Whenever I have had a married couple in my office for counseling, there is always a scenario that takes place. Both the husband and the wife list a series of grievances that they say they have been requesting their spouse to change in for years. The husband lists the three or four things that he has pleaded with his wife to hear and change in. Likewise, she has her list. I always have to ask the questions? “Did you know this bothered him?” “Did you know this bothered her?” “Do you still do it?” “Why if you know it bothers him/her so much?” It’s about this time that they attempt to go off on a rabbit trail of blame in order to avoid dealing with the question, “Why do you continue to do these things that so bother and provoke your spouse?“ Excuses erupt and blame arrows fly but few ever get down to answering the question.
I’d say the average couple has less than five reoccurring grievances each. They often seem quite petty and ridiculous on the surface. You would imagine that couples would adapt and make the adjustments out of love for each other. In Song of Solomon 2:15 we are told that it is “…the little foxes that spoil the vine.” This is so true. That’s what bothers the husband and wife so badly. Their cry of desperation groans, “I just don’t understand why they can’t understand what I’m asking, and just do it? It bothers and provokes me!”
There were many little things I did that provoked Renee earlier on in our marriage. If I was going to be late for dinner she’d request, “If you are going to be late for dinner, please just give me the courtesy of a call. At least then I’ll know and not be wondering and waiting.” That was not unreasonable. It was more than reasonable yet it took far too long for me to accommodate that request. It was only after me watching her cry about the issue that I finally made the change. That was stupid on my part!
There have been other little requests over the years. “Please don’t leave your shoes in the entryway by the door – put them in the closet.” “Please don’t splash the mirror by shaking your hands after you wash them.” There were a couple of others. None of these were earth-shaking but they were for whatever reason, important to her and bothered her when I ignored them. If I love her and she is important to me, why didn’t I make the effort to do them? There could be many reasons: indifference, laziness, selfishness, or just not listening and understanding that these things were important to her.
I’ve also had my ‘little foxes’ that she did that spoiled my vine and provoked me. Renee agrees that they just seem stupid when you understand that they cause ongoing martial conflict. It comes back to listening to the request of each other and honoring them by making the adjustment. Prov 1:5 “A wise man will hear and increase learning, and a man of understanding will attain wise counsel.” The requests of our spouse is wise counsel! I realize a few of the foxes are harder than others to make changes in but at the cost of eroding the love in your marriage over something that can be dealt with, they are worth working on!
The Lord reveals that not listening and making adjustments for the one you love, only harms you. This includes not listening to Him. Jer 25:7 “But you did not listen to me,” declares the LORD, “and you have provoked me… and you have brought harm to yourselves.” He wanted them to put their faith and trust in Him but they didn’t listen. They provoked Him instead. Be clear on this. Provoking someone is sinful. It is setting someone up to stumble. It is helping to create the spark that leads to anger and strife. Love does not operate like this.
Want a quick change in a contentious relationship? Find out immediately what two or three things you can change or do differently that will bless the one you are having trouble with. This wisdom is true for any relationship. Ask them if you can do an exchange – two changes for two changes. Then do them until the changes become the new norm. (Be patient because changes take root by repetition and at first, it’s easy to forget the change you want to make. Purpose to help each other remember in a kind way. You’ll be amazed at how much of a difference it can make. When you’ve knocked off two, don’t stop there! This is one good way to turn a struggling or fractured relationship around and instead, take it to a higher level.
Changes that someone asks you to make might seem silly to you, but if it’s not to them and you can do it – then by all means do it! Honor them and demonstrate your love by fulfilling their request. You’ll find you’ve moved from the land of provoking to a greater place of love and much more peace!
Romans 12:10 (NLT) “Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other”
In His Love,
Pastor Tim Burt
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Published by Pastor Tim Burt
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