I remember when I was a kid the first time I was appointed to be the class monitor. It was first grade and I was the new kid in school after my parents moved us to a new city half way through that first year. The teacher had to leave the classroom and so as she named me the classroom monitor she gave me the instructions of keeping a watch on the rest of my classmates and report back to her any bad behavior such as talking or getting out of their seats. I didn’t like the job. I wanted all of the other kids in class to like me and I thought for sure that being a classroom monitor would be held against me.
But now as an adult I have found that monitoring other people’s behavior comes pretty natural for me, especially when it comes to my wife. I don’t need any instructions for it and I don’t need to be told when to do it. I think I have a pretty good grip on the concept.
The truth is I believe we all have a good grip on monitoring our spouse’s behavior. It really doesn’t take any effort on our part because we are constantly living with our own expectations of how our spouse’s should behave. So, anytime their behavior falls short of what we are expecting, we have an immediate awareness of it.
And for most of us, we will see our spouse’s behavior as a reflection of how they feel about us. There are times when almost everything our spouse does, we will have some thought like, “if he really loved me he wouldn’t ……..,” or “if she really respected all I do for her then she wouldn’t ………..”
6 things to consider when you find yourself monitoring your spouse’s behavior .
What is lost in translation: It is too easy to have a communication breakdown. It happens to all of us all the time. It’s a part of life and I don’t believe we should ever think we are immune to it. Often, we will think we have communicated something so clearly that there is no legitimate reason for our spouse to misunderstand us. And so when they do misunderstand we will assume the worst on their part. We will think he/she didn’t care enough to really listen, or what we said to them really didn’t matter so they chose to purposely ignore us. When in reality just because we understood what we were communicating that doesn’t mean they understood it.
We don’t completely understand our differences: There are so many ways we are different from each other it is hard for us to completely understand what those differences are. And so when our spouse fails to meet our expectation, we again assume the worst because we would not do something the way they did. But the truth is God has made each of us uniquely different from each other. We are different by gender. We have different ways of thinking. Our love languages are different. Our personalities are different. We have different styles of communicating. We come from different backgrounds and we have different life stories. We are all really looking at life through our own unique set of lenses and we should not expect our spouse to see life through those same lenses, they have their own.
Maybe, we have not made known what our needs or desires are: Sometimes we can get caught up in monitoring our spouse’s behavior because we are feeling neglected or let down in some way. We want our spouse to meet our needs and our desires. But have we clearly made those needs and desires known? Or, are we just assuming our spouse knows and so we get our feelings hurt when we feel let down? We should never just assume anything. We must make our needs, our desires, and our expectations known. It can be a little scary sometimes because it requires us to be vulnerable and communication at this level takes practice, but it is absolutely necessary. We owe it to our spouse to never just assume they know what we think or feel.
Monitoring our spouse’s behavior can lead us down a wrong road: When we keep paying so much attention to what our spouse does and the things we don’t like, we end up building our case against them. We become like lawyers or investigators that collect all the evidence in a file. Only, for us that file is kept in our minds and in our hearts. And we are not even aware that we have been keeping a file on our spouse until one day we open it up and we examine ALL the evidence that we have been gathering. Then we may use our evidence to prove our case to our spouse, or worst, we may use our evidence to decide our marriage should be terminated.
Who are we to judge?: Could it be that monitoring our spouse’s behavior is the worst behavior of all? It is too easy for us to get caught up in our own self righteousness while condemning our spouse for their unrighteousness. But Jesus made His view on this very clear.
“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For by the standard you judge you will be judged, and the measure you use will be the measure you receive. Why do you see the speck in your brother’s eye, but fail to see the beam of wood in your own? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye,’ while there is a beam in your own? You hypocrite! First remove the beam from your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matt 7:1-5) NET
Finally, consider the cross: This is my final point and really the reason for this post. Anytime we find ourselves caught up in monitoring our spouse’s behavior, even when it is really bad behavior, we need to take time to consider why Jesus came to earth to die on a cross. We should pray to the Lord and meditate on this truth until we come to see all bad behavior the way He sees it.
Jesus came to die on a cross because we were helplessly lost in our sin. Because our sin condition and our spouse’s sin condition was so great God sent His son Jesus to die on a cross to set us free from the bondage sin has on us.
Now, this does not mean we all automatically walk in that freedom. And it does not mean we should allow and enable certain serious issues to exist in our marriages. But what it does mean is we should all recognize anytime we see bad behavior what we are really seeing is a sin issue.
We all have bad behavior and it is only through the cross that any of us have any hope of overcoming our bad behavior. Just because our spouse has different bad behavior than we do, it does not make us better than them. Jesus died for all of our sin, small or great. And so any time we are holding our spouse’s sin against them we are condemning them for something Jesus paid the penalty for.