To Change My Relationship With My Spouse
If I Change Me, Will my Spouse Really Change?
Marriage isn’t always easy. We come into a relationship with certain expectations and can be disappointed with reality.
Marriage reveals our weaknesses, and I have learned that the best thing to do to try and fix your relationship is to work on yourself. I talked about this concept more when I wrote, “This One Tip Will Transform Your Marriage.
” The questions still remains, “If I change me, will my spouse really change?” The short answer? There’s no guarantee.
I’m guessing that’s not the answer you want to hear. I know I don’t want to hear it either. Movies “Courageous” and “War Room” are fabulous for encouraging positive steps in marriage.
I absolutely believe that making steps to change how you interact with your spouse can make huge impacts on your marriage and often result in positive changes in your spouse. I believe God is big and through prayer great walls can be broken and relationships can be healed.
Reconciliation is more ly as you take action toward respecting or loving your spouse, meeting their unique love language and having a servant’s heart.
That said, there is no guarantee. Your spouse has free will – just as you do. Your spouse is sinful – just as you are. Sometimes we all wish it were easier.If I follow this recipe, my marriage will be healed. If I take these steps, my kids will be OK. Oh, if it were that simple. Life is complicated. People are complicated.
We live in a broken and sinful world where you will face strife, conflict and hardships.
I believe the prosperity message that can be promoted in Christian circles isn’t a healthy one. The message of Christianity isn’t that life becomes some sweet walk in the park when we choose to do it God’s way.
The idea of faith is more that we have a God that suffered for us. He has been broken, so He understands our pain. He has the strength, power and empathy to walk through it with us and give us guidance along the way.
The Bible doesn’t teach that be will be void of hardship. There are no promises of a pain free life. Some find great disappointment in promises they thought were being promoted. “If I just stay pure until I’m married, I’ll be blessed in my experience with sex.” False.
“If I just stay faithful, God will bring me a husband.” False. “If I just pray enough, God will bring me a child.” False. “If I just follow certain steps while raising my kids, they will be successful.” False. “If I just change myself, my marriage will change.” False.
This is what the Bible does teach about hardship?
- “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” – Romans 5:3-5
- “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:35-39
- “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Cor. 12:9-10
- “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” – 1 Peter 4:12-13
We are obviously ensured that we will face hard times. Why do it God’s way then if there’s not guarantee of better circumstances? God assures us, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28. ALL THINGS. That means the hard things too.
How do we respond to the “bad” news that our spouse may never change?
From my limited perspective, I see this as bad news. I’m not one who loves to embrace the trials in life. I love it when things are running smoothly. My response to the challenges of life is something I constantly need to work on. Trying to rejoice in my suffering so that perseverance, character and hope can be built in me is the goal.
I believe people often enter into the concept of improving themselves for their marriage sake are short sighted on what that means. We do it hoping for change in the other person. When we don’t see the change we anticipated, we just want to give up. “Well, I tried my best. He didn’t change. I’m out.”
You made a promise – “through good times and bad.” Of course, if there is abuse, I always advise to get help and protect you and your children immediately, so this is not the situation I am addressing today.In the Sacred Marriage (affiliate), Gary Thomas poses the question, “What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy.” Anyone can handle life and marriage well when all is going along nicely, but it is often those tough trials that reveal our true heart and character.
You may be asking, “Jodi, are you really asking me to stay miserable? Do you want me to remain unhappy for the rest of my life?”
The answer to that question is also no. I don’t wish for you to remain unhappy and miserable, but the solution I’m suggesting requires you to stick around in your marriage.
What I want for you is to erase away the Hollywood message from Jerry McGuire aimed at your spouse, “You complete me.” I want to propose that you be completed by your Maker. Your spouse can’t make you happy but God can.
Your circumstances don’t take away the misery but God does.
Just look at the brokenness that can be found in the “successful” individuals known to the public.
You see people who seem to have it all – fame, fortune, family, and success – throw it down the tubes with addictions, suicide, and divorce.
It is said we have a vacuum shaped hole that can only be filled by Jesus. Are you trying to force your spouse into that space? Are you relying on your marriage to bring you joy.
The thing that needs to change (and I’m preaching to myself here) is ones response to adversity.
Ugh. Not what I wanted to hear either. Trust me.If my primary reason for changing myself is to change my spouse, inevitably I am going to be disappointed. When I perform with the attitude that I’m expecting a certain response or to get something in return, my heart never changes. I, therefore, set myself up for letdown over and over again.
