It’s no secret that I try to encourage couples to get along better and to draw closer together. These things I talk about, they are not theories that I’m just throwing out. They are not just niceties. They are things that really work. They are things that I know work because I have lots of personal experience applying them.
I know the methods I have shared with readers will certainly work if you have a good level of cooperation in your relationship. But what if you don’t have cooperation from your spouse, and your home feels more like a battlefield than a refuge? What do you do then?
It’s important for each one of us to realize that we can’t change anyone, really. We can influence others, but we can’t change them. That is their choice. Likewise, we can’t make anyone happy. Something we do (or don’t do) may influence or encourage someone else to feel happy or unhappy for a time, but really, we can’t make them happy. That is their job.
The only person you can change is you, and changing you is the thing that will help you the most to feel happy and to be a peace with this world and those who you live with.
Here is what I think is one of the biggest problems in marriage or in any close relationship: We project our bad experiences from our past lives onto those closest to us, and then blame those bad feelings that come from those experiences on them. Because we don’t like to take responsibility for our lives, we project our past experiences onto others. We go into blame-o-matic mode. We insist that they take on all of our baggage for us, and when they stumble and nearly collapse under the weight, we say, “What’s the matter with you?”
This is what I see going on in 95 percent of struggling relationships, to one degree or another. But if your husband or wife or child or ex-spouse or whoever is merely your projection screen, what is “now playing” on that screen is often the movie of your life, not theirs.
We get it backwards. We point and blame and criticize and writhe in agony because we think we can’t be happy because someone else won’t change. But who really needs to change is you and me. And I have this on the good authority of personal experience. I had to learn this myself and start to change myself before I realized what I was doing and what was going on.
Here is the pattern that is at the root of a lot of unhappiness in this world:
- First we judge someone
- Then we blame them
- Then we burn with anger at them
I maintain that it is impossible to feel anger without blaming someone or something else for our problems, and it is not possible to blame without judging or condemning someone else harshly or incorrectly. In relationships, the problem starts with judging others, even though Jesus said—
Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. —Matthew 7:1–2
Judging others comes so easily and naturally to us. That is the disappointing nature of this world. But the work of the gospel is to overcome the natural man and woman in all of us, and the more we do that, the happier we will become in our relationships.
Do you think our Heavenly Father is full of anger all the time because of what people do? If we look around at what is happening in this world, He sure has plenty of reasons to be angry, doesn’t he? But He is not filled with anger. He is filled with love. Why? Well, partly at least because He does not judge or condemn. He doesn’t need to, because He is all knowing. He knows the whole truth, so He doesn’t judge incorrectly. We, on the other hand, only know part of the truth, so we are full of hair-trigger judgment and instant condemnation, and, therefore, we are often unhappy creatures.
The first step to overcoming the habit of judging others and to be happy in this world is to simply suspend our judgment. Realize that we can’t know the whole truth about most situations, even in the case of our spouses, and it is the knowing and seeing only part of the truth that leads us to judge and blame and pop off. We have to keep our judgment in check if we want to be happy. We have to keep it within the boundary the Lord has set.
So instead of judging your spouses, just keep trying to understand them. Say to yourself, “I don’t know the whole story and I need to learn more.” The path to understanding is communication, so ask lots and lots of genuine, nonjudgmental questions. Hold off on judging them. Try to the best of your ability to fully understand what is going on in their lives.
The more you understand, the less you will judge, and the more you withhold judgment, the more you will love. And the less you judge, the less you will blame, and the less likely you will find a reason to be angry.
Most of our happiness in relationships begins with dropping our judgment of our spouses.
Note: If you are currently in an abusive relationship, this counsel likely won’t work for you. You are playing life by a different set of unfair rules. I have been a witness of too much abuse in my life, and I care about you. You may need help getting the abuse under control or getting out of an abusive relationship. I can help. Let me know how I can get in touch with you personally by sending a message on Facebook, and I will help you the best I can with the resources I have.