People always ask, “Who moves first to get off the Crazy Cycle and onto the Energizing Cycle?” I always reply, “I prayed about the answer, and I heard the Lord’s inaudible voice: the one who sees himself or herself as the most mature moves first.

Early on, when I shared that answer, I wondered if people would resist the idea because it suggests somebody always has to make the first move, and this doesn’t sound “fair.” Most of us want the other person to move first at least half the time. After many years, however, I have the confidence to say that this comment positively motivates most people. Why? Because most spouses see themselves as mature and able “to recognize the difference between right and wrong” (Hebrews 5:14).

…somebody always has to make the first move.

A husband writes: “Who moves first? If it is the one who is the most mature (and I believe that I am mature), I have no excuse. It doesn’t matter who hurt first. I’ve shared that insight with a lot of people because of the difference it made in my conduct.”

Another man says: “We have two young daughters, aged four and seven. I want to be the mature one who breaks the cycle and turns things around. I know that this is what God wills and what is best for my family. It is difficult and I am not perfect, but I am working to show my wife unconditional love.”

A wife emails: “I made a decision at that moment that my life was going to count for something for the kingdom. To me, that meant learning my Bible and obeying God in my marriage and every part of my life. I am the mature one and I needed to go first. That always made me mad before, and now I am accepting that God requires it of me. God got hold of my heart that day in a way as never before.”

Les Parrott's Making Happy
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As these letters attest, mature moves by goodwilled spouses positively influence the marriage in God’s direction. But what does moving first look like? Maturity manifests itself in multiple ways. Some examples:

  • During a moment of “heated fellowship,” Steven softens his raised voice in response to Tanya’s even louder voice. She clearly hears his olive branch.
  • After Susan spouts off disrespectful words on the heels of Richard’s unloving comments, she apologizes first, saying, “I am sorry for my disrespect.”
  • Gary makes a to-do list of undone tasks around the house that are driving Lisa nuts. He takes an entire Saturday to take care of them, even though Lisa won’t listen to his pleas to be more disciplined about the budget.
  • Even though Tom fails to spend as much time with Lindsay as she wishes, she resolves to stop her tardiness so he doesn’t have to wait for her in the car.

Is moving first always fair? No, of course not. There are times when it seems crystal clear which one should move first. But this isn’t about “justice” or what is fair. It’s about sucking it up and biting the bullet to stop the insanity of the Crazy Cycle and enjoy the motivation of the Energizing Cycle. As Hebrews 5 says, spiritual milk is for babies and solid food is for the mature ones who can recognize the right thing and then just do it.

First move anyone?

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Love and Respect