There needs to be a radical shift in my attitude. I need to learn to love without complaint. Love is choosing the best for the other person…over and over again.
I love well not because I am going to get something in return but because that’s what I promised to do, and that is what glorifies God. I want to walk away with the attitude, “My husband has not changed, but I have changed.
I’m glad my difficult circumstances didn’t change because it was the only way my motives for obedience could change.”
We live in a “self” culture that emphasizes a desire for recognition and inevitable rights. We can forget that our attitude should be Christ – humble with a heart to serve (Philippians 2:5-9). I’m not proposing it’s easy, but it is what we signed up for when we walked down the aisle and slipped a ring on the other person’s finger.
Elisabeth Elliot is a woman who had a husband killed by the tribe of people he was trying to tell about Jesus. She had enough grace, forgiveness and courage to return to that village and lead them to a relationship with Christ.
In a talk found here about servanthood, she recalls her house mother in college who was kicked her wealthy family, leaving behind all money and inheritance because she decided to be a Christian.
When Elisabeth was talking to her later in life about the impression made on her because of the way this older woman served she replied, “Just think about the Mercy of God that he allowed me to carry mops and toilet paper to his glory.
” She speaks of Jesus who, being in the very nature God, made himself a servant to others, and the Bible urges us to have the same attitude.We often do things in this life for recognition. Elisabeth reminds us that we “are a servant of the Lord of the universe.
” Am I accepting the will of God in the daily moments that I find myself in throughout life? I know I am often not, but it’s what I am aim for.
It is choosing the right thing in the moment, not for recognition or change of another person, but because it’s right. It’s refining me. It’s glorifying to God.
In the end you say, “My spouse never changed, but I changed. Praise be to God.”
It is not easy. I know many of you are sitting here saying, “You have no idea what I have to put up with.” I agree. I do not. I have seem some really nasty marriage situations. However, I have seen a lot of hope. I have seen couples healed. I’ve seen one person decide to make a change and the other spouse making dramatic change in behavior.
However, I have also witnessed many people in life whose situations do not change. They have become transformed as an individual, not waiting for life circumstances to become better but knowing that God can take all things and turn them into good. They let their hearts and attitude to be overhauled. That’s what I want. Will you join me?
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What NOT to do when you’re having relationship problems
I could go on and on about what you should or shouldn’t do with your partner when you are having relationship problems.
Today I’ll be discussing one critical thing not to do that doesn’t involve your partner when you’re having relationship problems.
It’s not cheating or going on a bender, though I would advise against those two actions as well.
What I’ll be discussing is all too common and can cause big problems for you and your partner down the road if you engage in it. Even though it’s tempting and it helps you feel better, it can be highly dangerous to your relationship.
What I’m referring to is talking about your relationship problems to your friends and family.
Unless your relationship isn’t that serious or is just starting up, it is abusive, or you are definitely breaking up or getting a divorce, keep your mouth shut about your relationship problems to friends and family.
In other words, if you are in a serious relationship or are married and you want things to work out despite your difficulties, my advice is to keep your foot in your mouth.
Being that I’ve worked for years as a therapist and coach and am clearly a supporter of people talking about their problems, you may be surprised as to why I’m telling you to keep your mouth shut.
Here’s the deal:
Your friends and family are hopefully big supporters of you. They care about you more than anything and they only want the best for you. As soon as you start shit talking your relationship, you have made enemies for your partner.
They will have serious problems with whoever isn’t treating their daughter, sister or best friend the queen she is. Then, when all is better between you and your partner, you’ll have a big pile of crap to clean up. And you might not be able to.
Do you really want that?
Even worse, if your partner learns that you’ve done some talking about them to your loved ones, you’ll have to deal with even more grief.
I’ve seen it happen many times, and trust me, it can get ugly.
Your relationship is going to go through ups and downs
They all do. In the words of an Elvis Presley song, “True love travels on a gravel road.”
But to keep your bond sacred and strong as it should be, don’t let others into your relationship problems.
Deal with your issues together
To save your self time and effort in doing so, consider getting help together. If you need to talk to someone other your partner about your own struggles, find an individual therapist or coach.
Of course it makes sense to confide in friends and family, but if you are telling them how much of a jerk your partner is and you want to make things work, you are doing yourself and your relationship a huge disservice.
It may feel impossible to imagine that things will get better. You might be feeling hopeless and really need to connect with someone because it’s not happening with your partner.But if you have a seed of desire to make things better and a grain of faith that they might, your relationship can be better than ever.
