"Did you feed the dog?"

"You bet!"

"Mail the letter?"


"Pick up the milk?"


"You forgot to buy the milk? What are the kids going to eat for breakfast tomorrow morning?"

A utilitarian marriage

When a couple tells me they’ve fallen into frequent quarrelling, it’s often because their marriage has become utilitarian: who will pick up the kids, who will pay the bills, who is cooking dinner tonight? In other words, we start using each other instead of appreciating each other, and one missed task trumps every accomplished favour. In such a marriage, it’s only a matter of time until one spouse is disappointed with the other.

Pray positively for your spouse

Praying positive prayers for your spouse can be a very practical tool to fight this temptation. Find the five or six things your spouse does really well – or even just one or two! – and try to tire God out by thanking Him for giving you a mate with those qualities. Follow up your prayers with comments or even cards that thank your spouse personally for who he or she is. If you’re like me, you’ll find that thinking over the things that immediately come to mind will remind you of other qualities or actions long forgotten. Thankfulness breeds thankfulness.

If you’re living on "utilitarian mode," it’s tempting to always pray for how you want your spouse to change. But focusing on the negative, even praying only about the negative, can have devastating results.

Focus on the positives

Remember Philippians 4:8, which is as relevant for marriage as it is for life: "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things."

Be honest: has obsessing over your spouse’s weaknesses ever made them go away? Hasn’t it just made you feel sad, angry and frustrated?

Make the daily spiritual choice of focusing on qualities for which you feel thankful. Prayers of thankfulness literally form our soul and very effectively groom our affections. Make liberal use of this powerful tool.

Gary Thomas is the founder and director of the Center for Evangelical Spirituality, a writing and speaking ministry that integrates Scripture, church history and the Christian classics. He is the author of many books, including Sacred Marriage, Sacred Parenting, Cherish, The Sacred Search and A Lifelong Love.

© 2009 Focus on the Family (Canada) Association. All rights reserved.  

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