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?

1 Samuel 9 – The Master Chess Player

I’m not very good at chess. I can’t think like a chess player. Really good chess players think many moves ahead, as if they already know what’s going to happen.

God is a really good chess player.

When you look at 1 Samuel chapter 9, you will find one “coincidence” after another…pointing to God’s sovereignty and intricate timing. For example…Saul, looking for some donkeys that had run away, “just happens upon” Samuel. For this to happen…

  • The donkeys had to wander off at the right time.
  • The servant had to think of consulting Samuel just when they were close to the town Samuel was in.
  • Saul had to encounter the women who knew where Samuel was.
  • Saul and the the servant had to catch Samuel before the feast began.
  • Etc.

You can’t read 1 Samuel chapter 9 without seeing God’s complete control and sovereignty. That, in itself, is amazing. But even more amazing is the fact that God’s complete sovereignty and control is used in accordance with God’s great love and mercy. (1 Sam. 9:16)

After being rejected time and time again by His children, God could have used His sovereignty to punish them. But instead, He continues to orchestrate every little detail, so that He might continue showing mercy and grace.

When it comes to chess, God is the Master chess player. He sees many moves ahead of us. So look at your circumstances and situations. They may not be what you want (as when the donkeys ran away), and they may not be what God wants (as when Israel rejected Him and wanted a king.) But God is still in complete control and He’s moving all the pieces around the board to give you the greatest shot at being who He wants you to be.

Things I Would Tell My Newly Married Self

I have done a lot of premarital counseling, and I’ve found it to be both enjoyable and frustrating. Enjoyable, because you get the opportunity to walk with a couple and to speak into their present and future lives. Frustrating, because many of these couples have no frame of reference for what you’re telling them…and they’re often too “in love” to hear it anyway.

Engaged couples mean well and they want to have the best marriage possible. It’s just that the excitement of becoming Mr. and Mrs. makes it hard from them to really imagine the feelings and frustrations they will face down the road. The light in their fiancé’s eyes blinds them to the issues that are there. The blood that rushes to their head (and other places) keeps them from hearing things they need to hear.

Remember when you first realized that marriage wasn’t what you thought it would be? Maybe it was the first time you realized those quirky parts of your spouse’s personality weren’t going to change like you thought/hoped they would. Perhaps it was when you discovered that their approach to money felt less like pulling together and more like tug-of-war. Maybe it was when you realized the sexual tension and excitement you felt during the honeymoon phase had morphed into a dull predictability that was just a notch above doing the laundry.

We’ve all encountered things in marriage and found ourselves thinking, “I wish someone had told me about this.” So I’ve thought about it, and here are some things I would tell my newly married self:

  • You don’t need to be right all the time…even if you think you are.
  • Dirty clothes go in the hamper, not on the floor beside the hamper.
  • Just because they say they’re fine, doesn’t mean they are.
  • “I wish we were closer” probably means something different to them than it does for you.
  • When they say, “There’s nothing in this house to eat,” it doesn’t they want to go get groceries.
  • They can criticize their parents. You cannot!
  • People’s standards for cleanliness vary greatly.
  • Just because their personality is different from yours doesn’t mean they are brain damaged.
  • Your sex life will occasionally ebb and flow, but it will always take work.
  • If you don’t look at them, you’re not really listening to them.
  • It’s ok to disagree on how to raise children. They will grow up anyway.
  • Compromise is not surrender.
  • It won’t hurt you to watch what they like to watch. (I’m still learning this one.)
  • The more you’re willing to release, the more you’re able to receive.
  • When you say, “Where do you want to eat,” and they say, “Anywhere’s fine,” DON’T BELIEVE IT!

These are just a few of the things I would tell my newly married self. I’ll bet you could add to the list. What would you tell your newly married self? Leave your ideas in the comments and let’s see how many of these we can collect…for all those people who don’t know what they’re getting into!

