One gem of wisdom that has been of great value in my marriage came two years after my wedding day when my wife and I took an opportunity to attend a marriage conference. I always thought marriage conferences were for rocky relationships, but they aren’t. They are great experiences that will deepen even the healthiest of marriages.
While we were at this conference, one speaker said something that I have continually forgotten and been reminded of: Compare your assumptions to your knowledge. I have reworded and applied in my marriage as “Make the best assumptions of your spouse.”
We have a tendency to see the worst in people. Whenever someone cuts me off in traffic, I immediately assume he is the worst driver in the world and is, in fact, a terrible person. He has no redeemable qualities and should not only leave the road I am driving on but also leave the country.
Marriage can be very similar. We assume the worst possible motives for something benign our spouse has done. This is not typically the fault of our spouse, it actually shows just how selfish, self-centered, and petty we can be. So what does thinking the best of your spouse look like on a practical level?
Check your perspective
Consider a husband leaving his sweat-soaked workout clothes on the bathroom floor … again. (Sorry about that, honey.) It would be easy to assume he does this because he does not respect his wife and just expects her to be his den mother and clean up after him.
Or it could be that he feels a responsibility to exercise so he can provide and protect, but the only time he can do that is early in the morning before work. In the small amount of time he has to get ready, he honestly forgets to pick up those smelly clothes (but he is trying to do better, I promise).
One perspective sees dismissiveness and disrespect; the other is, admittedly and apologetically, forgetfulness and love.
Yes, this is an illustration from my own marriage, and no my wife has never accused me of being dismissive of her, although she does not like picking up my sweaty clothes.
Compare assumptions with knowledge
At the conference, one speaker told the story of how he spent hours cleaning his wife’s car. He washed, vacuumed, waxed, and buffed for hours. When he came in covered in sweat, (I’m sure he put his clothes in the washer afterward) she jumped in the car to go grocery shopping.
When she came home and set the grocery bags on the counter, she looked at him and said, “The windows are streaked.”
The speaker was mad. He thought she meant that he didn’t do a good job cleaning her car. But then he measured what he knew about her, that she loved him, with what he was assuming about her, and the two didn’t measure up.
He knew that she appreciated the work he did for her. Afterward, she did thank him for the work he did around the house, and he cleaned her windows again.
Choosing to assume the best motives in your spouse and seeing events from his or her perspective is not going to come easily or automatically. We simply are too self-centered and selfish for that. Our humanity wants to think of ourselves first and everyone else second.
That is why we must rely on God to make these things a consistent practice. Choosing to ascribe the worst motives to our spouse is the automatic response. Recognizing we are doing it is a gift from God. But don’t let it end on just knowing you are doing it. Repent and ask God to give you the loving, gracious spirit we are called to show.
And just in case you were wondering, the marriage conference we attended was Weekend to Remember hosted by FamilyLife. It really is worth your weekend. You, your spouse, your marriage, and your children will benefit greatly from it.
Editor’s Note: The above was originally published May 19, 2017, on EngageMagazine.net.