Train up [your spouse] in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.
Over the past 10 years I have worked with countless individuals who are struggling with their marriages. Sometimes I see them together but most often I work with the individual who is the most motivated. Typically the first session will begin with the client saying something like “Oh I know the only person I can change is me,” only to spend the rest of the session outlining the problems of their spouse. “If only she would get a job” “If only he would be more supportive of me” “Her problem is that she nags too much” “The problem with him is that he can’t be close” and so on. Usually this is followed by the phrase “He (she) needs to learn….”
Often they have spent years trying to teach their spouse whatever it is they think they need to learn and now are coming in to me to see if perhaps I can be a better teacher! It is as though their marriage has become a classroom! No wonder so many couples end up losing that loving feeling after ten or fifteen years – who wants to be married to your teacher? All too often I hear women in particular complain “I feel like my husband is one of my kids”! This is what happens when you feel compelled to teach someone else – you end up feeling like their parent.
But the truth is that while marriage does teach us something – it is not your job to be the teacher! Your focus should really be on what your marriage is asking you to grow within yourself and your relationships. Marriage is one of the few relationships that force us to grow. It is the primary means for maturing. As my husband Ron says, “You can grow old without growing up”. The choice is up to you.
If you are caught in the illusion that you should – to paraphrase Proverbs – train up your spouse in the way they should go – do yourself and your marriage a favor and shift your focus off your spouse and onto yourself. Take some time to reflect on what your marriage might be asking of you – and if need be, find a qualified licensed counselor to assist you in that process. You will find yourself feeling far less burdened and much more empowered in the long run!