How to remedy the lie that says,“my truth is better (or more important?) than your truth,” so that you can serve your spouse well.
My husband and I share many things: our home, our finances, the load of parenting responsibilities, and an appreciation for chips and salsa. We also share our inner selves – our hopes, fears, triumphs, and disappointments. Though our marriage isn’t perfect, we’re thankful to have a companion to tackle life together.
Of course, my husband and I don’t share everything. Call me selfish, but I prefer to use my own toothbrush. He lays claim to the comfiest recliner in the family room. Though we share most of our belongings, we don’t live the same lives. We each have different perspectives shaped by our personalities, backgrounds, convictions, and opinions.
Our culture today glorifies the power of perspective. Celebrities and influencers urge us to “Speak your truth.” In most cases, they’re not talking about objective or absolute truth. When someone says, “This is my truth,” they typically mean, “This is how I look at circumstances based on my personal history and beliefs.”
The problem is we’re already inclined toward a “my truth” mentality. We often prioritize our perspectives over how others think or feel. I do this with my husband when we have differences of opinion on household tasks. He sees a garbage can that’s not quite full; I see (and smell) trash that should’ve been taken out yesterday. If I dwell on my irritation instead of considering his perspective, I open the door to resentment. He isn’t believing “my truth” about the garbage, and that makes me mad.
Maybe “your truth” hasn’t led to conflict in your marriage. Still, we all struggle to count our spouses as more significant than ourselves. We need the Holy Spirit to renew our minds through ultimate truth, which can only be found in God’s Word.
Submit like Christ
Ephesians 5 describes how earthly marriage can reflect Christ’s relationship with his bride, the church. In discussions on marriage, we usually jump right to verse 22, where Paul addresses wives and husbands. But immediately beforehand in verse 21, he exhorts all believers to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
The Greek word for “submit” means to subject yourself or put yourself under. Commentator Matthew Henry explains how this definition of “submit” works in Ephesians 5:21. “There is a mutual submission that Christians owe one to another, condescending to bear one another’s burdens: not advancing themselves above others, nor domineering over one another and giving laws to one another.”¹
Your spouse is your closest neighbor whom God tells you to love. This doesn’t mean we have to agree with our spouses all the time or join them in sinful behavior. Submitting means we follow Christ’s example of self-sacrificing love. As 1 John 3:16 says, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.”
When wives and husbands take on Jesus’ attitude of humility, we submit our “truths” to our spouses. Rather than treat our views as the “right way” to look at an issue, we ask our spouses to share their perspectives. And if they don’t accept our “truths” about what we think should happen, we don’t hold their inaction against them.
In my case, I can submit how I think the garbage “crisis” should be handled. Instead of yelling at my husband for not taking out the trash when I want, I can pause and consider how he sees the situation. Maybe he has so much on his mind that he hasn’t noticed it yet. Or he thinks there’s room to stuff in more junk. By yielding my view, I show my husband I value his thoughts. I honor Christ through surrendering “my truth.”
See through your spouse’s eyes
So how do we lay down our “truths” to our spouses in our day-to-day lives? For many of us, considering other perspectives doesn’t come naturally. We have to make a conscious effort to imagine how someone would react to any given situation.
Recognizing another person’s point of view is a skill that takes practice. Social psychologists call this “perspective taking.” You put yourself in the other person’s place and imagine how they would think and feel. By attempting to understand someone’s perspective, you build new neural pathways that help you gain empathy and be better prepared for healthy conflict resolution.
Here are a few perspective-taking techniques you can try with your spouse:
Become an expert on your spouse
You might know your wife or husband better than anyone else, but there will always be more for you to discover. Take a few days to study your spouse’s nonverbal cues. Does he avoid eye contact and get quiet whenever you talk about paying the bills? Does she slam doors around the house after you ask why she hasn’t washed your pants yet?
Once you’ve made some observations, you can anticipate how your spouse will react to specific situations. Then you can adjust the way you talk to them to help make the interaction more positive. Paying attention to the little things can make a big difference in your marriage. Your spouse will feel loved, and you’ll learn how to better understand your beloved.
Take a break when your emotions are high
When you’re exploding, panicking, or sobbing uncontrollably, you won’t be able to take your spouse’s perspective. Acknowledge your emotional intensity and step away.
Tell your spouse you care about their viewpoint, but you need to cool down. Go for a walk, take a shower, or work in your garden – do whatever activity helps calm your mind. Use this time to pray, pouring out your emotions to the Lord. Believe God’s words in Psalm 34:15, “The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry.”
When your emotions have steadied, go back to your spouse and tell them you want to hear their thoughts. Give them the gift of active listening.
Accept that you don’t need to win
Humility asks you to be OK with not winning every argument. Unity urges you to compromise whenever possible. Creativity invites you to come up with an alternative to you and your spouse’s two opposing ideas.
If you truly want to take your spouse’s perspective, then you’ll need courage to surrender your desire to get your way. It doesn’t have to happen every time you disagree. Just know that part of submitting to your spouse includes dying to yourself in an argument. Put your trust in the Lord as you let your spouse’s opinion prevail. Show them your willingness to work together on a mutually beneficial resolution.
God united you with someone who has a different “truth” from yours. Try to take your spouse’s perspective for the purpose of submitting to them and to the Lord. Love your spouse with a love that bears all things by letting go of how you see things – even a pile of garbage.