If You Want Your Spouse To Change…

Remember when when you were so in love with your spouse you couldn’t think of anything you wanted to change about them? Does that seem like a long time ago?

WHY CAN’T WE SEE OUR DIFFERENCES EARLY ON?

In premarital counseling, I try to get couples to see their differences and the problems those differences will cause. But most couples either brush those things aside or get frustrated with me for “nit picking.” Why is it so difficult to clearly see our differences in the beginning?

We’re blinded by the excitement of love and hormones.

Being in love is intoxicating. Love effects the brain much like alcohol or drugs, and just like alcohol and drugs, it can impair our ability to see and judge things. Consequently, we can’t imagine any major differences, let alone the problems they could cause.

But the chemical intoxication of love eventually subsides and our differences become more glaring.

We minimize any possible problems.

When I’m pointing out differences in premarital counseling, the couple often thinks I’m making a big of a deal over small things. “So what if they’re not as much of a neat freak as I am, or if they are more of a saver than I am. So what if they’re an extrovert and I’m an introvert. These are small thing that we’ll handle when they come up.”

Even when we believe there are some differences between us, we don’t think they’re that big of a deal. We believe our love is enough to conquer these “small” things. But that’s like saying, “I love these shoes so much, it really won’t matter that there’s a rock in my shoe. It will be fine.”

We see the differences, but we believe that once we’re married our spouse will change.

I can’t tell you how many time this happens: A couple comes into my counseling office, at odds over their differences. And when I ask whether these differences were present before they got married, they tell me, “Yes, but I thought they would change.” And the really honest spouses will say, “Yes, but I thought I could change them.”

But after you’ve been married a while, the list of things you wish you could change about your spouse doesn’t get shorter. It gets longer. Which brings us to a second question…

HOW CAN I GET MY SPOUSE TO CHANGE?

We all have been guilty of trying to change our spouse. We tend to believe our problems would go away and our marriage would be better if our spouse would just change! And we’re so convinced of this, we try to “help them” change.

What not to do.

Our attempts to change our spouse look something like this…

  • We point out the thing we think they need to change. (Maybe they just don’t see it.)
  • We try to convince them why our way of doing things is better. (Surely they will see the reasoning.)
  • We nag them into doing what we want them to do. (But we would never call it nagging. We’re just trying to help.)
  • We elevate the volume and the intensity of our communication. (They just need to know how serious we are about this.)
  • We withdraw and withhold the things that are important to them. (After all, if I can’t get what I want, they shouldn’t get what they want.)

If you’ve tried any or all of these tactics, you know that they’re not very effective. Even if they get you what you want, it will be a short-lived effort and a long-lived resentment.

What to do?

So what do you do if you want your spouse to change? Here it is…

If you want your spouse to change…you change!

I know this is not what you want to hear. (It’s not what I want to hear either!) But follow me on this…

Opposites attract when you’re dating, but after the honeymoon, opposites tend to aggravate. That’s when we start trying to change our spouse, so they will fit better with us.

But marriage is like a dance between two dance partners. If you don’t like the way your partner is dancing, you have three option:

  • You can try to pressure your partner into dancing the way you want. But this is not really dancing. It’s wrestling.
  • You can ditch your partner for another who will dance the way you want. But this is not really dancing. It’s running.
  • Or you can change the way you’re dancing! This presents the greatest possibility of change. Your spouse doesn’t want to be forced into doing something different, any more than you do. But if you change the way you’re dancing, your partner will then have the freedom to choose their options.

Difference that frustrate you about your spouse may be due to something as simple as differences in personality or up-bringing. And you can’t do anything about those. But so often, your spouse is acting the way they are, because they are reacting to something you’re doing…or not doing.

  • They’re nagging you, because you’re not listening to them or doing what needs to be done.
  • They are ignoring you, because you’ve been ignoring them in some way.
  • They’re not asking what you think, because you’re too harsh and critical.
  • They complain about not spending time together, because you’re not spending time with them…at least not in a way that connects with them.
  • They are upset about overspending or underspending, because you’re not valuing what they value.

In other words, they’re dancing the way they are, because you’re dancing the way you are. So one of the most effective ways to effect change in a marriage is to change yourself.

One last thought…Don’t be so quick to try to change the differences that drive you crazy. These differences that attracted you in the beginning are now there to grow you in the present. Sometimes we need to accept our spouse the way they are, rather than try to change them. After all…isn’t that what we want them to do for us?

Joshua 3-4 – Change and Uncertainty

Everyone struggles with change. Even those who say they like change become stressed if the changes are too quick or too drastic.

In Joshua chapters 3-4, we find the Israelites preparing to cross the Jordan river and move into the Promise Land. They’re facing rapid and radical changes. They are uncertain and they don’t know from moment to moment what they are to do or how they are to do it.

Read moreJoshua 3-4 – Change and Uncertainty

Joshua 1 – Some Things Change and Some Things Never Do

In the last movie of the “Matrix” trilogy, there is a line that sticks in my head. There, the character of Morpheus says, “Some things never change, and some do.” It may not seem very profound, especially taken out of context, but this statement is applicable to a lot of life.

In Joshua chapter 1, there is a major change taking place. The great Moses – probably the most revered and feared man among the people of that day – dies and his position as the leader of the Children of Israel must be filled. How do you replace Moses?! Think of all he did…

Read moreJoshua 1 – Some Things Change and Some Things Never Do

How to Embrace Change

People who know me know I am not a handyman. I’m someone who can turn a simple fifteen minute fix-it job into an all day nightmare. I am the guy from whom repair people make their money.

So with that in mind, here’s the story…

It was around eight in the evening and my wife was in the laundry room when I heard these words. “Oh no! That’s just great!” Though I didn’t want to, I asked, “What’s wrong?”

Read moreHow to Embrace Change

How Do You Refresh a Stale Marriage?

Marriage, like bread and potato chips, can become stale over time. Ruts, routines, and indifference have a way of settling in and dulling what used to be a vibrant relationship.

What about your marriage? What are the signs that you’re living in a stale marriage?

Read moreHow Do You Refresh a Stale Marriage?

Going Through the Motions

Ever find yourself just going through the motions? You’re doing what you’re suppose to do. You’re doing what others expect you to do. But you’re only doing it so others will think well of you.

Externally things look good, but internally things are not as good as they appear. You’re living behind the smoke screen of a good public persona, but it’s not really who you are.

Read moreGoing Through the Motions

What I’ve Learned About Marriage From Buying a House – Part 8

Well, we’re in our new house! Not everything is put away yet, but it’s livable and we can get both cars in the garage! So, I’ll close this series with one final lesson I’ve learned from this experience. What I’ve learned about marriage from buying a house is that it’s easy to let routine take over your marriage.

Read moreWhat I’ve Learned About Marriage From Buying a House – Part 8

3 Small Changes to Raise Your Discouragement Tolerance

Everybody has a different level of pain tolerance. Some have a high tolerance for pain. They have the ability to tolerate pain that others might find intolerable.

Still, other people have a very low tolerance for pain. Even a small pain feels big to them. They don’t wait to see if the headache will get worse. They take something at the first sign of a headache to make it go away. The same can be said about discouragement.

Read more3 Small Changes to Raise Your Discouragement Tolerance

Small Changes Can Have A Big Impact

Own House Dreams

What if a better marriage didn’t demand a major over-haul? What if you could have a better marriage by making small changes?

I believe that small changes can have a big impact in marriage. Think about it this way…if a plane leaving L.A. for N.Y changes it’s course by just a degree or two, it will end up in a completely different part of the world! Small changes can be very powerful.

Read moreSmall Changes Can Have A Big Impact