Have you ever tried to change your spouse? How’s that working for you?

We get asked this a lot. Couples want to see that the other person in the relationship change in a way they prefer.  Something about the way they drive, how long they take to get ready, how affectionate they should be, or how much football needs to be on.  They don’t do it like we do it, and it frustrates the heck out of us.  We’ll try anything to get them to change.

The most common tactic used here is to nag.

Every time the issue happens, we bombard our spouse with criticism or sarcasm.  We will go to great lengths to explain the proper way to fold the towels or pack the lunches for the kids.  Our hope is that with enough detailed, step-by-step instruction, our spouse will be reprogramed correctly.  The result– one of us exhausted by passionately campaigning our cause and the other putting in the emotional ear plugs of defensiveness.

The other go-to strategy is manipulation.

The one spouse will not talk about the issue or concern directly for fear of causing disruption in the relationship, and yet will be behind the scenes putting incredible effort to create change in the other spouse. It’s amazing how much gamesmanship goes on in this tactic that could have been avoided with a direct dialogue about what the other person needs.

A perfect example was when we were first married and Casey wanted Meygan to enjoy cooking because he loves to eat.  He bought her new kitchen gadgets, fancy cookbooks, made subtle comments, and even brought friends over who loved to cook, with the hopes of getting Meygan to fall in love with cooking. Guess who does all the cooking now? Let me answer that with this. On our wedding, my dad passed on to me one of the greatest pieces of advice I’ve used in my marriage.

He said, “Son, if you want to make a better marriage, you have to make a better you.”

It was about an attitude adjustment. If I focused on making a better wife of Meygan, I would miss out on all the growth I needed in my own life. I needed to see her strengths and NOT her flaws. I needed to see what I was contributing, NOT becoming an emotional accountant. I needed to find ways that I could serve my wife, NOT find ways my wife could serve me.

We are all born with a set of glasses that help us see the world around us. Based on our personal experience, family of origin, values, and needs, we pick up these preferences. Those that are different receive our judgement and criticism and often the worst of us comes out.  It’s time to get a different perspective.

It was an aha moment for me.

About 18 months back, doctor after doctor would evaluate our son, looking for what was wrong with him.  They called it Autism.  They put a label on him and prescribed a therapy schedule to manage it.  What was so hard for me is that I would look at my son and I only saw what was right about him.  He’s full of happiness and innocence.  He loves to laugh and get chased by daddy.  He has these piercing blue eyes and an incredible amount of strength.  He is my son and I choose not to focus on the symptoms, but rather what I loved about him.

quote-01An interesting statistic from the Gottman Institute, “69% of all conflict in a relationship is unresolvable, due to lasting personality differences.”

Based off their extensive research, it’s not about resolving conflict, but rather managing those differences.

Meygan and I are two very different people, who are madly in love. Maybe that’s the paradox of intimacy. We love this person, would take a bullet for them, but God forbid that they would leave their clothes on the floor one more time. We’ve changed each other over the years, but our change has come from a place of serving each other, serving something larger than ourselves- our family, a solid legacy, Marriage365, and you.

Want to change your spouse… it’s time to change your perspective.

Oh, and by the way, it’s my apron that gets washed more than Meygan’s.


Marriage365 Challenge

What is something you could start focusing on in your marriage that is positive? For the next 5 days write 5 qualities daily that you are grateful for about your spouse.  At the end of that time, you’ll have 25 things that you can celebrate and affirm.

Comment below and let us know how it goes!

 

Next steps… If you desire a healthy marriage, we encourage you to sign up for a FREE 7 day trial to NAKED CONVERSATIONS and join the thousands of couples experiencing a safe place to connect and grow in their relationship.  Click here to learn more.

 

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16 thoughts

  • Tina

    If you tried to change your perspective yes, how do you go about with a spouse who never acknowledges your surroundings or validates what you say? I’m stuck. As positive I try to be….I’m always at fault.

    • Casey Caston

      Tina… You can truly ONLY change your perspective. You must communicate what you are feeling and how his actions make you feel in a loving manner. While only hearing one side, I can only offer you the opportunity for personal growth and coming out the other side better for it. If it continues to get worse, seek a marriage coach or counselor to walk you both through this process of expressing your feelings. What excites me is that you are working on your marriage! Thanks for being here.

  • Diana Peden

    I have been doing this and I am fully aware that I need to change, which is very hard for me. Also I think many hubby also looks for ways to change me. It seems like we are fighting a never-ending battle.

    • Casey Caston

      Often Meygan and I will stop and ask how we are doing… like a check up. I’ll ask how I’m loving her and if there is anything that I could be doing better. These spaces allow for us to be explicit with what we are doing right (affirmation) and wrong (awareness). Every time we walk away from these times it’s like a reset, not allowing anything to fester and build resentment. Keep going Diana!

  • future mrs. bg

    I’m starting the challenge today!
    1. B is honest- he always tells the truth
    2. loyal- he stays true to me
    3. trustworthy- I trust him, he would never intentionally lead me astray
    4. intelligent- i can always turn to him for knowledge
    5. dependable- he always does what he says he will do

    <3<3 <3

  • Vin

    Wow! This was right on time for me! Thanks for this article! I am enamored with my wife! She makes me the happiest and the most upset. I realize we can’t change each other, but how do we move forward and still maintain a sense of satisfaction when each of our needs aren’t being met. It’s so hard to focus on what’s important to her when what’s important to me is not focused on. We now have a 7 month old baby who is now the priority so it’s much more difficult to manage the needs of one another. If we talk about it, then I’m acting like her father. If I just hold it in and handle whatever is going on myself, then I’m being emotional and closed. I don’t really know what to do.

  • tonyarmeyer@gmail.com

    Love your site I started it today 2015 Staying Positive, Wrking on my Faults my 5 for today and everyday is Honest, Trustworthy is a big one for me! With prayer Dependable Intelligent, Honest been together 10 years now thanks for site and can’t wait start New year

  • tonyarmeyer@gmail.com

    I forgot to add to mymessage earlier that I am engage after 10 years years together. I have amazing guy I just have issues on trustworthy but like I said earlier working on it love your site staying positive and working on your relationship and not giving up if you both truely love each other! thanks

  • Robert

    Dated for a year married for 2yrs now. 2nd marriage for both of us. I am not meeting her needs and I can’t seem to figure out how. I am a different person now than the man she fell in love with according to her. I don’t communicate with her and the life we have started together seems to be falling apart. We both don’t know how to quit so I am looking for ways to learn and grow. Hopefully I can get it figured out

  • maimraj

    He’s in the army, which makes us live apart(he loves me no doubt)but whenever he’s home on break,he prefers to spend his time watching football with friends, rather than with me,which breaks my heart alot.

    • Valerie

      Robert – I can feel the pain in your post – it sounds like you really want to be the best husband, but don’t know what your wife needs. Have you ever just asked your wife what she needs? What you can do to meet her needs? You may also be able to discern what your wife wants, by checking out her actions. Does she clean alot, does she give you words of affirmation, does she touch a lot – if she does these things for you, it is likely that she would like these things back. A lot of the times we know something is missing, but can’t put our finger on it. This post is a great place to start, start growing in yourself and then the rest will come.

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