One way to get off the Crazy Cycle is to believe your spouse has goodwill.
In other words, your wife isn’t trying to be disrespectful, but is crying out for your love, and your husband is not trying to be unloving, but is crying out for respect.
In believing your spouse has goodwill, you are to trust that your spouse means no harm, but wants only good things to happen between you.
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7:33–34 that the “one who is married is concerned about..how he may please his wife….[or] how she may please her husband.”
In the normal flow of marriage, neither gets up in the morning thinking, “How can I displease my mate or show I am not concerned about my spouse’s needs?” Nonetheless, as the day goes by, things happen.
Without realizing it, he may sound harsh and unloving, and she reacts with disrespect. Or she may treat him with disrespect in one of a dozen different little ways, and he reacts by not being loving. Conflict occurs, and that is when spouses can get nasty with each other.
Both spouses are good-willed people, but it sure doesn’t seem that way at the moment!
As I got more involved in doing marriage counseling, I was amazed at how even Christian couples would rail and scream at one another. It appeared they were not at all interested in serving each other with goodwill. I would sometimes despair, wondering, “Don’t these people care about each other at all?”
I began questioning the couples I was trying to help with their marriage problems. “Does your spouse have basic goodwill?” I asked. “That is, although your spouse fails you at times, does your spouse, generally speaking, intend to do you good?”
I was not just surprised, but I was a bit awed when most answered yes almost immediately.
I thought to myself, “Emerson, you are onto something significant.”
And then I followed up with the couples who had seemed hesitant to answer when I asked if their spouses had basic goodwill. Rephrasing my question, I said, “Let me put it this way: In general, is your spouse getting up in the morning with the purpose of trying to displease you or show you a lack of concern? Is your spouse intending to be unloving or disrespectful?”
Most of those who initially hesitated at my original question volunteered, “No, I don’t think my spouse plots to do evil, but I wish my spouse would plan on being more loving or respectful.”
“I agree with you,” I would respond, “but that’s another matter. I just want to be sure you don’t believe your spouse is premeditating evil or ill will?”
For the most part, the hesitant couples answered, “No, I wouldn’t be so strong as to say my spouse is premeditating evil.”
“So,” I pressed, “even though on occasion your spouse can be nasty or selfish, you are married to a person who has basic goodwill toward you?” Almost all the couples answered the same: “Yes.”
I don’t know your situation or the right decisions for you to make in your marriage. But I urge everyone I counsel to take the same view of their spouse that Jesus would.
In a vast majority of cases, I predict that the Lord would say about your spouse, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41).
Always try to look at your spouse the way the Lord does.
That begins by making sure you are fairly representing your spouse’s spirit.
One way to look at your spouse as the Lord does is to distinguish between snapshots of your spouse and a video of your spouse’s entire life.
Perhaps you are fixated on isolated moments (snapshots) and conclude that these represent the true spirit of your spouse. If so, you need to take a step back and ask, “Are these snapshots a fair representation of my spouse’s heart? Is this how the Lord sees my mate?”
My point is this: suppose I were to live with you for a week and take several unobserved snapshots of you during moments of frustration or anger. And suppose I then put these pictures on the front page of the newspaper, claiming that they are a true representation of the kind of person you really are. Obviously, I could be sued for libel or slander.
Husbands, don’t take a snapshot of your wife’s disrespectful reaction, but see the constant longing to feel your love.
Wives, don’t take a snapshot of your husband’s unloving reaction, but see the constant longing to feel your respect.
It will halt the Crazy Cycle!