Relying on patience alone to create change is neither effective nor loving. Loving someone involves a set of skills that promotes closeness while effectively dealing with problems.
Patience is an important aspect of love
But, love is not one single thing. People who like to say that love is patient or that love is unconditional, often forget that love is many other things as well. In fact, if all we did was to be patient or to love unconditionally, we would actually have bad relationships.
Also, if you think of love as just being nice all the time, you will have a hard time finding God to be loving. God disciplines those He loves. There are many references to this in the Bible, but Hebrews 12:6 is a good place to verify that.
If you want to take a non-biblical approach, all you need to do is use your experience to learn. Be patient and treat your spouse nicely regardless of any bad behaviors he or she is doing and see what happens.
I would encourage you to test whatever you believe against experience. Regardless of how strongly you believe something, if it does not work, it does not work. Testing and evaluation, not wishful thinking, will help you find better solutions to problems.
If you read my materials at any length, you will see that I repeatedly say that talking about your relationship problems will make your problems worse rather than better. What I teach doesn’t match popular psychology. It doesn’t promote people going to marriage counseling. But, it matches what really happens when you talk about problems with your spouse. Try it and see. Learn from your experience.
Of course, being patient is a much better choice than doing something destructive. I Corinthians 13 makes it clear that patience is the thing to do rather than keeping a list of how your spouse has harmed you and treating your spouse badly. We are not to hold grudges. Anyone who holds a grudge with their spouse cuts off their nose to spite their face. They make their relationship worse.
Don’t think that I am advocating forgiving and forgetting. In all cases, I am talking about helping your spouse to enjoy his or her relationship with you, while also having good boundaries to protect yourself and the marriage. Forgive for the past, but make good boundaries to prevent the problems from continuing to happen. Using boundaries in addition to loving words and behavior develops love, trust, and respect. And, that all depends on what you do–not on what you and your spouse do together.
Assess what you are doing right now to make your relationship better
Are you “patiently” and inactively waiting for your relationship to improve? Very few things can be accomplished without patience, yet what are you doing while you are being patient? What you do or don’t do while being patient will make a big difference in your relationship.
It is possible to wait for things to improve while also:
- nagging, and
It is also possible to wait for things to improve while:
- having boundaries rather than negative behavior,
- making your spouse feel important, and
- being desirable for your spouse.
Being patient is never just waiting. We have to interact somehow and behave somehow while we are waiting. Being patient and waiting on the Lord as the Bible tells us to do in Psalm 37:7 and other places, means also continuing to live in a Godly way. It is never just doing whatever you feel like doing while you wait for God to fix everything for you.
So, what are you doing while you wait for things to be better? Are you treating your spouse well, having good boundaries, and keeping your relationship with God strong? If you are–great! You are being both secure and loving and are likely to have a good result from your patience. If you are not, then your waiting may just become wasted time and regret.
Talking about problems verses communicating about problems
Before I leave this topic of being patient, I want to make sure you don’t confuse talking about problems and communicating about problems.
If you read my books, you will see that marriage has a lot to do with good communication. Because we always connect on similarities, relationships are built whenever people talk about what they agree on. The converse is also true. We always disconnect on differences. So, when we discuss problems for which we don’t agree, our relationships become worse and our problems become larger.
This does not mean that we don’t communicate when we have differences of opinion. But it does mean that we don’t discuss those problems. Sometimes we will need to discuss in order to clarify that we have different positions. But, when we get to that point, we need to stop discussing. Continuing to discuss at that point is actually arguing.
Most of the time, it is not necessary to discuss something to know we have different positions. If we discuss in that situation, we are beginning with arguing, creating distance, and making our problems worse.
When we know that we have a significant difference that, if left unchecked, will eventually cause even bigger problems in our relationship, it is time to take action. We can’t simply wait. At these times, we need to use boundaries and communicate choices. These are never discussions.
- Whenever you are late for dinner, I will put it in the fridge rather than wait for you.
- Because you have been shouting at me in the car, I am going to drive separately. Or, we can not go at all. It is your choice.
- Walking away without saying anything when you are treated disrespectfully also clearly communicates your boundary.
These actions, done consistently, while continuing to provide love and affirmation at all other times, will help your relationship to grow, will gain you respect, and will increase the love you and your spouse have for each other. None of those things can be accomplished by criticizing or arguing with your spouse. Patiently waiting will also not make them happen.
If you have a habit of arguing with your spouse and have realized that it is making your relationship worse rather than better, you may wish to get my book, Connecting through Yes! to learn how to never argue again, while also not being a victim.
In Your Spouse’s Shoes
I want to help you to have a method for finding your own answers to marriage problems. This method won’t always work, but it is good to try before other things.
The method is to suppose that your role with your spouse were reversed.
So, for example, let’s say that your spouse is overly focusing on work and neglecting you. You could do what most people do, which is to start complaining about it. But, that would only serve to make your spouse feel your relationship was more of a job, what he or she was doing was not good enough for you, and you would end up with more distance than you started with.
Let’s imagine that you were overly involved in your work and neglecting your spouse. How would you like your spouse to approach this situation with you?
Here are some ideas you might like your spouse to try:
- be loving and attentive toward you, helping you look forward to seeing your spouse more and getting away from work,
- your spouse scheduling activities to do together which you enjoy,
- your spouse making you feel attractive and important on your dates,
It would be a good guess that if you would like your spouse to do such things, your spouse may like it if you did such things. If these things did not work to help your spouse to spend more time with you, then you could use a boundary.
- doing activities with others if your spouse refuses to do things with you
Even with such a boundary it is important to help your spouse to enjoy what interactions you do have. It is only with such connecting behavior that your spouse will feel like he or she misses out when you do things with others.
How well do you think that would work to make you want to engage more with your spouse? I bet you would not only enjoy being with your spouse more, but you would start to feel like you were missing out if you continued to neglect your spouse.
Now, consider what would happen if you were just waiting patiently for a spouse to spend more time with you.
In that case, your spouse wouldn’t enjoy spending time with you any more than before. Your spouse might get more from work relationships than from his or her relationship with you. Your spouse would not feel loved or special. Your spouse would not feel like he or she were missing out when you did more activities with others rather than with him or her. AND, your spouse would become more distant and neglect you MORE. Waiting patiently, without also taking loving and secure actions, would not be a loving thing to do.
Patience is required
Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Patience is required. As a gardener, I know that I cannot grow vegetables quickly no matter how well I take care of them. If I don’t take care of them and am just patient, they won’t grow. But, if I take care of them it will still be several weeks or months before I have a harvest. I must not give up on them in the meantime.
So it is with your marriage. Good actions will bring good results, but it often takes several weeks or months. And, if you get impatient and do damage, your relationship is likely never to improve.
I like to think of patience as persistently doing the right thing. Sometimes all I will be able to do is to pray, but I still need to do that. Other times I need to do much more, consistently and persistently.
Many people believe that persistently criticizing, arguing, and complaining will bring good results. It will not. It will only damage your relationship. We must persistently be desirable, loving, affirming, and have good boundaries. Then, your relationship will grow closer and closer as time goes by.
Start today to make little or big changes. Treat your spouse the way you would like your spouse to treat you. Stop doing damaging behavior. Be the kind of husband or wife your spouse would never want to lose. Do that consistently and be patient as things gradually start to improve.
If you don’t know how to do these things, you can learn. Many of us have not had good models for good relationships. If you would like my help learning to change your relationship from bad to good, I would be happy to be your relationship coach. You can book appointments with me at coachjackito.com.