Have you ever wondered what is the most important shape in marriage? Chances are, you probably hadn’t considered it before you read the title of this article.
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. I’ve noticed that the couples who are doing well, or who have recently turned a corner 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. Even though we are keenly aware of the faults of others, in any conflict we must start with ourselves.
It’s interesting how we tend to spend so much energy on people we can’t change, and very little energy changing the one person over whom we have complete control – 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 that it’s 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 the same care for you. It’s hard to ask for forgiveness for your part in the conflict, when you feel the dispute was 95 percent their fault.
Responding to an amazing spouse is easy – being one is difficult.
I’ve seen couples who have started and finished their 60-year marriage journey still in love. I’ve also had the deep joy of seeing divorce papers shredded, accompanied by incredible turnaround stories that belong in the same sentence as the lame walking and the blind receiving sight. In each case, rather than focusing on their spouse or waiting for the other person to change, these couples individually gave their best energy to becoming a great spouse – and often times, their partner followed their lead. They each 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 be the first to initiate. So I’m encouraging you to go first. Draw the circle around yourself, step in, and get to work.