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?

Deuteronomy 20 – Run the Risk

For the most part, we Americans are creatures of comfort and ease. It’s part of our mentality and our expectation…even in our spiritual lives.

We often believe that right living and strong faith will lead to a reduction of problems and difficulties in our life. We feel that if we’re doing the right things, we shouldn’t have to struggle. But, if you believe this, there are only two possible explanations for the presence of difficulties in your life: the problems are either your fault or God’s fault.

But Deuteronomy chapter 20 shows us that victory can sometimes be vicious, that freedom often requires fighting, and that finding peace involves facing risks. In this chapter, although the priest assures the Israelites of God’s intervention and victory, they still must face their fear. Even the officers, when addressing the troops, tell them there is a possibility they could die.

The same is true for us today. We cannot know great victories without great risks. We don’t experience God’s great provision without being in a place of great need. And we won’t hit the ball out of the park without facing the possibility of striking out. Author John Ortberg puts it this way… “You can’t walk on water without getting out of the boat. “

Yes, when we are following God’s direction, the risk is calculated and part of His plan, but it’s risk none the less. That’s the stage on which the play of faith is acted out. May we be a people of risk for God’s glory, rather than people of ease for ours.

Getting Over the Wall of Resentment

Resentment can be like a wall that separates spouses, and the longer the wall stays up, the harder it is to get over it. Walls of resentment can become so high and thick that spouses lose hope of ever getting over it.

But there are some things you can do if you have a wall of resentment in your marriage.

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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?”

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How to Fight the Good Fight

Some of my favorite movies (much to my wife’s dismay) are “The Matrix” trilogy of movies. They never get old to me. I can watch them over and over and still find new thing in them that I didn’t see before.

This happened a while back when I was watching “The Matrix Reloaded (2003). In this movie, the hero (Neo) has been summoned by someone who is supposedly on Neo’s side…Seraph. But when Neo gets there, Seraph begins to fight with him. When the fight is over, Neo asks Seraph why, and Seraph replies, “You do not truly know someone until you fight them.”

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The Check Engine Light

The dreaded check engine light. I don’t know about you, but I hate the check engine light. I always fear the worst when I see it. It’s like the amber light of doom to me.

But despite how I feel about the check engine light, it really is my friend. It lets me know something is wrong so I can fix it before it gets worse. It’s much better to have a check engine light come on, then to have the car blow up suddenly without warning.

Thankfully, each marriage comes equipped with a check engine light.

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What I’ve Learned About Marriage From Buying a House – Part 3

Have you ever had a total stranger hand you a list of things they believed needed to be changed about something really personal to you? That’s what a home inspection list is.

I niavely thought it would be smooth sailing after the contract was signed. After all, we had a buyer who wanted the house enough to sign a contract. “We’re there!” I thought. But there was more for me to learn.

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Marriage Is Like Baseball

Depositphotos_21949135_xsI often tell couples that marriage is like baseball. The key is knowing which pitches to swing at and which pitches to let go by. Others have said the key to marriage is figuring out which hills are too small to die on. However you describe it, there are times in marriage when you have to determine…is this something I should try to change or is this something I should learn to live with?”

In a podcast entitled “Managing Tension,” Andy Stanley talks about determining the difference between a problem to be solved and a tension to be managed. He is speaking to leaders of organizations, but I believe the concept is also applicable to spouses in marriage.

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