But you can . . .
I love the analogy of ballroom dance as a picture of the marriage relationship, but I despised the idea of dancing. You couldn’t make me do it. Sometimes when Roxann and I were home alone, she would beg me, “PLEEEESE. Just dance with me a LITTLE.” I stood there in the middle of the kitchen floor like a stone statue. She’d take my hands and tried to show me how to move my feet. Occasionally, she shoved a little. But you can’t make someone dance if they don’t want to. Years later, I decided I wanted to learn and Roxann quickly accepted my invitation.*
Now, what if you’re married and your spouse “doesn’t want to dance” in marriage? You long for deep conversations, shared activities, and mutual friendships. But your spouse is content with watching the game(s) on TV, immersing themselves in Facebook, going fishing or shopping all day. You try to chat, suggest going to the fair, the new hit movie, or getting together with friends but they think everything is fine as it is—and you don’t. You’re lonely and disappointed. What do you do now?
Here are a few ideas:
- The clear first idea is that you should pray and continue praying. If God wants to change someone, God usually starts slowly, giving them time to change. Luke 11:9-10 says: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Don’t get discouraged. It takes God some time and He may want to increase the pressure slowly. God usually allows us to make our own decisions. He doesn’t override our will, why should He override your spouse’s? Don’t give up or get discouraged. God wants extraordinary marriages. But it takes time. For inspiration, you might also want to watch the Kendrick Brothers’ excellent movie War Room.
- Realize that you may be directly affected by how God uses His persuasion to change your mate. The situation may get worse before it gets better. Sometimes God uses suffering as a megaphone to get our attention. Allowing difficult consequences to mold your mate may affect you. Be careful not to get in the way of or seek to avoid God’s consequences. Don’t become a rescuer, enabler, or co-dependent. It’s not your responsibility to relieve the suffering. Let him/her deal with God.
- You have a responsibility to tell your spouse how you feel, patiently, kindly and with wisdom. Yelling, stomping or throwing a fit is counterproductive. Communicate that you want an extraordinary marriage. Stasi Eldredge tells the story of trying to run an entire household with three little boys on her own because her husband, John, was doing a lot of traveling at that point in his life. Her words to him were respectful and non-accusatory—but clear. She simply said, “John, I need you.” It’s not fair to let your marriage sour or wilt because you haven’t clearly stated that you desire more.
Whatever your level of happiness in your marriage right now—desperate, stable, or highly satisfied—God has more for you. The ideas apply to your marriage at any of the levels. I’ll have a few more ideas for you to try next week.
*If you are curious about why I changed my mind and decided to learn to dance, the story is on page 9 of our book The Marriage Dance.