Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests others. – Philippians 2:4
If you were asked to name three areas where you and your spouse disagree, you’d likely be able to do it without thinking very hard. You might even be able to produce a top ten list if given a few more minutes. And sadly, unless someone at your house starts doing some giving in, these same issues are going to keep popping up between you and your mate.
Unfortunately, stubbornness comes as standard feature on both husband and wife models. Defending your rights and opinions is a foundational part of your nature and make-up. It’s detrimental, though, inside a marriage relationship, and it steals away time and productivity. It can also cause great frustration for both of you.
Granted, being stubborn is not always bad. Some things are worth standing up for and protecting. Our priorities, morals, and obedience to God should be guarded with great effort. But too often we debate over piddling things, like the color of wall paint or the choice of restaurants.
Other times, of course, the stakes are much higher. One of you would like more children; the other doesn’t. One of you wants to vacation with your extended family; the other doesn’t. One of you wants to vacation with your extended family; the other doesn’t. One of you prefers home-schooling your kids; the other doesn’t. One of you thinks it’s time for marriage counseling or to get more involved in a church, while the other doesn’t.
Though these issues may not crop up every day, they keep resurfacing and don’t really go away. You never seem to get any closer to a resolution or compromise. The heels just keep digging in. It’s like driving with parking brake on.
There’s only one way to get beyond stalemates like these, and that’s by finding a word that’s the opposite of stubbornness – a word we first met back while discussing kindness. That word is “willing.” It’s an attitude and spirit of cooperation that should permeate our conversations. It’s like a palm tree by the ocean that endures the greatest winds because it knows how to gracefully bend. And the one best example of it is Jesus Christ, as described in Philippians 2. Follow the progression of His selfless love …
As God, He had every right to refuse becoming a man but yielded and did – because He was willing. He had the right to be served by all mankind but came to serve us instead. He had the right to live in peace and safety but willingly laid down His life for our sins. He was even willing to endure the grueling torture of the cross. He loved, cooperated, and was willing to do His Father’s will instead of His own.
In light of this amazing testimony, the Bible applies to us a one-sentence summary statement: “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus: (Philippians 2:5) – the attitude of willingness, flexibility, and humble submission. It means laying down for the good of others what you have the right to claim for yourself.
All it takes for your present arguments to continue is for both of you to stay entrenched and unbending. But the very moment one of you says, “I’m willing to go your way on this one,” the argument will be over. And though the follow-through may cost you some pride and discomfort, you have made a loving, lasting investment in your marriage.
“Yes, but then I’ll look foolish. “I’ll lose the fight. I’ll lose control.” You’ve already looked foolish by being bullheaded and refusing to listen. You’ve already lost the fight by making this issue more important than your marriage and your spouse’s sense of worth. You may have already lost emotional control by saying things that got personal and hurt your mate.
The wise and loving thing to do is to start approaching your disagreements with a willingness to not always insist on your own way. That’s not to say your mate is necessarily right or being wise about a matter, but you are choosing to give strong consideration to their preference as a way of valuing them.
Love’s best advice comes from the Bible, which says, “The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield” (James 3:17 NKJV). Instead of treating your wife or husband like an enemy or someone to be guarded against, start by treating them as your closest, most honored friend. Give their words full weight.
No, you won’t always see eye-to-eye. You’re not supposed to be carbon copies of each other. If you were, one of you would be unnecessary. Two people who always share the same opinions and perspectives won’t have any balance or flavor to enhance the relationship. Rather, your differences are for listening to and learning from.
Are you willing to bend to demonstrate love to your spouse? Or are you refusing to give in because of pride? If it doesn’t matter in the long run – especially in eternity – then give up your rights and choose to honor the one you love. It will be good for you and good for your marriage.
Demonstrate love by willingly choosing to give in to an area of disagreement between you and your spouse. Tell them you are putting their preference first.
If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. (Romans 12:18)