Feeling Let Down?

What to do with an imperfect spouse.

My wife and I have tried, throughout our 22 years of married life, to find a happy compromise between what the two of us consider "food." I grew up a junk-food junkie; my wife grew up eating 100 percent whole wheat bread and, well, things that grow. She washes her food; I open mine. (Yeah, she's better than me.) Our family's eating habits are best summed up by a question my then five-year-old son asked his mom: "Mommy, how come Daddy's cereals have toys and ours don't?"

So you can imagine the potential for conflict, especially the day I came home from a Costco trip carrying a dozen chocolate chip muffins—a special treat that rarely crosses our threshold—just as Lisa walked into the kitchen. She took one look at what the kids and I were carrying and said, "I can't take seeing all this food come in. I have to go upstairs."

I thought she was criticizing me for buying muffins, so I not-so-politely told her to lay off: "I was trying to do you a favor by taking off time from work to go shopping, and this is how you treat me?"

And then the bomb fell. I remembered she was fasting that day and discovered she was salivating over the oranges I'd also purchased, not the muffins. And I was a jerk for taking offense at what I assumed was another (justifiable) attack on my buying habits.

Given what I do for a living as a speaker and writer on marriage, I probably think about my marriage more than most men. I try to be the best husband possible. I pray for Lisa; I listen to her; I make sacrifices on her behalf. And sometimes, I'm still an insensitive jerk.

This isn't just my wife's reality—it's yours as well. Even if I've never met you, I know one thing is true about you: you're married to an imperfect mate. And here's the spiritual reality that flows from this difficult truth: even though our mate disappoints us and hurts us, the Bible still calls us to respect and appreciate our imperfect spouse. This is true whether you're a husband (1 Peter 3:7) or a wife (Ephesians 5:33).

How do we do this, in a practical sense? How can we honestly and sincerely respect and appreciate someone who is so imperfect?

1. Accept the reality of human relationships

The apostle James lays out the human condition as clearly and as succinctly as anyone can: "We all stumble in many ways" (James 3:2). James is saying that if you were to divorce your spouse, interview 200 "replacement" candidates, put them through a battery of psychological tests, have follow-up interviews conducted by your closest friends, spend three years dating the most compatible ones, and then another 40 days praying and fasting about which one to choose, you'd still end up with a spouse who disappoints you, hurts you, frustrates you, and stumbles in many ways.

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May 25

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