How to Change Your Spouse

By Dr. Mike Bechtle  

If your spouse decides to change, it’s because he or she found motivation to do so, not because you crafted a compelling argument. 

“I didn’t sign up for this,” she said. “Before the wedding, we agreed to chase our dreams together. But it’s been 15 years, and I can’t get him off the couch.” 

“She’s never satisfied,” he said. “If we’re not going places and doing things, she’s restless. I just want to relax, but she just can’t do that.” 

After arguing, they both promise to “do better,” but their efforts don’t last. They both want the other person to change, but it just isn’t happening. This couple is at an impasse — and losing hope. 

“Why won’t he change?” the wife asks. 

“Why won’t she change?” the husband asks. 

Because no one wants to. 

It doesn’t matter how much you want your spouse to change. You may be frustrated and unhappy about it, but it’s your pain, not your spouse’s. Change happens when a person feels the need for it on the inside. 

The problem with logic 

Let’s say your husband is gaining weight and you’re concerned about his health (and appearance, if you’re honest). You explain how important good health is, how it can affect your relationship and how it keeps him from being active with your children or grandchildren. You describe how it can impact his career and self-esteem, and you tell him you’re worried. He hears you and manages to eat better and exercise for a couple of weeks, but then he returns to old patterns. 

One evening, he feels a searing pain in his chest and experiences severe shortness of breath. The emergency room doctors assure him that this isn’t a serious health issue, but it sure hurt! The next day your husband enlists a friend to start exercising with him — and he considers adding kale to his diet. 

Logic doesn’t touch emotions the way pain does. If your spouse decides to change, it’s because he or she found motivation to do so, not because you crafted a compelling argument. 

How to change your spouse 

Can you still share your concerns? Absolutely. It’s an honest part of every relationship. But change happens best if you do the following three things: 

Express your unconditional love 

Sharing your concerns has impact when your spouse is completely confident of your total love and acceptance. Tell your husband or wife that your love will never change. That provides a safe context for talking about the tough issues. Both of you need to focus on loving each other for who you are right now, not for who you may become. 

Let your spouse design the change 

Don’t offer your plan for success. Your spouse might do it differently than you would, and that’s OK. Be a great cheerleader and love your husband or wife through the rough spots. 

Change yourself 

If you work on yourself, your spouse won’t feel alone. This is an opportunity to be mutually supportive as you grow together. 

You can’t change others; it’s hard enough to change yourself. But adjusting your perspective can give you a new attitude, which provides fertile soil for growth. There are no guarantees, but there is hope! 

© 2021 Mike Bechtle. All rights reserved. Used with permission. Originally published at focusonthefamily.com. 

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