Saying “no” is easy.
To kids who want their third bowl of ice cream, to teens who want to skip school, and to solicitors who want to sell you candy, saying “no” is easy.
But when it comes to marriage, it isn’t easy to discern when to say “no.” Life gets messy and complicated. Over time, once healthy boundaries begin to fade into blurred lines and marriages start to feel the strain. I’m reminded of a quote by Henry Cloud, author of Boundaries in Marriage, who wrote, “You get what you tolerate.”
So, let me ask you this. What are you tolerating?
If I may, I’d like to say that marriage is not about tolerating our spouses at all. God designed the marriage union for so much more. Toleration has more to do with things that are out of our control, such as hundred-degree weather without air conditioning or mosquitos at our backyard barbecue. We don’t tolerate our spouses. We love them, appreciate them, and nurture them. And one of the specific ways we do that is by saying “no” to things that cause distance or division.
Consider these 5 things you can say “no” to in order to better your marriage.
1. Say “no” to social media comparison
Who hasn’t been the slightest bit jealous of a friend’s vacation posts on social media? Photos of couples paddle boarding by moonlight, or having a candlelight dinners on the ocean’s edge, often create a desire to compare our marriages to others. However, comparison can become a dangerous and destructive habit by adding unnecessary pressure. When one spouse constantly feels like the other expects something they cannot deliver, it creates a hurtful sense of defeat.
We must say “no” to comparing our marriages to others and expecting our spouses to act accordingly. As we scroll social media, it would be wise to set up mental and emotional boundaries to guard against wanting what others have. Instead, we need to say “yes” to God’s specific plan for our marriage relationship.
Here are some ways to safeguard your marriage against social media comparison and say “no” to the damaging effects it can have:
If unrealistic expectations are an issue for you, stop scrolling through social media! Discontentment and comparison will only be fueled by constantly viewing what everyone else is doing.
Stop following and lead the way.
When tempted to mimic someone else’s marriage, make the decision to stop following and start leading. Be the one who posts helpful and encouraging posts about marriage. Find activities that you both enjoy and make time to do them. Leave the comparison behind and forge your own path of marital bliss.
Start thanking God for your spouse.
Each time your mind is filled with comparison, stop and thank God for your spouse. Thank Him for your marriage and everything that makes your relationship unique. Spend time asking the Lord to show you His direction for your marriage. His plans are far greater than our own!
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.” (Exodus 20:17)
2. Say “no” to too much work
Providing for our families is definitely at the top of our to-do lists—and rightfully so. It is good to work hard in order to care for our loved ones. However, having a work/life imbalance is one of the number one problems in marriages.
In this article, Kara Heissman offers a practical solution. She says, “I made it a point to regularly discuss with my husband and children their perceptions, opinions, and even objections with my work. This opened my eyes to a lot of things and made me better aware of the issues that I needed to deal with and improve. I also made sure that the entire family understood my obligations and responsibilities at work. Thus, there was also more understanding on their part."
Have open and honest discussions about work and learn to say “no” to too much. Make your marriage a priority and sync your calendars so you know when to make time for rest and relaxation. You may be surprised at how much more efficient you become by working smarter, not harder.
Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. (Colossians 3:23 NLT)
3. Say “no” to too many friends
One of the beautiful parts of a strong and healthy marriage is the freedom to spend time with friends—with or without our spouses. When this area of marriage is well balanced, neither husband or wife feels threatened or jealous of outside friendships.
However, when there are too many outings with friends, and the marriage takes the back burner, resentment quickly starts to build, creating an unhealthy pattern of actions and emotions. The bottom line is, our marriages come first. It doesn’t matter how stressed we are or how much we long to escape. We need to find contentment being with our spouses first and foremost.
Discuss all friendships with your spouse and develop solid boundaries surrounding them. Say “yes” to only those friendships that are supportive of you and your spouse. Use great caution when it comes to friends of the opposite sex and guard against spending time alone with them. It simply isn’t wise and can easily lead to a sense of mistrust. Instead, focus on getting together with other married couples who share your values and beliefs.
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17)
4. Say “no” to extended family
This is a touchy subject for many, as extended family members tend to interfere a little too much at times. Both husbands and wives may have a difficult time differentiating between necessary interaction with family and unhealthy interaction. Saying “no” to extended family doesn’t mean you are a bad person. It means you are wise enough to discern God’s design of leaving and cleaving.
Consider these questions the next time you feel pulled to say “yes” to family members. They may help you gain clarity and decide when it’s time to say “no.”
- Are you putting your family member’s requests above your spouse’s needs?
- Is there a guilt trip involved in your family member’s demands?
- Does this family member have a bad habit of expecting you to drop everything for them?
- Do they respect your spouse and your marriage?
Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. (Genesis 2:24)
5. Say “no” to debt
Buying and spending is fun until the bills start coming in. This is a super-important subject for couples to address—and often. The best way to maintain harmony in the financial arena is to simply say “no” to debt. Live within your means. Tithe, save, pay your bills, and manage your money wisely.
You don’t need the latest, greatest everything. You don’t need the newest house, car, toy, or gadget. You do, however, need a good marriage. There are far better ways to spend your time and still live well. By remaining debt-free, you are eliminating one major stress from your life, which can make all the difference!
Here are some resources to help you say “no” to debt and maintain financial health.
Ultimately, there are many things you can and should say “no” to in order to have a really good marriage. The word “no” isn’t bad, unless a two-year-old is screaming it in your face. Get better at saying “no” to anything that is harmful or divisive, and “yes” to things that build your marriage up. After all, your marriage is worth it!
Jennifer Waddle is a Kansas girl, married to a Colorado hunk, with a heart to encourage women everywhere. She is the author of several books, including Prayer WORRIER: Turning Every Worry into Powerful Prayer, and is a regular contributor for LifeWay, Crosswalk, Abide, and Christians Care International. Jennifer’s online ministry is EncouragementMama.com where “Discouragement Doesn’t Win!” She resides with her family near the foothills of the Rocky Mountains—her favorite place on earth.