I often challenge couples by saying, “The mature one goes first.”
It is much easier to sit back and say, “Well Emerson, I would be more loving if my wife was more respectful!” Or, “Why should I show my husband respect when he is treating me in an unloving way?”
Of course it is easier to be obedient to God in our marriage when our husband or wife is also being obedient. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.
So who goes first?
My answer: the mature one.
How do you know if you are the mature one? Let me put it this way. I can tell you if you are the immature one.
The immature person uses this information not to change themselves, but to try to change their spouse. Their whole mindset is to get their spouse to be more loving or respectful rather than trying to be more loving or respectful themselves. They do not believe that they have the power to influence their spouse, but instead see their spouse as having all the power to influence them. Therefore they must change their spouse in order to be happy.
The immature person lacks obedience to God's commands. Instead their mission is to get their spouse to obey God's command toward them. Bottom line, the Lord will not honor that and a spouse is not going to respond to that any more than if the roles were reversed.
The mature person, on the other hand, will do their part to improve the marriage, even if it means putting their own feelings aside. They will choose obedience to God’s commands over their own feelings and over their circumstances. That’s because they understand the nature of God: He is a good God, whose commands are given to help us, not to harm us.
Let me also add that the mature one does not tell their disobedient spouse that they are immature. Nor do they throw it around that they are doing all of these loving or respectful things because of their maturity. That would be immature – and counterproductive! Shaming or condemning your spouse for their immaturity is really a reflection of your own immaturity. The mature spouse displays their loving or respectful actions with a humble heart.
Which are you in your relationship? The mature one – or the immature one?
If you have hesitated to step out in faith and honor God in your marriage, trust His word and His character. Trust that He would not ask you to do something foolish. He is too wise for that. Be the mature one and make the first loving or respectful move. It could change everything!