Arguments happen even among the most loving and closest of couples. Often those arguments will have two causes: 1. unmet expectations, or 2. unrepented pride. Today, let’s talk about unmet expectations. In one way, this first cause can have its roots in the second. There are expectations that a wife or husband has but never expresses to their partner because “they should just know,” or “because I’ve lived with them for so long,” or “they owe me.” Do you see the pride in those statements? I should not have to condescend to explain what I desire. They ought to be as intelligent as I. They ought to be on the same emotional level as myself. They should elevate themselves; I ought not have to condescend to their level. Let’s leave that one for next time.
What happens if that isn’t the case? What happens if one has expectations, and has expressed them, but still has them unmet? The heart is racing (or slowing, depending on anger or hurt), the emotions are on edge, and everyone is gearing up for a fight. What do you do? Matt Chandler has some advice:
One of the rules right out of the gate is that we have to be careful not to react to things that upset us. Reaction shows a serious lack of self-control and maturity. Notice that Solomon didn’t just blow up at his wife and go on about how she didn’t love him or respect him or care about him. None of that happened. Instead, he basically said, “Okay, I get it. I love you.” [cf. SoS 5:4-6] His heart may have been full of frustration, but he controlled himself and responded to his wife, rather than reacting to her. Then he took his frustration elsewhere. (The Mingling of Souls, p. 149)
. . .The Scriptures show husbands that they’ve been called by God to love their wives like Christ loved the church. That means we love them regardless of their response to our efforts to change them. And the same grace-centeredness is needed for wives who want their husbands to change.
Getting our hearts into this way of thinking is the hardest thing in marriage by far because all of us tend to love in order to get something in return. (You can tell it’s not really love you’re giving if you begin to withhold it because you don’t think the response is good enough.) Jesus calls us to a more selfless way, the way of the cross. His way calls us to love purely because it’s the right thing to do, because it honors him and glorifies his Father. Jesus emptied himself in order to love imperfect responders. That’s real love.
Men, have you figured out that you cannot be romantic enough? You cannot be sweet enough? You cannot be sweet enough. You cannot help out around the house enough. You cannot make enough money and buy enough stuff to make your wife a sexual dynamo in the bedroom. Heart change isn’t brought about through leverage like that. In the end, only the Holy Spirit can change your wife’s heart. So we love, we encourage, and repeatedly we turn our wife over to Christ because he can change her heart. He can move in her. He can do things that we can’t.
The same is true for women. You can give all the sex that your man wants. You can cook him all his favorite meals. You can keep the house extra clean. You can give him time alone in his man cave or whatever. And God can use all those things, but none of them performed to be about change will work to change your man’s heart. Only God can do that. (Mingling, pp. 154-155)
So what is Matt Chandler saying? Never react to unmet expectations; respond instead. Respond with self-control and maturity. If there is an opportunity, first go to God with the issue before going to your spouse. While you may be able to affect the behavior of your spouse, you cannot affect the heart. The heart is where real change is. Only God can affect the heart. Go to Him, then when emotions are not on edge, talk with your spouse. By the way, don’t be surprised if God actually works on your heart before your spouses.
The Mingling of Souls is a great book based on the Song of Solomon, and I would highly recommend it. It is by Matt Chandler and Jared C. Wilson, published by David C. Cook, copyrighted 2015. You can order a copy here in various forms.