How often do I imagine the wrong response and correlating reason for it?
We all do it - married or not... We play Holy Spirit junior (as it were) in an attempt to filter someone else's actions through our own imperfect lens.
The following passage in Matthew 7:1-5 is a familiar one. Jesus Himself is calling out the hypocrites in the crowd. He is teaching on judging others. It is one of the most misunderstood and misinterpreted scripture references:
"Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the same measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me remove the speck out of your eye'; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother's eye."
There is only one Righteous Judge. When we judge another according to our own standards - we invite the same standard used against us. Reaping and sowing is an eternal law. How foolish of us to think that we can withstand judgment according to our own making! There is a time for judgment with regards to a believer when they are in sin. The bible devotes passages to church discipline and admonishment. Jesus' own words appear in Matthew 18:15-17.
Oftentimes we are guilty of actually judging their motives - not their actions. That in and of itself is dangerous, and is outright unspiritual in nature. First, it speaks to a "trust" issue. Not only do you question their trustworthiness, but you assign a wrong motive to their deed or words. God alone knows the heart motive and sees their intent. We are better served by extending grace (undeserved favor) to the person and let God bring conviction when it is necessary regarding the circumstances.
In Oswald Chamber's The Utmost for His Highest, he writes the following,
"The average Christian is the most penetratingly critical individual... the Holy Ghost is the only One in the true position to criticize, He alone is able to show what is wrong without hurting and wounding... There is no getting away from the penetration of Jesus. If I see the mote in your eye, it means I have a beam in my own. Every wrong thing that I see in you, God locates in me. Every time I judge, I condemn myself (see Romans 2:17-20)."
If I examine my spouse's motives, I risk projecting my own thought process onto their actions. If I tend to be a bit more defensive when confronted - I might unfairly assign defensiveness to his words or body language. If I downplay their enthusiasm for a particular event, plan or purchase - I risk hurting their feelings and injuring the relationship. I must stop criticizing the "why" before I know the "what".
Make certain that you refrain from lashing out when you are on the receiving end of criticism and anger. There is often another hidden reason for their outburst and sarcasm. We never really know what has transpired during their day or just before the incident that left you feeling wounded. It might be best to separate yourself for a brief period of time before you respond in a manner that is anything but Christ-like.
I often have to send up one of those "SOS" prayers to the Lord, asking for wisdom and for help with keeping my mouth shut when it is needed. I don't need to irritate and agitate - I need to disarm and chill out! I need the Holy Spirit to take over and bring calm to a situation that is spiraling out of control.
Extending grace is not focusing on the faults of others - but rather covering them in love.