This is a re-post from May 15, 2012:
Over the last several months, I (Megan) have been wrestling through some identity issues. I don’t really need to go into details in this post but I tell you this because I know that most, if not all, marriages will encounter a season where one spouse goes through an identity crisis of sorts. Re-evaluation of self worth and identity often happens when big or difficult life changes occur. Since marriage is supposed to be the one constant relationship that weathers these life changes, it stands to reason our marriages will encounter some identity crisis.
Here are a few things to keep in mind if your spouse is struggling with difficult questions and trying to figure out what the best next steps are for their life.
1. Support rather than condemn.
Wrestling through the BIG questions in life is never easy and sometimes leaves one feeling condemned or alone. When it’s your spouse wrestling through these questions, they already feel the complexities of life and may want to try to figure out the answers by themselves. In this situation, you only have two options. You can either 1) react or 2) respond. To react is the choice of most individuals, and isn’t always done with your spouses best interest at heart. To react is to do so swiftly, and oftentimes negatively. But when you respond, you take the time to appreciate who they are, encouraging them to better explore and understand who God made them to be. Taking time to think it through and respond accordingly means only good things for the marriage relationship as a whole.
2. Love them just because.
There are many reasons you love your spouse. They are kind. They are funny. They are thoughtful. They are sexy. They are… When your spouse is wrestling through something, take the opportunity to remind them of these things.
But remember: during an identity crisis, these reasons may not always seem apparent. Some of these characteristics may even change through time. Does this mean you love your spouse any less than the day you married them? Of course not! In marriage, you love your spouse…not the individual characteristics of your spouse. Help them find their identity within themselves and the person God created them to be, not the individual characteristics they act out each and every day. Love them the way you promised to on your wedding day. Love them the same way God loves them (1 Corinthians 13). Love them, because they’re worth it.
3. Develop a network of supportive relationships.
This is important for both you and your spouse. Your spouse needs people in their life to be honest and real with. Unfortunately, the times when we need others most are often the times we isolate ourselves from others the most. If your spouse is needy and does not have supportive relationships, that need for support often falls onto you. When you feel you can’t give anymore, take the opportunity to rely on those in your circle of friends who can give you energy and encouragement to continue giving your spouse what they need from you.
4. Find something to laugh about together.
Laughter is a gift. It’s good for you. It’s great stress relief. It’s helps you forget about your day, a day that was anything but ‘positive and encouraging’. That being said, we know there are times when laughter just doesn’t come easily. During these times, try to find something to bring humor into your spouses life. It could be anything from a joke, to a comedy movie, to tickling them with a feather while naked. When they know you can make them laugh even when they’re in the midst of an identity crisis, it helps them find a part of their identity directly in you. And that may be the small nudge they needed to help discover the rest of it.
How do you help encourage your spouse when they’re struggling with their identity? Feel free to leave a tip in the comments below.