Whether you have a husband with a porn habit or argue repeatedly with your spouse about finances, it’s tempting to try to “fix” him with words. We call it “discussion,” but he probably sees it as “nagging.” In some cases, the “N word” is unfair, but whatever you’re saying to him in frustration and desperation is probably not doing any good.

It took me a lot of “discussions” to realize I was not getting anywhere with this approach. And yet, even after realizing that, I found myself habitually (or compulsively?) drawn into it. It worked like a dance: My husband takes Step 1, and I respond with Step 2. Then he moves, then I move, and cha, cha, cha… Before you know it we’re in the same destructive dance.

After some years, I just plain got tired of being ugly. As a child of God, I’m supposed to live a life worthy of my calling. My husband was a baby Christian, so not only did I disappoint myself, I was a lousy witness for Christ. I’m sure the Holy Spirit was grieved.

You’ve heard the old saying, “It takes two to tango”, haven’t you? A turning point for me was when I decided I was done with tango.  It took a lot of effort to pre-empt the dance. Each time I forgot increased my resolve to get it right the next time. “I will bow out. I will bow out!” When I could finally remember to bow out, I was able to hold back for a few beats, and then I would often jump in with more vigor than I usually danced. And felt like, “This isn’t working. I blew it again.”

Maybe after about 25 tries, I had one success. After that, success was sporadic, with a slight trajectory toward improvement, until one day I said to myself, “Self, you are calm despite the fact that he just did that thing that angers you so. Good job.” Nonetheless, I still jump in and cut the rug every once in a while. It happens, and I’m not going to lie, sometimes it feels real good. But I keep going back to bowing out because: 1. My life is better when I’m not arguing so much; 2. It wasn’t doing any good anyway; 3. The fruit of self-control pleases the Holy Spirit.

So what? Are we just supposed to “sit this one out” forever? No. Just stop wasting your words on him. Instead, invest your words in Him. People often say, “Well, all we can do is pray,” as if prayer is some last resort in our spiritual tool box. But God wants it to be our first line of defense and first strategy for change, in us and others. Philippians 4:6-7 tells us that we regardless of what ruffles our feathers—even oppressive marital problems—we should pray, with gratitude. I recommend Stormie Omartian’s book The Power of a Praying Wife for any woman who is tired of tango and ready to see how God works.