Want to know how to get your spouse to change? First, ponder this: What makes people change? Think about the times in your life when you have had significant breakthroughs and made big changes in your life. What happened to cause you to make such big changes?
My experience is that people make changes when doing what they are doing is more uncomfortable than doing something else. What I mean by this is that our current behavior (while it may not be comfortable) has to get so uncomfortable that wading through the scary, unknown waters of doing something different is a better option.
So how do you get your spouse to change? Make changes yourself! (Don’t groan – just keep reading!) Look, you can sit around waiting for your partner to change, but the fact is – they will not change until doing what they are doing is not comfortable for them anymore. When you start to change, however, they will either get so uncomfortable that they will begin to change with you or, after a while, you won’t be comfortable being with them anymore.
For example, a woman is tired of not getting any attention in her marriage. She stays in it, miserable, for years until she can’t take it anymore. She decides to get her needs met in other (healthy) ways. She begins meeting girlfriends for dinner. She joins a club. She goes to church. She hires a contractor to fix things in the house she’s been asking him to fix for years. She begins to feel happier and depend on her husband less.
Husband takes notice and begins to feel discomfort. Because of the changes she has made to herself, he has shifted from ‘comfortable and oblivious’ to ‘fear and uncertainty’. His uneasiness drives him to begin making some changes. He looks at her differently. He initiates a conversation with her. He brings her flowers. He (gasp!) comes home from work early. His uncertainty about whether she will still want him causes him to get off the LazyBoy and do something different.
Now, how does she keep him growing and changing in this positive direction? She realizes that her power lies in paying attention to what she is doing, not what he is doing! Her new behaviors cause discomfort in him (not the goal, but a definite side effect). When she quits tolerating the old behaviors, he either changes, or risks losing her. When using this approach, please keep in mind two things:
1) You don’t grow when you are comfortable, you grow when you are uncomfortable. No one changes voluntarily. Pain drives change. Don’t put your partner in pain, but let them suffer the natural consequences of their own actions.
2) You can’t make anyone change anything. For some people, being in pain IS comfortable, so change may not happen or it may take severe pain like divorce to get them to change. You may have to go to extremes to get your partner to change or you might have to accept that they aren’t capable.
You have two choices: either keep staring at your spouse waiting for them to change – or – change yourself and see what happens. You’ll grow when you are ready . . . and so will your spouse!