We pray that you and your spouse are growing closer together and learning how you can invest more intentionally in your marriage.
My wife Marilyn once worked under a kind, positive supervisor who created an atmosphere that encouraged her to thrive in her giftedness. She enjoyed her job and had the top sales-close rate in a three-state area at her company. Then, she got a new supervisor with more of a micro-managing style. As a result, her job enjoyment and satisfaction plummeted. Freedom and joy were replaced with heaviness and pressure.
Micro-marriaging, like micromanaging, also diminishes motivation, creativity and satisfaction — but the victim is your spouse, and the stakes are the health of your marriage.
We come into marriage with vastly different priorities and preferences. For example, for one spouse it may be very important to be on time. For another, having a clean house is equivalent to having a clear mind.
We will always think our way is best — we are human, and we can be egocentric. The Bible says, “every way of a man is right in his own eyes.” Proverbs 21:2. Trying to make your spouse do life your way may seem like the easy path to harmony, but it’s unbiblical. Laying your life down and considering your spouse’s interests above your own is God’s plan for your good, and for the good of your marriage. Ephesians 5:25; Philippians 2:4.
Does Marilyn wish I was more interested in a healthy diet? Yes. Does she wish I’d put dishes in the dishwasher and not use hand towels as dish towels? Of course. Do I wish Marilyn would use our key drawer and not lose her keys three times a week? Yes. Do I wish she’d forego organic foods in favor of more price-friendly processed options? Yes.
Have you noticed when someone pressures you to do something it makes you not want to do it? Grace and love are a magnet while law and pressure are a repellent. Behavioral pressure will not bring about marital pleasure, but will result in a heavy, duty-based relationship. I have yet to see a marital breakthrough result from verbal persistence.
If you micro-marriage your spouse, you lose either way. Your spouse will resentfully comply or stubbornly rebel. Either way, your spouse fatigues of your input and distances themselves, and the relationship loses. 1 Peter 3 tells the wife to “win her husband over without words.” Likewise, a wife doesn’t enjoy a controlling husband any more than he enjoys a nagging wife.
Because we tend to micro-manage in the areas that are most important to us, it is important to have a self-awareness of where we tend to control or nag. For example, I feel the burden of providing financially heavier than Marilyn does. I can lose sleep over our money; she says, “We’ll be fine.” Marilyn feels the burden of parenting more than I do. She can lose sleep over our kids; I say, “They’ll be fine.” Our challenge is to avoid micro-managing and to make sure we are intentional in supporting one another.
It’s worth saying that there are certainly times for intervention or counseling when a marriage suffers from issues like abuse, addiction, deceit, or chronic overspending. A spouse should never, in the name of grace, tolerate abuse or ongoing unfaithfulness. Additionally, attempts to avoid a micro-marriage should not shut down open communication. Ongoing issues and offenses need to be addressed and worked through, intentionally and honestly.
Remember, God has created each of you differently in personalities and preferences. These differences are meant to strengthen and enhance our marriages, not create tension. Recognizing both the strengths and needs of your spouse creates an affirming atmosphere in your home. “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:3-4
May God bless your marriage,
Brad Rhoads is co-founder of Grace Marriage.