Dreams are hard enough to pursue. You’re always fighting something. Procrastination. Fear. Distraction. A million internal battles wage war to slow you down. But what do you do when the battle is also external—when the greatest resistance you face is from your spouse?
Not getting support from your spouse can feel like betrayal. Do they really have my best interest at heart or are they only trying to protect themselves? you might wonder. And suddenly, without knowing it, the battle shifts from being about your dream to being about them. Now it’s personal. You get defensive, as if their resistance is an indictment on you. Or you go on offense, blaming them for not supporting you, perhaps even throwing in a few “never”s or “always” for added unfair emphasis. Either way, you know it’s not really the kind of win you had hoped for and eventually you stop discussing it altogether.
No marriage is without conflict. This is especially true when our aspirations are conflict with our spouses perceived needs. In those times when your spouse resists your dream three strategies can help:
- Pursue unity. Take seriously the injunction, “What God has joined together, let not man separate” (Mark 10:9). Don’t allow differences over your dream to sow seeds of discord in your relationship. Times of disunity call for prayer. As my wife, Anna, has said to me: “I’m praying that God will change either my heart or yours.” That’s the right approach and it’s liberating too. Conflict can only be resolved when there’s agreement to a higher principle. When both partners yield to the power of God to change even their own heart, personal agendas become shared action plans.
- Discuss risk. One of the least discussed areas of differences between spouses is the level of willingness to take risk. The risk tolerance you have for your dream is different from your spouse. You’re already emotionally connected to the idea in a way that they aren’t—at least yet. Discussing the ways each of the five areas of risk—physical, social, emotional, financial, intellectual—might be different between you can open up understanding and possibly reveal new approaches that make your dream more palatable. Look for the win-win.
- Encourage their dream. In the excitement of your own dream—and the frustrations that come with it—it’s easy to overlook your partner’s. Perhaps the resistance you’re getting from them is merely from their own desire to have you cultivate their aspirations. Dreams between marriage partners do not need to be the same–Anna’s pursuits are far different than mine—but they should be in accord. A couple dances the waltz taking successive turns with one partner alternatively taking larger steps than the other. We learned it as “He goes. She goes.” And it applies to your dreams too. There are times when one needs to take smaller steps with their dream for a time while the other goes.
Of course, the varieties of conflict that might arise in a marriage is unlimited—or at least, I’ve lost count(!)—and these strategies only scratch the surface. They can, however, provide a starting point for a good healthy discussion when you find your spouse resists your dream. But why wait until then?
What are some other strategies you’ve used to create alignment on your dream with your spouse?