OK…In all honesty, the title is misleading. The truth is, you can’t make your spouse change. But I didn’t think you’d open this post if you saw the title as “Changing Your Spouse Is Hopeless.” That’s not what you want to hear. But wait…don’t close this post just yet…it get’s better I promise.
A place where relationships often get messy is in the concept of responsibility. We need to understand the difference between “responsibility FOR” and “responsibility TO”. There is a BIG difference between these two ideas.
I know of no place in Scripture that it declares that I am responsible FOR any other person. Even Adam and Eve each were held responsible for their own choices. It does say in scripture several times “visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children”, but that’s not saying that the children are responsible for the father’s sins, merely that there is an affect on the children. Overwhelmingly, Scripture is clear to “one another” each other with love, truth, service, peace, not judging, acceptance, burden bearing, etc. But the instruction is to ME, not for me to make sure you do it. As the saying goes, the only person I can change is me.
To focus on changing me requires having healthy boundaries, which is not creating walls or punishments for someone else. It’s also not putting a rule on your spouse that doesn’t “allow” them to do something. A healthy boundary is a decision I’m going to make for myself when someone sins against me.
I am only responsible for my thoughts, my opinions, my actions, and my emotions. But in marriage we sometimes feel responsible for our spouse. Where our responsibility lies is TO others in caring for and/or providing for them.
In Her Journey, a class helping women in domestic abuse situations, we learn a mantra of “I am responsible for me and you are responsible for you.” It really is that simple, but oh so hard to live out.
I am not responsible FOR my spouse’s emotions. I am responsible TO my spouse to be considerate. I am not responsible FOR my spouse’s actions. I am responsible TO my spouse to act uprightly. I am not responsible FOR my spouse’s habits that cause damage. I am responsible TO my spouse to set healthy boundaries for myself. I am not responsible FOR someone else breaking promises. I am responsible TO myself to set healthy boundaries. I am not responsible FOR my teenager’s demand for the latest thing. I am responsible TO my teenager to provide necessities. I am not responsible FOR my 2-year old’s temper tantrum. I am responsible TO my 2-year old to not provoke him to anger through coercion and threatening, but help them with his emotions through discipline and instruction. I am not responsible FOR my friend believing lies. I am responsible TO my friend to speak the truth. A husband is not responsible FOR his wife A wife is not responsible FOR her husband. They are each responsible FOR themselves TO one another.
God will not hold us responsible for our spouse’s behavior, but he will hold us responsible for ours (Gal. 6). And I don’t think it’s going to go too well for you if you point the finger and say, “but she’s (he’s) the one YOU gave me.”
Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’, and your ‘no’ be ‘no. Stay on your own side of the street. Be responsible for you. And THAT changes everything.