To Change My Relationship With My Spouse
Why Doesn’t My Spouse Change? Functional Fixedness
Marriage Missions Editor Note: The following article is written to wives. However, most of it could also have been written to husbands. That is because a lot of the same principles apply regarding having your spouse change as you think he or she should. We encourage you to glean through it and learn what will apply in your marriage concerning functional fixedness:
Dr. Melody Rhode often uses a psycho-neurological term to describe a man’s reluctance to change: FUNCTIONAL FIXEDNESS. Men don’t normally change if what they’ve been doing seems to be working for them. When a woman allows her husband to treat her with disrespect, he has no motivation to change. So it’s unly he ever will.
Different Blueprint Needed
“There’s a simple question I ask wounded women who seek help to endure belittling or degrading treatment from their man. ‘Why does your husband treat you badly?’ Answer: It’s because he can.”
This is not, in any way, to blame a woman for the abuse but to develop a new blueprint for a different future. Melody continues:
“If what he’s doing is working for him, why change? He needs a compelling reason to change, and it needs to be more compelling than your unhappiness or private misery with the situation.”
Motivated to Change from Functional Fixedness?
I would think that a God-fearing man would be motivated to change simply by understanding that his actions hurt you. But I’m also a realist. Some of you may be married to a man who doesn’t much care if his actions hurt you. He cares that he is able to get what he wants.
In such cases, allowing the behavior to continue while complaining about it won’t change anything. It’s not your pain that motivates him but his pain.You have to be willing to create an environment in which the status quo becomes more painful than the experience of positive change.
Here’s the trap I’ve seen too many women fall into: a woman keeps expressing to her husband how he is doing something (or not doing something) that is hurting her. Even after several such conversations, he doesn’t change —or he’ll change for a few days and then go back to his old habits, at which point the wife complains again.
No Lasting Change Concerning Functional Fixedness
Still, no long-term change. The wife reads a book or attends a seminar and decides she needs to find a better way to communicate so she can get her message across. But even after this, there’s no permanent change.
Her error is assuming that she’s not getting through. In point of fact, she is getting through to her husband. He may fully understand and be completely aware of her pain, but he’s not motivated by her pain.
If he s the marriage as it is, he’ll put up with an occasionally disagreeable conversation now and then.
In such cases, spouses need to make a serious evaluation. There was a point in “Jenny’s” marriage when she realized, her and her husband’s parents’ health history, that she and “Mike” could be married for sixty years.
At the time, Jenny had been married for just fifteen years. That left, potentially, another forty-five years of being together.
It also meant another forty-give years of a situation that Jenny wasn’t sure she could live with.
“There is no scenario in my life plan in which I want divorce —none,” Jenny told me.
“At the end of my life, my fervent hope and determination is to be, unreservedly, a one-man woman. But I also know enough not to overestimate my patience. I could put up with some disappointments.
But was I willing to live with this for another forty-five years? At that point, I felt I needed to be more honest about some struggles and more up-front about making a change. It created some discomfort for a season as I stopped pretending that everything was OK.
But was a season of discomfort worth changing the course of our marriage for the next forty-years? Without question!”
Without nagging and without pretty recriminations (withholding sex, the silent treatment, a critical spirit, and so forth), Jenny gently but forcefully made her husband see that as long as he acted the way he did, their marriage was going to suffer in specific ways. These ways affected him. It was only when Mike started feeling his own pain that he was shaken his functional fixedness enough to change his behavior.
Don’t Over-estimate or Pretend
I believe Jenny makes an important point: be wary of over-estimating your willingness to live with a glaring hurt or a gaping need. Don’t pretend that Satan won’t exploit it or that you won’t be tempted by another man who happens to be strongest exactly where your husband is weakest.
If, Jenny, your ideal life plan leaves no room for divorce, you must honestly accept your weaknesses. You must be willing to create a climate in which your spouse will be motivated by his pain. This is a courageous and healthy movement toward your spouse and toward preserving and strengthening your marriage.
It is an act of commitment, not rebellion.
All this requires a very specific application your spouse’s personality. I can’t give you “five steps to overcome functional fixedness” here — but you’ll receive plenty of ideas and suggestions as we touch on various topics throughout this book.
[This is a good reason to obtain this book.] At this point, it’s enough to say that if merely communicating your hurt isn’t solving the problem, you’re most ly dealing with a case of functional fixedness.
You’ll also need to be strong to address that issue.
