Holding Your Spouse To A Higher Standard
Some of you may have opened this post assuming it would be about why we shouldn't create unrealistic expectations for our spouses. Why it's unfair to hold your spouse to "standards."
Sorry, this is not what you assumed.
First off, as sinners, we will never meet the standards God sets before us in the Ten Commandments. Are we tasked as Christians to try as we might? Of course. We fail miserably every day, but it's still part of our calling to follow God's commands and live according to His word. It's difficult and frustrating and downright disappointing - but nevertheless, they are standards we are called to follow. Thank goodness there is forgiveness, am I right?
When Tom and I got married, we found ourselves creating our own expectations for what marriage should be. These expectations were outside of God's picture of marriage, so of course we failed and let each other down. They were human expectations with nothing more than selfishness to justify their necessity. They were standards we thought would create a stronger marriage, but instead they created disappointment and hurt.
Where did these ideas come from? Well, sometimes they were silly ideas we concocted on our own, but other times they came from these so-called Christian marriage books we started to read. I really do hate to admit it, but sometimes those books can make you believe your marriage has issues in places it actually doesn't. It tells you that if you aren't doing x, y, and z, in ten years you'll be in a miserable, failing marriage. For those who are struggling I'm sure these books are helpful, but remember to take them with a grain of salt, keeping in mind that every marriage has shortcomings.
From that realization, we revisited our expectations and standards for one another, and for our marriage using the one thing that is far more dependable:
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 ESV)
As Christians, we realized our marriage should look and act different than others. The standards that we are called to hold to are not our own standards, but God's.
We've realized that some couples behave entirely different when their spouse is around, and when they aren't. And that is just not okay. Many times it's disrespectful and walks a fine line on what's moral and what isn't.
Therefore, I hold my husband to higher standards and he does the same of me.
Looking back, I saw a great example of when he should have expected more of me. It was when I worked for a corporate, but "hip" company. It was a company very well known for its holiday parties, and I happily drank the "kool-aid" (quite literally). At one of these famed parties, Tom had texted me to let me know he was waiting in the lobby to pick me up. Like everyone else, I had had too much to drink and was having entirely too much fun... so I responded that I'd be down in a couple minutes.
But I forgot.
I literally forgot my husband was there.
I was too busy having slurred, idiotic conversations with co-workers who were too drunk to stand on their own two feet.
The conversations and behavior over the course of the entire night were nothing short of embarrassing and inappropriate.
Over a half hour later, I happened upon the lobby, saw my husband, and THEN remembered he was there.
I hate sharing this story.
But I think it's important to admit mistakes. What did that verse say? "...it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth." Even the hard truths, my friends.
I'm humiliated that there was ever a time this happened, but it did. Tom should have held me to a higher standard. Instead, he was patient and kind - which are also wonderful traits - but he should have corrected my moral behavior. He absolutely had the right.
Sadly, we have both been on the receiving end of such an evening and neither of us are proud of it. They were nights we certainly could have done without. In fact, it was after such a night that we had a long talk about the moral standards God calls us to hold to.
Respecting your spouse, doesn't mean just in the times when they're around.
- It means that when one of them is gone on business, you can be sure they'll be going to bed at a decent hour and calling to say goodnight... instead of drinking in a faraway city with coworkers until wee hours of the morning.
- It means that when they're around friends or couples who speak poorly of marriage or spouses, that your spouse will speak admirably about it and stand up for it instead of joining in.
- It means you never do something questionable just because everyone else is. Whether at work, socially, or even with your best friends.
- It means creating boundaries to protect your marriage. These 5 boundaries would have some people rolling their eyes, but as Christians, these ideas should be applauded for their moral basis. When it comes to entertainment, for example, the words, "It's just a movie" is a very poor excuse. Would it be "just a movie" if Jesus was sitting right next to you? Many find that thinking to be "lame"... sorry, I'd rather be lame. I don't need to see every trashy thing Hollywood pours out. I love what Kelsie says at the end of her post:
"Shouldn’t we say yes to our marriage and no to anything that isn’t best for it? Isn’t your spouse worth it? Marriage is a place that requires honesty, faithfulness, grace, forgiveness, and communication. Let’s be intentional about taking care of this relationship by setting godly boundaries. It’s a relationship worth fighting for."
Will we continue to let one another down and fail at some of these expectations? You bet.
It will be times like those that the power of forgiveness shows its true colors. We are not perfect. Our marriage is flawed, because we are flawed people.
But is it worth it to hold yourself to standards that show respect to your spouse? Is it worth it to expect the same from your spouse? Absolutely. Yes, sometimes it's easy to go into marriage with unrealistic, unhealthy expectations. But when you trust God's word and commands and make those the sole moral basis for your life and marriage, having high standards doesn't seem like work or a tight leash so much as it feels like a privilege.
Because after all, marriage is a gift as much as it's a privilege... and it's a gift that is worth protecting.