Have you ever wondered what’s the most important shape in marriage? Probably not before you read the sentence above.
For the past 12 years, I have worked with thousands of couples who are preparing for marriage, starting marriage, and many who have been married longer than I have been alive. I have seen just about every kind of marriage story imaginable. One thing I’ve noticed is that the couples who are either doing well or make large strides in their relationship have all integrated this shape into their marriage.
What is this game changing shape? It’s a circle. How big does it need to be? Only about 18 inches—just big enough for you to stand inside.
If you want to have a great marriage, draw a circle around yourself and change the person inside the circle.
This is what Jesus was talking about in Matthew 7:3-5. He taught that even though we are keenly aware of the faults of others, we must start with ourselves in conflict.
It’s interesting that we tend to spend so much energy on people we can’t change and very little energy changing the one person we have complete control over, ourselves. Why do we spend so much time and energy trying to fix and change our spouse and so little time on ourselves? My hunch is because working on you is hard—really hard.
It’s hard to change the way you communicate, if you feel your spouse won’t do the same. It’s hard to initiate love and respect when they don’t seem to be reciprocating that love and care for you. It’s hard to ask for forgiveness for your part in the conflict when you feel it is 95% their fault. Responding to an amazing spouse is easy, being one is difficult.
I’ve seen couples finish their 60-year marriage journey still in love. I’ve also had the deep joy of seeing divorce papers shredded. In each case, rather than focusing on their spouse or waiting for them to change, these couples gave their best energy to becoming a great spouse and often times their spouse followed their lead. They drew a circle around themselves and worked relentlessly on the person inside the circle.
One other thing I’ve noticed is that spouses rarely come to this conclusion and commitment at the same time. Someone has to initiate first. So this one time I’m encouraging you to go first. Be the first to draw the circle around yourself, step in, and get to work.