At the start of a relationship, people often focus on all the good characteristics of the other person. Listening to someone describe their new-found love interest, one could get the impression that the object of their affection can do no wrong. It is easy to list all the compelling reasons for their interest – and to neglect to consider all the potential shortfalls in the other’s character. We are all prone to the allure of the “rose-colored glasses” and seeing in another person what we want to see.
Of course, given time in a relationship, this is apt to change. Many are all-too-quickly able to list their spouse’s shortfalls, and may do so on a regular basis. Many, particularly women, see this as an opportunity to “fix” the other person. “I can change him” is a mantra too often adopted, and rarely succeeds.
The challenge is that we may start off on this quest with good intentions. It may be our desire to “help” the other person by addressing perceived gaps in their character or the way they do things. What we fail to recognize is that almost always if we are “helping’ someone, they see and appreciate the benefit of what we are doing. Too often this is not the case as what was once “loving reminders” become a fixation on changing who the other person is. It is not considered “helping” if what we are really doing is trying to conform the other person to our desires and preferences. There are other, less flattering words that better describe this proclivity.
What we fail to realize is that our intentions of “fixing” the other person ultimately reveal a lack of trust. The reason that we want them to conform to what we think is best is because we trust in our process, abilities, or character more than we do theirs. Of course, if the issue is one of obedience to God’s Word, it should be our desire that they would conform to this standard – but it should be because we want what is best for them – not because we are able to use Scripture to support the position that we have already established. Just because our spouse handles something differently, does not necessarily mean that their way of doing so is wrong. God’s Word and not our preferences should be the barometer that we use to evaluate actions.
Additionally, when we think it is our job to “change” someone else, we demonstrate a lack of trust in the work that God is doing in that person’s live. This is likely an easier issue to tackle in a relationship where both parties are Christians. If this is the case, we should be able to trust that as the person seeks God, He will convict and direct them in the manner that pleases Him (which may not necessarily be the same thing that pleases us) (Phil 2:13). However, even if only one person is a believer, they should trust that God is doing to use them do His work in their loved one’s live; their job is to live in a manner that is pleasing and obedient to Him – it is up to Him to use that obedience to accomplish His purposes for the other person (See I Peter 3:1).
In short, our desire for our loved ones should be God’s best in their lives. To define what this is, we should use His Word, not our preferences. And we should not be so foolish to think that we will be able to bring this about by sheer effort or determination. Instead, we must trust that as we obey Him, He will use us to accomplish what He desires, and that our relationships will be strengthened as a result.