Becky Zerbe had reached a breaking point in her marriage. The number of things that her husband Bill did to slight her seemed endless. He was infuriating, embarrassing, and just plain not the man she thought she’d married. Becky was a hairsbreadth away from packing up her things and leaving with their 14-month-old son when her mother opened her eyes to the mistake she was about to make. The result was altogether eye opening.
Mom put down my sleeping son, took a sheet of paper and pen, and drew a vertical line down the middle of the page. She told me to list in the left column all the things Bill did that made him impossible to live with. As I looked at the dividing line, I thought she’d then tell me to list all his good qualities on the right hand side. I was determined to have a longer list of bad qualities on the left. This is going to be easy, I thought. My pen started immediately to scribble down the left column.”
“Smugly I said, “Now I guess you’re going to ask me to list all Bill’s good qualities on the right side.”
“No,” she said. “I already know Bill’s good qualities. Instead, for each item on the left side, I want you to write how you respond. What do you do?”
I’d pout, cry and get angry. I’d be embarrassed to be with him. I’d act like a ‘martyr.’ I’d wish I’d married someone else. I’d give him the silent treatment. I’d feel I was too good for him. The list seemed endless.
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I saw a record of petty behaviors, shameful practices and destructive responses. I spent the next several hours asking God for forgiveness. I requested strength, guidance and wisdom in the changes I needed to make. As I continued to pray, I realized how ridiculously I’d behaved. I could barely remember the transgressions I’d written for Bill. How absurd could I be? There was nothing immoral or horrible on that list. I’d honestly been blessed with a good man—not a perfect one, but a good one.
I’d love to say that Bill changed. He didn’t. He still did all those things that embarrassed and annoyed me, and made me want to explode.
The difference came in me. From that day forward, I had to be responsible not only for my actions in our marriage, but also for my reactions.
There have been many times through the years I’ve had to remake the list. I’ve continued to ask God to forgive my pathetic reactions and give me his wisdom in dealing with my marriage.”
[Then 15 years later, her husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease.]
My son came home one day and asked, “Mom, what are we going to do when Dad doesn’t remember us?” My reply was, “We’ll remember him. We’ll remember the husband and father he was. We’ll remember him for all the things he’s taught us and the wonderful ways he’s loved us.
After my son left the room, I chuckled. I was thinking of all the things I’d remember about this man who loved his family and his God. Many of those enduring memories are those same annoying little habits that made their way onto a list of bad qualities so many years ago.
What a wonderful way to change your perspective. All you can control is you… and that’s where true change in a relationship starts.
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