By Jennifer Waddle, Crosswalk.com
Most of us are uncomfortable with the idea of denying ourselves, especially from the things that give us momentary pleasure. Whether it be that second slice of cheesecake, or that weekly online shopping spree, the challenge to deny ourselves isn’t an easy challenge to accept.
But what if the concept of denying yourself became less about self and more about others? For marriage, in particular, what if practicing self-denial in certain areas would lead to a more fulfilled and happy marriage?
The truth is, there are certain habits we practice so frequently—without a single thought of denying ourselves—we start to assume those habits are our “rights.” But when couples are so focused on their individual rights, they often lose sight of the oneness God created for the marriage union.
Here are 7 ways denying yourself will not only help you become less self-centered, but also make your spouse happy in the process
1. Deny Avoiding Intimacy
Avoiding intimacy, or denying your spouse of lovemaking, can literally tear your marriage apart. Not only does it go against the Bible, according to 1 Corinthians 7:5, it goes against the blessing of oneness that God designed.
Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. (1Corinthians 7:5)
Deny yourself the excuses of avoiding intimacy, and you might find a renewed closeness that fosters both love and romance.
2. Deny Overspending
Countless marital struggles arise due to financial stress. And most of the time, consistent overspending is the culprit. If you struggle with overspending in your marriage, try to see your spouse’s point of view. How can self-denial in this area help your marriage thrive instead of merely survive?
By denying yourself the “right” to overspend, you’ll be showing your spouse respect for their hard work, and respect for your household finances. Hopefully, this will lead to a more balanced and happy marriage.
3. Deny Scrolling Social Media
Our spouses can easily feel ignored and unimportant when we are constantly scrolling social media. I’ve seen couples sitting across from each other in restaurants, on their phones, totally ignoring one another for the entire duration of their meal.
This is a big issue in our marriages today. According to this article, “the deeper issue is the feeling of disconnect you or your partner experiences when you get lost in your phone. You don’t truly listen or make eye contact, thus making your spouse feel ignored.”
While it’s tempting to check your phone every few minutes, make the decision to turn it off when sharing a meal or quality moment with your spouse. This is one form of self-denial that will truly make a difference in how you connect.
Do to others as you would like them to do to you. (Luke 6:31 NLT)
4. Deny Talking Too Much
Everyone likes to feel heard. And when one spouse constantly manipulates the conversation, it doesn’t take long for the other to start tuning them out. This isn’t the kind of communication that fosters a healthy marriage.
Consider the ways in which you can be a better listener and deny yourself the habit of talking too much. Here are a few actionable tips that might help:
- Pray and ask God to help you listen more than you speak.
- Ask your spouse about their day before you tell them about yours.
- Turn off your phone and look them in the eye as they talk.
- Resist the urge to interrupt or make your opinion known, unless specifically asked for.
- Repeat what your spouse is telling you, to let them know you heard them.
Ultimately, when you deny talking too much, you are opening the door of healthy communication in your marriage, which will only lead to a happier, more responsive spouse.
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. (James 1:19)
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Carolyn Horlings
5. Deny Being Lazy
If you’re constantly procrastinating, by putting off important things such as paying the bills, cleaning the house, or making dinner, consider denying yourself the nonconstructive pattern of laziness.
Of course, there will be seasons when neither spouse has the energy to cook or clean, but make those seasons far and few between. Instead of giving into laziness or procrastination, come up with a system that works for both of you. This might mean you alternate cooking and cleaning. It might mean you run errands on designated days. Whatever you choose, deny yourself the continuous habit of letting things go. Both you and your spouse will benefit from a workable schedule that gets things done.
May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us—yes, establish the work of our hands. (Psalm 90:17)
6. Deny Asking for More
Discontentment in marriage is a dangerous thing. Not only does it always want more, it doesn’t appreciate what it already has. If you find yourself discontent—more often than not—try to get to the root of your unhappiness and get the help needed to find contentment.
According to this post, “Our conflict with others increases when our own contentment decreases. This is particularly true for our marriages. The opposite is true too—When our contentment increases—our conflict with others decreases.”
Make your spouse happy by denying yourself persistent discontentment. When discontented feelings arise, turn those feelings into offerings of thanksgiving. Make it a practice to thank the Lord for three things that are good in your life, every time discontentment raises its ugly head. Before long, you’ll be in a new habit of gratefulness and contentment.
Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11-13)
7. Deny Demanding Spiritual Maturity
For Christian couples who are walking with the Lord, there can be a tendency to judge one another’s spiritual maturity. The danger of this is that the spouse who feels judged will either become resentful or feel defeated in their faith.
It is important to deny yourself the practice of demanding spiritual maturity from your spouse. This doesn’t mean you can’t encourage them in their faith. However, it does mean you don’t have the right to condemn them.
The Holy Spirit is the One who grows us up. It’s not our place to discount our spouse’s personal journey with the Lord. It’s our duty to build them up in the faith and walk humbly with God as an example.
He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)
While denying yourself certain things does make your spouse happy, it would be wise to approach self-denial as a commitment to follow the ways of the Lord. In doing this, denying yourself becomes less about your efforts and more about walking in the Holy Spirit. Rely on the wisdom of God to lead you into a healthy place of willingness, and deny yourself for the sake of a happy and thriving marriage.
Related Resource: Listen to our new, FREE podcast on marriage: Team Us. The best marriages have a teamwork mentality. Find practical, realistic ideas for strengthening your marriage. Listen to an episode here, and then head over to LifeAudio.com to check out all of our episodes:
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Jennifer Waddle is the author of several books, including Prayer WORRIER: Turning Every Worry into Powerful Prayer, and is a regular contributor for LifeWay, Crosswalk, Abide, and Christians Care International. Jennifer’s online ministry is EncouragementMama.com where you can find her books and sign up for her weekly post, Discouragement Doesn’t Win. She resides with her family near the foothills of the Rocky Mountains—her favorite place on earth.