Do You Ever Think, How Can I Change My Spouse?
October 18, 2020
Do You Ever Think, How Can I Change My Spouse?
You wouldn’t believe the amount of husbands and wives that come up to me sole mates socks and say “Nicola, how do I get my Spouse to Change? “If you are trying to save your marriage by desperately attempting to change your partner to no avail – STOP!
Want your partner to exercise more? Stop social media? Drink less? Stop nagging or yelling? Clean up more? Pay you more attention? Be more sociable? Be more intimate? You are not alone. I see many individuals struggle to change their partner. They typically find that their attempts fail or worse, false promises are given that are never followed through on. Which creates distrust and can further damage the relationship. Or perhaps you find that occasionally they do change, but within a few days revert back to their old habits. That’s because they NEVER really decided to change! They were pressured into changing. Then there are those who are trying to save their marriage and find their efforts are constantly squashed with statements like “it won’t work for us” or “We’ve already tried that and it didn’t work. If this is happening then it’s best to let the change come from them, not by your suggestion.
Now you’re probably thinking, “makes sense, but isn’t there anything I can do to encourage my spouse’s choices?” Is there anything I can do to change them and our relationship? YES there is! You can be the change you want to see in them! You can be an inspiring example to them by showing your commitment to the relationship, willingness to change and by doing so affect their behavior.
Claim your power to create change in your relationship, now. Start by looking at your current behavior and what you can change. This is what I do with the individuals I work with, we discuss in confidence the challenges they are facing and come up with different ways to respond. Read what happened to a couple I coached below.
When Laurie and Ed were first dating, she used to exercise and socialize with him all the time. They ran, cycled and played tennis together during the day, and went for drinks, meals and movies in the evenings. When Laurie fell pregnant, she stopped participating in activities with Ed. Ed had hoped after their child was born she would be is play mate again. That didn’t happen. Laurie was no longer interested in sports, socializing or him (he thought). Their two boys were her sole interest. Laurie was upset that Ed didn’t want to spend time with them as a family and made up for his absence by focusing even more on their children. She desperately wanted him to play a more active role in the family, including childcare, family outings, school events etc. She felt Ed had abandoned her and the more time he spent out; working, exercising and socializing, the more she refused to go out. Anger, frustration and resentment was building and they were drifting apart at an alarming rate. Ed was not the father Laurie hoped he would be and Laurie was not the fun, sociable, soul mate Ed thought he had married. Both wanted the other to change.
It was Ed that approached me, asking whether we could discuss if his marriage was over or could be saved. He shared that he felt depressed going home and although he loved his children, he found his wife and home life dull and boring. He said to me that he had tried everything, date nights and surprise tickets for evenings out, weekend breaks, romantic getaways, but everything he suggested was rejected. For years they had little intimacy and in truth were living parallel lives. They didn’t argue much but when they did they it was fierce. Both would say hurtful things, which they later regretted, despite this the cycled continued.
I advised Ed to stop pressurizing Laurie to change and do things he wanted to do. You may think people hate change, but I believe it is not that humans hate change, we just hate IMPOSED change. Think about it. When we Initiate change we have no problem with it. But when we feel forced or manipulated to change, then we resist with all our might. Half way through our session Ed said “Nicola this is really useful, I want Laurie to come. Let’s book her a session for next week.” You cannot book anyone anything unless they decide, I advised him to explain what he discovered and leave her to make her own choices. Being told to change or go to counseling can cause a lot of resistance. Which is why if an individual comes to me for marriage counseling and wants their spouse to join them, and their spouse doesn’t want to, it is best to leave it. As, you run the risk of them never changing. Just like when I help people change habits, smoking, over eating and drinking etc, the desire has to come from them.
So what can you do? How can you change them by changing yourself? I suggested for Ed to change two things his actions and reactions in arguments. Actions suggested included; giving affection, making time for intimate conversation, planning activities she wanted to do, committing to the family and admiring the work she was doing. We choose these as we outlined her top emotional needs, (which I assessed from Ed’s description of their arguments). Instead of coming home from work late, turning on the news, and pouring a glass wine, Ed hugged and kissed his wife, asked her how her day was, ask whether the children or she needed anything to be done. Later that evening he would focus on her wants and wishes for the weekend, holidays and year ahead. Ed also kept in contact if he was working late, away on trips, making sure the conversation was directed to her day, needs and wants.