“The only hope that a man will ever change is for you to not try to change him.”
The number one question I am asked by frustrated wives is:
How can I change my husband?
That’s what we’re all dying to know, right?
Maybe you wouldn’t come right out and ask that question. Sometimes we give it a pathetic spin, like “if he loved me, he would change”, or “I only want the best for him”. Either way, it reveals a serious defect in us:
We aren’t happy with him as he is.
Let’s just be honest. We use many other excuses for wanting him to change, but it all comes down to us. We want him to change for us.* Not for his good. His good might also be mixed up in it, but that’s not usually our top priority.
You know what? Even if you’re not being honest, he knows the truth. He knows you’re not satisfied with him, that you wish he was different.
You might think it doesn’t really matter if he knows or not. You deserve change, and you are determined to have a “better relationship” at all costs.
How’s that working for you?
Does he like you? Does he feel secure in your love? Does he love to come home to you? Does he feel comfortable being himself around you?
Would you feel comfortable being yourself around you?
It’s sort of embarrassing when we spell it out like this, isn’t it?
Unfortunately, it’s easy for embarrassment to lead right into self-pity. As in “look at the burden I carry for this family, he won’t change, so I have to do everything”.
Some women carry this heavy burden throughout their whole marriage.** But when we start to pick the burden apart, several things become clear. In the center of that burden is self-love, self-pity, discontent, and a refusal to accept our man for who he is…
“Acceptance means you accept your husband for the man he is today, with no changes. You realize his conduct could be better, and probably should be better, but this is his responsibility, not yours.”
When we are distracted by self pity, it becomes nearly impossible to realize that it was never our job to change our husbands.
God is the only one who can truly change a husband. Or a wife, for that matter.
When it finally dawns on us that it’s not our job to change him, the burden can just slip away. We are free. It feels so good!
Wouldn’t you like to be his adoring girlfriend again? You know, the one you were before your wedding? All this time you thought you couldn’t be that girl, because he had too many defects for you to work on.
Well, I’ve got good news. You can stop trying to change him. Because it won’t work.
Or maybe it will, but in a sad, heart-wrenching way that neither of you might ever recover from…
I can’t explain to you the progression from loving and nurturing husband, through concerned and understanding spouse, to frustrated and repressed male, and angry, depressed curmudgeon, all the way to desperate wretch.
– A husband quoted by Dr. Laura in The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands.
Is that the change we’re looking for? Because that’s what we may end up with if we don’t start accepting him right now!
Fortunately for you, I have devoted a large part of the last 16 years to experimenting with two different ways to change your husband. I will now share my findings.
I do not accept him. I suggest, nag, whine, “joke”, or pick on him for his choices on:
What time to get up, what to eat, what to drink, what to wear, how to get to work, what to do with his free time, what to watch, what to read, what friends to have, how to spend vacations, how to spend money, how to make money, where to go out to eat, how often to take me out, where to take me if he takes me out, how to be polite, how to express his feelings, how to talk to the kids, what to do with the kids, what to feed the kids.
If he fails in these areas, I tease him and show him how he should have done things my way, because after all, I know best.
I accept him, and encourage him in whatever he chooses to do with his life.
I realize that he is also a person, who has his positive and negative characteristics, (just like me). He may or may not choose to work on his negative qualities, (just like me), but when given his freedom, he will feel more confident with life and his mind can relax enough to consider making changes (just like me). I decide to take his feelings seriously ( I like that too). I don’t criticize or undermine him, and when I find myself doing that, I try to apologize quickly, since I appreciate that when he does that with me.
Option one is absolutely devastating. To everyone in our home.
Option two has such outstanding results and a happy atmosphere, that it would be vulgar to share the details of what goes on around here when I am practicing that option. (The short version is that he likes me, we have fun together, our family has fun together, and we have emotional energy to share with others while we serve God together.)
When you criticize or condemn your husband you take the position of being a judge…
Do you really think you are a better person than he is?
*With a topic this controversial, there is a lot more to say…and I know it raises some indignation, like “what about him?”. Don’t worry, I’ll get there. Maybe next we’ll talk about how to ask graciously when you’d like your husband to do something for you.
**I want to mention that this post is for average relationships where two normal sinners are trying to live life together. This can be painful if you are in a highly dysfunctional or abusive relationship, and I am truly sorry.
For everyone else, let’s not assume that because your husband is late for dinner without calling now and then, or has forgotten to take you on a date for a few months, that you are in a dysfunctional relationship. Sometimes that’s just called life.