And if you start trash talking your relationship or complaining about your partner to other important people in your life, you only have yourself to blame when your relationship is finally at its best and your friends and family just can’t fully accept your mate.
If you’ve already complained about your partner to others, it’s not too late to take efforts toward making things better.
Remember and mention some of the great things about your partner that you appreciate.
You might even start to notice more yourself
So zip your lip to protect your relationship and tackle your issues together as a team.
Need help and not interested in speaking to a third party?
Check out my book, Your Best Love: The Couples Workbook and Guide to Their Best Relationship, to finally understand how to have a strong, connected and fulfilling relationship.
Cheers to making it your best,
P.S. DISCLAIMER – I am referring in this post to relationships that are NOT dangerous, violent or abusive. If you are in an abusive or violent relationship, your partner may try to prevent you from connecting to ANYONE.
If that is the case, I do NOT recommend you get couples therapy, I DO recommend to you reach out to loved ones, and check out this site as well: http://thehotline.org
Changing You, Changing Relationships
When I was anxiously getting ready to make the big move abroad, I often heard people say to me with wide eyes and certainty “This experience is going to change you.
” The fact that moving my whole life to another part of the world could result in a change in who I was, was a given to me from day one.
Though one thing I had never really thought about was how moving abroad was going to change my relationships with my family and friends, how they see me, nor how they too would change due to the simple natural progression of life.
Distance and How to Make It Work
Any type of a move and change can put a strain on a relationship, regardless of whether it’s a romantic, familial, or purely platonic relationship. And moving to another part of the world puts that even more to the test.
One has to get used to the idea that someone who was once just a hop and a skip away will no longer be capable of being there in a flash.
This can take a lot of getting used to, and for some people, as time goes on, sometimes the distance is just too much.However, distance does not have to be the determining factor about whether or not a relationship can survive or not.
With modern technology it is certainly easier than ever to remain in contact through social networking sites, smartphone applications, or even the old fashioned email, snail mail or a telephone call.
What distance does is test the strength and adaptability of a relationship, and teach you to adapt, deal and even thrive in this new type of relationship.
It is not always easy, but it is a very doable task when two people are willing to put the effort into maintaining and developing a relationship and learn to embrace the changes. Often times I have even found that distance and change can be a very positive thing and make certain relationships even stronger and evolve in a way they never could have if I hadn’t been abroad.
Other Determining Factors
Still though, despite all of these technological advances I have found that some of my relationships have changed for the worse over the years since I have been abroad, and I have often found that distance wasn’t to blame, but rather sometimes people just grow in different ways.
Being abroad, your friends might simply not understand your lifestyle choices or why you can’t just settle down and live a “normal life”. They can no longer support something which they cannot and do not want to understand.
There have often been times when I have felt rather down about how my relationships with some friends from childhood and college have seemed to be falling apart. We were simply veering off onto our own separate paths.
But then one evening, a friend and I got on the subject of our relationships with people, and how they have changed. My friend said something that put everything into perspective: “We aren’t meant to bring everyone along with us. Some people stay, some people go. It’s neither good nor bad.
It’s just what it is. And we shouldn’t feel bad about it.” That was rather reassuring to me and helped me rid myself of some of my lost relationship sadness.
We have so many people who come into our lives, who are just in our lives for a certain period of time, and this may have been a time we greatly enjoyed. But sometimes in life, as time goes on, people grow apart and there is no longer a common ground.This holds true whether you are living abroad or have never left your hometown. People change. Though it is sad when a long-time friendship ends, we have to try to see this in a different light.
When people try to work things out, but no longer fit into one another’s lives anymore, it’s much better to let go with grace instead of forcing something that is no longer meant to be. This in turn allows for more opportunities for other people to come into your lives, which makes everyone happier.
How to Deal with a Changing Relationship
The one constant and stable thing we can be sure of in life is change. People change and therefore their relationships change with them. Humans are dynamic creatures that are constantly evolving, leading to different needs and wants and a differing role that people play in them.
One thing we need to be sure of is that we surround ourselves with positive people who support our lifestyle choices, no matter what they are or where in the world they lead us. I always feel that truly good relationships find a way through the trials they get put through.
And even if people don’t get along at some point in time, or your lives have gone in different directions, there is no reason why at a later point in time, it might not simply come together again.
None of us are perfect and we have to be able to accept one another’s faults and differences and be willing to put in the effort to keep worthwhile relationships healthy and striving.
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