Marriage counsellors often find themselves in the surreal experience of trying to convince husbands and wives that treating each other with kindness and respect is necessary if they want to avoid a divorce. What we often find is that people come to us looking for to continue past ways of relating to their spouses while not having to deal with the yucky feelings. And what they really want us to do is, Change the other person; convinced that "When s/he changes THEN I can start to act differently too."
The fact is, there isn't a person on this planet, neither child nor adult who changes for the better because of criticism, nagging, berating, hounding, scolding, etc. It is only and always unearned love and affection that gives us the freedom to change. The only thing that criticism does is cause anger, resentments and either push back or depression.
What happens to most people is that they’ve slipped into the roles they observed and learned from their parents while growing up. And why do they continue to do the very things that led to their own parent’s divorce or chronic fighting? They repeat those old behaviours because simply hating how your parents did things is never enough. Concrete changes have to be made.
Iʼ'm convinced that the main purpose of marriage, from Godʼ's perspective, is to change us. Good marriages leave no room for selfishness, pride or irritability - all things that are in overabundance in this world. And while change is always a challenge, it is not an onerous task. When God says, "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, pray for those who persecute you, He is not trying to beat us down. In fact, this is a call to liberation, to freedom, to happiness.
You might think that youʼ're shackled by your husband / wifeʼ's nasty behaviours but you are every bit a slave to your own habitual ways of responding to what you donʼ't like about your spouse. God and only God can free you from this.
If your marriage is going south on you and you aren’t in daily communion with God, BEGGING Him to change your hearts and minds regarding your spouse, any counsellor that you’re seeing is just wasting h/her time. Only you can change the state of your marriage. All a counsellor can do is point the way. God will not force His way into your lives. This is especially true if you have been ignoring Him in your behaviours for years and years as you and your spouse mutually destroy what you promised before God to build. For marriages on the brink of failure, I believe the only solution is to make sure that God is front and centre.
When I treat my spouse well in an effort to get her to treat me better, God steps aside. This is because by my own wish, my attempts at "good" behaviours do not and are not concerning or involving Him. My pride and self-centeredness are still driving my life. However, when my desire to treat Wendy better is solely because I want to please God, to obey God, to Love God ("The one who loves Me is the one who obeys Me) that is when He steps in and begins to work miracles in our lives.
If you will only take the risk to do this, I promise you that a whole new world will open up to you. It's world of freedom whereby you are no longer controlled by the actions of your spouse or anyone else. Treat your spouse with love and respect because you want to please God. He never asks us to do anything that won't make our lives better if we obey Him.