If You Love Them, Prove It

When the couple walked into my counseling office, it was obvious things were not good between them. Their heads were down, there were very little pleasantries offered, they chose opposite sofas on which to sit, and neither wanted to be the first to talk. When they finally started opening up, each told story after story about how the other had overlooked them, stopped spending time with them, and failed to act lovingly toward them. And each confirmed that they had been acting that way toward the other!

Now, here’s the kicker…when I asked them why they were still in the marriage, each said, “Because I love them!” It was at that point, I wanted to say, “Prove it.”

Read moreIf You Love Them, Prove It

Deuteronomy 19 – Justice

Justice is a key component for any civilization that hopes to survive and thrive. It’s desired by those who have been wronged and dreaded by those who have wronged others.

God is a God of Justice. We don’t like to think of Him in this way, but his heart of love requires that the innocent be protected and the guilty be punished. In Deuteronomy chapter 19, God spends the first half of the chapter dealing with protecting the innocent and the second half of the chapter dealing with punishing the guilty.

Read moreDeuteronomy 19 – Justice

Deuteronomy 15 – Share What You’ve Been Given

You can see it in a small child protectively clutching a toy. You can hear it in their voice when they punctuate the word “mine!” Since the Garden of Eden, our natural tendency has been to keep, rather than give.

But God’s people are to be characterized as givers. We are to demonstrate the character of the One who has so graciously given everything to set us free and continues to generously give everything we need for life and godliness. (2 Peter 1:3) He reached down when we were in need, leaving us an example to follow.

In Deuteronomy chapter 15, God institutes the year of Jubilee or the year of release. It’s God’s way of reminding His people who they are and where they’ve come from. Deuteronomy 15:4 teaches us that as God’s children, our hearts and resources should go out to the poor and the debtor. Just as God freed us and blessed us, we too are to free and bless others. And as we generously share what God has given us, God will bless us even more.

This applies spiritually as well as materially. We are to give the forgiveness we’ve been given. We are to give the love we’ve been given. And we are to give the mercy we’ve been given. As God’s children, we are to give release and relief, both spiritually and materially.

Have you experienced release and relief from God? If so, how do you need to share that? Whom do you need to forgive? How do you need to bless someone? Find a way to start today!

How the Heart of a Marriage Survives a Near Fatal Heart Surgery

In the following guest post by Debbie Latour, you will hear how a married couple faced a dangerous heart surgery and came out stronger in love, life, and faith.

When you’re divorced, middle aged, and are given the gift of happily-ever-after with a second marriage, your optimism for the future is renewed. The birds sing again, the stars twinkle brighter, and the dark cloud of a failed marriage gives way to a clear, bright sky.
As we age, certain aches and pains are expected. However, you do not anticipate that less than a month in to a new marriage, you’d hear that your husband has an aneurysmal ascending aorta. His cardiologist sent us home with the recommendation that its growth be monitored and checked in a year.
For the next year, I watched this incredible gift from God, knowing he had a ticking time bomb in his chest, praying that this was not the day it ruptured and my happily-ever-after came to a screeching halt. I lived that year in absolute fear.

Read moreHow the Heart of a Marriage Survives a Near Fatal Heart Surgery

3-Way Love

Before you misinterpret the title of this post, let me explain. This post is not about making love to two other people at the same time. It’s about making love to one person for a very long time. Wait… that didn’t sound right either. Let me start again.

There are 3 ways of displaying love to your spouse….not to be confused with what Dr. Gary Chapman describes as the 5 Love Languages. (All of a sudden, love is starting to sound a lot like math.) Anyway, as I was saying, the three ways of love are:

Read more3-Way Love

What’s A Good Marriage Look Like?

Depositphotos_19059467_xsWhat’s a good marriage look like? Even if we don’t ask this question out loud, we all wonder what a good marriage really looks like. Maybe you have your own ideas about what a good marriage looks like. When you think about a good marriage, maybe you picture a husband and wife…

Read moreWhat’s A Good Marriage Look Like?