Years ago I wrote a post on trying to conquer envy. I wrote it during a time where I was trying to overcome the struggle of comparing what I had (materially) to those that seemed to have more.
An “AHA” Moment
Recently, I had an AHA moment. While talking with my husband, we were discussing why some marriages break down. Normally, I would say marriage breakdown is due to lack of communication, but many times it begins with LACK OF CONTENTMENT. I realized that many broken marriages are a result of discontentment in the life stage they are in. Many of us have dreams of the life we would be living, but sometimes the reality does not match that dream. As a result, we become embittered and resentful that we are not living the life we once imagined. Once we allow bitterness into our marriage, it becomes very easy to blame our spouse. Words then become weapons that we hurl at each other because our anger overwhelms the sorrow we feel.
“We have no money because you don’t make enough!” (lack of contentment in finances)
“If you only would lose some weight.” (lack of contentment in physical appearance)
“We never go on weekend getaways like the Joneses.” (lack of contentment in lifestyle)
“Why don’t you ever think to surprise me, like her husband?” (lack of contentment in relationship)
In each of these statements, there is an implied fault that is given to our spouse: My life is not good enough and it is YOUR fault.
Who is Responsible?
When we feel betrayed and hurt and disappointed, it is easy to think our spouse is the one who is causing the problems.
If he would only….
If she would just…
These are the thoughts that break down our relationships because they lead us to believe that we have no control over our situation. They further the lie that the issues in our marriage have nothing to do with us, but with our spouse.
When we go down this road of discontentment it becomes easy to start thinking of a life without our spouse; One where we have freedom and control and happiness…or so we think.
Deciding to look for the good in your marriage will change the result. Years ago, I was discontent with my life. I did not have the big house I always wanted, or the nice car. We could not take yearly vacations like other families. Our finances were such that I could not just go out shopping and buy the nice things I wanted. When I realized that all these areas of discontentment were creating a divide between me and my husband, I decided to change my perspective. It was not easy and did not happen over night, but I started to focus on what I DID HAVE rather than what I did not have.
I did not have a big house I dreamed of, but my house was comfortable and big enough for our family. I did not have a nice car, but I drove one that was paid off. We did not take yearly vacations, but if we paid off the debt we owed and saved for them, we probably could change that. I could not go on a shopping spree, but I was able to stay home with my kids which is what I had always wanted to do.
Little by little, I was no longer comparing my lifestyle or my marriage to others. When I focused on the blessings I already had, God blessed us even more by meeting some of the desires of my heart.
Steps toward contentment.
- List out the good things that are currently in your life. Take inventory of your blessings. When you recognize the good, you will see more of it.
- List out what you love and appreciate about your spouse. When you constantly look for the bad…you will find it. Think about why you fell in love with your spouse and focus on those attributes.
- Change your attitude. No one likes being around someone who has a dark cloud hanging over his/her head. Change your attitude and try a day where you exude happiness. It is shocking how often people will respond positively to you.
- Recognize that YOU can only change YOU. No one can make you change; that is a decision you have to make yourself. It is not anyone’s responsibility to make you content with your life. Your discontentment is completely on you.
Did that last one stir a bit of anger inside?
If so, then you may want to do a bit of self-reflection on how you are viewing your life and your spouse. Anger happens most when there is a bit of truth behind it. Do not allow yourself to wallow in discontentment where it becomes a security blanket of excuses. A life of contentment can happen. Learn to let go of what you do not have and be thankful for what you do have.
Philippians 4:11-13 (NIV)
11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
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