the most in your life and marriage?
Dare to share what your score was on the quiz? More perfectionistic or realistic?
Here are some other lovely linkups I join – Inspire Me Monday, Literary Musing Mondays, Tea and Word Tuesday, Purposeful Faith, Tell His Story, Recharge Wednesday, Porch Stories Linkup, Welcome Heart, Worth Beyond Rubies Wednesday, Encouraging Word Wednesday, Sitting Among Friends, Destination Inspiration, Tune in Thursday, Heart Encouragement, Moments of Hope, Grace and Truth, Faith and Friends, Faith on Fire Friday, Fresh Market Friday, and DanceWithJesusFriday
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