Even the best marriage is going to have moments where one spouse does or says something to hurt the other. You can tell a lot about a relationship based on what happens next.
When faced with a hurtful word or action, the other spouse has a choice. He or she can receive the hurt in frustration and bottle up their feelings. They can reject their spouse altogether and turn their heart away. Or they could become vengeful, determining to make them pay for what they’ve done.
None of those, of course, are healthy choices. The best choice to make when faced with hurt is to redeem your spouse through righteous, proactive behavior. Redeem means to restore something to its created purpose.
Redemptive behavior is Christ-like. It creates a true solution that would be impossible with threats or rejection. At the same time, it creates a deeper bond and deeper intimacy. Redemptive behavior is the decision not to respond in kind, but to do the right thing until he or she comes around.
There are four rules of redemptive love.
You can’t sin even if you’ve been sinned against. Sin can never be redemptive. During marriage counseling, I can’t tell you how often I’ve listened to a person who did the wrong thing try to justify it because of what their spouse did. That’s fighting fire with fire—and it causes a much bigger fire.
I’ve heard a saying before that always comes back to me in these situations: “The best person always does the right thing first.” You can’t justify sin.
You can’t produce results apart from righteous and loving speech. We live in a vulgar, smart-alecky society. People use their mouths all the time to destroy others. If we are going to be redeemers, we can’t use our mouths this way. We can’t rely on words that hurt, that seek revenge, or that put another person down.
You have to trust God for the results. Marriage problems test your faith in God. When I am using redemptive behavior on Karen—or when she is using it on me—the focus is always on God. We are partnering with God to help out a spouse who is struggling.
Redemptive love has faith that God will bring about the results in His time. God honors that trust.
You have to be willing to do right for something who’s doing you wrong. Even if they aren’t meeting your needs, you have to meet theirs. Sometimes you have to bless them while they curse you, or pursue them while they’re ignoring you.
Again, you’re relying on God to change your heart while He’s also changing them. The result is that you’ll fall more in love with your spouse than ever before.
Please note: Redemptive behavior isn’t about ignoring or enabling abuse. I’m talking about living with an imperfect person in an imperfect world—a world in which there is sometimes suffering. Abuse goes far beyond that. It is actual damage. Don’t ever subject yourself to another person who is damaging you in a marriage relationship. Seek help in those situations.
But if you have been emotionally hurt by your spouse, or if you are suffering from neglect, dominance, or harsh words, then redemptive behavior can be a return path toward better marital health. Stop the cycle of pain and rejection and show your spouse the sacrificial love of Christ.
Learn how to respond when your spouse hurts you. Watch “The Secret of Every Great Marriage” with Jimmy and Karen Evans.