This is the fifteenth post in a seventeen part series on “Marriage with a Chronically Self-Centered Spouse.” In the posts fourteen through seventeen we will examine four key markers of genuine change and in the process discusses who should be involved in the helping relationships that surround this type of marital restoration work.
If the first fruit of humility is listening well, the second fruit of humility is patience. When a humble person hears the pain their selfishness has caused, they do not rush (a form of demand) a gracious response. So if a spouse who has been chronically self-centered begins to repent, he/she will be patient with your growth in trust.
This is important because rushed trust is like forcing sleep; it doesn’t happen. Trying to measure or accelerate trust is like taking a seed out of its soil to see if it’s sprouted; even if it begins, the measuring stunts its progress. This has implications for both you and your spouse. It is like continually opening an oven when you’re in a hurry to get a cake to bake; each time you open the oven you let the heat (trust) out.
Your spouse must realize what he/she can control (their growth in character and care) and what he/she cannot control (the pace of your growth in trust). For a season, your spouse must find satisfaction in becoming more of the spouse God called them to be without the typical relational affirmations that will accompany these actions in the future.
Patience will reveal itself by how your spouse interprets this season. It is self-centered impatience to begin casting a cynical narrative – “I haven’t gotten out of this marriage what I wanted when I was bad. I’m not getting what I want now that I’m being good. I’ll never get what I want. You’ll always win and be in control.” That is a false narrative.
A true narrative that emanates from patience would see – “I set the emotional tone in our marriage for year. I was in control. I won or everybody lost. You are learning to see me as a safe person and that you can rely on the changes I’m making. It is hard for me to be patient because I want affirmation of my change, but it is harder for you to trust because you want to avoid being crushed by false hope again.”
Those are not easy words to say; even for a person who is comfortable being humble, patient, and other-minded. You can give your spouse grace in his/her struggle to see things this way (sometimes getting it, other times not). But the key is that the true narrative must ultimately prevail over the cynical narrative.
A key to this change in narrative is the social dynamics of change. Narratives do not change in private. If all of your spouse’s friends see him/her as the same person they did before, it will be hard to accept that things need to change this significantly at home. This brings us to the third evidence of genuine change – the willing embrace of external accountability.
But before we examine that, it is important to consider what patience will mean for you. You must relinquish the tendency to self-monitor your level of trust. If you perpetually ask yourself, “Will I ever be able to trust him/her again? Will I ever feel the way I once did? Do I feel more trust than I did yesterday or last week?” chances are the answer will be “no.”
In the same way that your spouse’s pressure and questioning can stifle the growth of your trust, you own measuring and self-monitoring can stifle your growth in trust. The purpose of this final section is to give you tangible evidences of genuine change to divert your attention from reading your internal trust temperature gauge. If you look for humility marked by good listening and patience with the willingness to embrace external accountability give thanks for those things and allow your trust to grow at its own pace.
If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Abusive Relationships” post which address other facets of this subject.