When He's 95% Wrong - How to Improve a Marriage

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"He's lazy, selfish, mean-spirited, and a workaholic. He doesn't help me around the house and acts like the kids are all my responsibility. He hasn't done anything kind toward me in months." 

"Is there any hope for my marriage when I'm the only one trying?"

Dr. Gary Chapman, in his book The Marriage You've Always Wanted, answers with a resounding YES. "Your marriage can improve and improvement can begin today, regardless of your partner's attitude."

Based on his principles, here are three steps to help improve our marriages:

1.  See the Plank.

2.  Confess the Plank.

3.  Forsake the Plank and Embrace the Power

See the Plank

It's so easy to see the faults of our spouses. We could make lists several pages long of their bad habits, sins, and character flaws. But we can't change them. Only God can. The only person we can change is ourselves.

"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged. . . Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your (partner's) eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your (partner), "Let me take the speck out of your eye," when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your (partner's) eye."

The first step to improve our marriages is to stop "speck hunting," no matter how large the "speck" appears. Instead, Chapman suggests, we should prayerfully ask God to reveal the planks in our own lives. Ask God, "What's wrong with ME?" After inviting God to search our hearts, we should make a list of the character flaws and sinful actions and attitudes that characterize us. We might list things like selfishness or stinginess in our sex life, lack of loving actions, or  critical, complaining spirits.

Confess the Plank

Next, take the list to God in prayer. Confess each sinful action, attitude, and thought. This is important not because anything we reveal to God is something he doesn't already know, but because it's important to agree with God that these sins have offended him.

After we've confessed our sins (even if they are only 5% of the problem), we are free to receive God's forgiveness. First John 1:9 promises, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness."  Remember that while God may speak to us with the voice of conviction, he never uses the voice of condemnation. God always forgives in response to our sincere confession.

The next important step is to confess our sins to our spouses. We might say something like this:

 "Honey, I spent some time with God today, and he revealed to me that I've been wrong in several areas of our marriage. I've confessed these things to God, and now I want to confess them to you. I've been selfish about ___________, unwilling to ______________, and have had a very _______________attitude toward you. Would you please forgive me?"

Your spouse may respond in a variety of different ways. He may laugh at you, be skeptical, even refuse to hear or forgive you. Or your confession may cause him to consider his own actions. Regardless, you have obeyed what God told you to do.

By confessing your actions as part of the problem in your marriage, you have begun a powerful process of change.

Forsake the Plank and Embrace the Power

In the future, invite the Holy Spirit to enable and equip you to forsake those sinful actions, thought patterns, and behaviors. Every day, yield yourself (even aloud) to God and help you behave in loving ways (See 1 Corinthians 13) toward your spouse. And when you fail, repeat steps 1, 2, and 3. Call your action or attitude sin. Confess it first to God and then to your spouse. Ask for forgiveness. Finally, yield yourself to the Holy Spirit and allow him to transform you into the godly husband or wife he intends you to be. 

By keeping short accounts with God and each other, you will begin to tear down walls that have taken years to form. And you will not allow new bricks to be added to the wall between you.

The only person we can change is ourselves. And even if we aren't the majority of the problem in our marriages, allowing God to transform us will automatically begin to transform our marriages. 

May God richly bless you as you seek to honor HIM through your marriage.

SPECIAL NOTE: While this post was specifically directed toward marital relationships, the principles can be applied to any relationship you have -- work, friendship, family, etc.

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  1. Thank you for this review and post! I may need to look into this book! I love Dr. Chapman, he really is so blessed! :)

  2. Good post, Lori. I'm looking forward to more marriage insights from your interview and your life. : )
    Seeking to take the plank out,

  3. Wow! I think I need to read this book! :)
    I would love for you to come share this at Matrimonial Mondays.

  4. Great advice here. I was drawn to it since I wrote on marriage, too. Isn't it the case that the changing always starts with us first (the ones seeing a problem in the other)? Wonderful post!

  5. Love this: "even if we aren't the majority of the problem in our marriages, allowing God to transform us will automatically begin to transform our marriages." Sooo true! Great post.

    New follower from Matrimonial Monday.


  6. Following the Lord's design for confession and reconciliation is always the best route. Thanks for reminding us and for linking up with WIP!

  7. This is wonderful! Pinning it!