How To Change Your Spouse
A person who is convinced that they have nothing at all to change in their marriage is a person who is well on their way to marital failure. I would be the first to admit, I’m not the same person I was when Sue and I first got married over 25 years ago. God has had to do a lot of work in me (and He still is!).
When we marry – we must understand that we are marrying this person “as is,” and that we cannot change them. (I’ve seen many marriages get into trouble because someone in the partnership was convinced they could change the other). When you get married you’d best be ready to spend the rest of your life with your spouse just as he or she is rather than thinking you’ll be able to change your spouse.
Couples often enter into marriage failing to realize that marriage will by nature, require that both spouses make needed changes. We’ve got to understand, it’s not only about your spouse’s changes that you think need to be made. You can’t do anything about those because nobody can change their spouse. You can, however, make changes in yourself that may influence your spouse to change when he or she sees your willingness and efforts to change.
Interestingly, I’ve noticed over the years of working with couples, when one person changes, the relationship changes, and therefore the other person most often does too. For you or your spouse to not deal with behaviors that need to change- an unwillingness to make behavioral changes- can only cause damage to your love and intimacy and put your marriage at risk. After all, when love and intimacy start to fall- look out because the marriage will come tumbling after.
I am certainly not the man I need to be when it comes to being Sue’s husband… but thank God I am not the man I was when I married her. God has been (and still is) changing me. It hasn’t been easy…but seeking God, and cooperating with Him in the work He wants to do in me, has made me a better husband. When God is in control there is no need to change your spouse.
Marriage is something that you think you know a lot about; until you get married. Someone said, “Marriage is easy, it’s living together that gets tough.” That’s what marriage is about- two of us living under the same roof. It’s living under the same roof that we often discover that many of the expectations we have held onto so tightly are often the ones we’re going to have to let go of. It is letting go that can help change your spouse.
We have to remember that every one of us is “fallen,” and tends towards selfishness. Let’s admit it, in marriage one selfish, “fallen” sinner marries another selfish, “fallen” sinner, and consequently, there will be “issues!” (And please don’t tell me that you couldn’t work it out because you are so “different!” Of course, two married people are different… one of you is male and the other is female… that is pretty much different! And most of us are different in lots of other ways too).
That’s why we can’t STOP learning when we get married; in fact, when we say “I do,” we are saying I do to a learning process that will take a lifetime. We’ve got to be learners if we want our marriages to succeed.
This is not about learning what our culture, Hollywood, or Pop Psychology says about marriage. It’s about what God’s Word says about it. After all, He is the one who created marriage, to begin with! (By the way, here is the link to our archive if you’re interested in practical, biblical tools and resources for help.)
Not only do we need to be students of marriage… but we also need to be students of our spouse. It’s what God encourages us to do in 1 Peter 3:7, ” Husbands, in the same way, be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.” One of the reasons marriages are in so much trouble today is that men can rattle off sports statistics like nobody’s business, and women can tell you about the latest Hollywood gossip. But neither of them can tell you their spouse’s three most important emotional needs, or three things that their spouse would say significantly impacted them as a child, or what their spouse wanted to be when they grew up, or even what their spouse likes to do the most or fears the most.
One of the reasons marriages are in so much trouble today is that spouses don’t know and understand their spouses. Husbands can rattle off sports statistics like nobody’s business, and women can tell you about the latest Hollywood gossip. But neither of them can usually tell me what their spouse’s three most important emotional needs are, nor three things that their spouse would say significantly impacted them as a child, nor what their spouse wanted to be when they grew up, or even what their spouse likes to do the most or fears the most.
When a couple is committed to learning about love, marriage, and especially about one another- a lot of good things start to happen. Likewise when a couple quits seeking to learn about each other and the “ins” and “outs” of their marriage then it becomes very difficult to stay in love and remain close. It becomes easy for them to get bored with each other! How can you understand and love your spouse if you don’t know what makes them tick?
Marriage takes work. When we realize that, we can not only “survive” the hard times in our marriage, but we can thrive,” even through the hard times. It’s during those hard times that when we seek help, and deal with our own “issues,” that we can forgive, heal and change what needs to be changed. It’s in growing through the tough times that we can become the best of lovers and best friends. In the final analysis, if you want to change your spouse, you must realize that you are the spouse that needs to change. God can help you make these changes when you rely on Him to change you.
We see it again and again as we work with couples who come to our Marriage Renewal Retreats… and like thousands of couples who have come, you too can learn to make the changes that result in the kind of healthy, happy marriage you’ve always longed for. Join us for A New Beginning, a life-changing weekend.