The Trap of Functional Fixedness
Some women fall into the trap of failing to speak up for fear of losing their man; they don’t want to “rock the boat,” even though it appears that the boat is headed toward a waterfall.
But this passive acceptance makes it more ly that the husband will stray; he won’t respect his wife for putting up with his poor behavior, and this attitude will only reinforce his disrespectful behavior.Sadly, many women think their husband’s anger is the great enemy of their security, but, if fact, weakness and the corresponding relational boredom pose a far more potent threat.
If you can stand strong and secure in your identity and in your relationship with Christ, courageously making it clear how you will and will not be treated, you will be amazed to see how to respect and show for yourself rubs off on your husband.
This Fixedness Must Change
Here’s the male insider’s view, right at the start: you have more influence over your husband than you realize. When you are a woman of respect, the last thing your husband wants is to lose you.
If he things he can heave you and his aberrant behavior, he’ll take both.
But if the day comes when he knows you won’t simply turn a blind eye to what he’s doing, when he thinks he might even lose you if he continues down the path he’s walking, he’s going to be shaken his functional fixedness and at least consider making changes.
…Dr Melody Rhode sees the threat of a husband’s losing his wife as perhaps the greatest possible motivator for a husband. Of course, we have to place this within the context of a covenantal, committed marriage.
The Bible is very specific and very limiting regarding what constitutes an acceptable divorce.
Discontentment, seeming incompatibility, and mere displeasure don’t qualify! Melody points out, “A woman’s power needs to be surrendered to God and used for his purposes, not our own.”
Women DO Have Power
She also stresses, however, that most women, because of our culture, don’t realize the power they have to move their husbands.
“They feel powerless because of their sex,” she observes, “and this has resulted in a lot of pent-up anger, frustration, and even desperation.” As your brother in Christ, I’m encouraging you to be bold, courageous, and strong.
Use the natural and very spiritual influence and role that God has designed for you to move the man in your life.
…Our culture in general —even Christian culture —is on a long slide toward passivity. It completely goes against who God made us to be.
Wishing Won’t Change Functional Fixedness
Let me be blunt: hope is not a strategy. Merely “wishing” that your husband would change, merely “wanting” your marriage to be different, won’t do anything. The problem is that some Christians spiritualize wishing —we call it “praying.
” Please understand, I’m not knocking prayer; I’m challenging a misconception about prayer, namely, that we can merely voice our displeasure and expect our world and our relationships to be transformed. True biblical prayer is about much, much more than that.
It involves receiving our marching orders and then acting on them.
A good marriage doesn’t happen by accident, and a good marriage isn’t maintained by accident. I’ve never written a book by accident, and you can’t build a business by accident.
These endeavors require deliberate choices and much perseverance.
When you start acting instead of merely wishing, when you begin taking initiative instead of simply feeling sorry for yourself, you become an active woman, and active women mirror the active God who made them.
Active God, Active Women
Genesis 1 provides our initial glimpse of who God is. The first thing God wants us to know is that he is an extraordinarily active God. In Genesis 1 there are thirty-eight active verbs describing what God does: he creates, he speaks, he separates, he calls, he blesses, he gives, and much more —all in just one chapter.
Then —and this is the key —he tells the woman and the man to do the same: “God blessed them [male and female] and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground’” (Genesis 1:28).
God made you, as a woman, to rule in this world, to subdue it, to act according to his image. Sin begins with sluggishness, despair, and despondency.People give up on their marriages, on prayer, their churches, their kids, and eventually even give up on themselves. They say, “It’s no use.
” They start to sulk instead of painstakingly remaking their marriage —simply because their first (or even tenth) attempt failed.
This may sound a hard word, but readers of my previous books know I’m not one to shy away from that. Your marriage is what you make it.
The relationship you have is the direct result of what you’ve put into it, and in many cases, a marriage can rise only to the level of your courage. Initial romantic intensity is unearned; it seems to fall on us nowhere. But marriage has to be built stone by stone.
We have to make deliberate choices; we have to be active and confront the weaknesses we see in ourselves and in each other.
This article comes from the GREAT book, Sacred Influence: How God Uses Wives to Shape the Souls of Their Husbands written by Gary Thomas, published by Zondervan.
There was so much more in this chapter and in the entire book that we would have d to include in this article. But you’ll need to find a way to obtain the book.
You’ll truly want to see what else Gary Thomas has to say on this subject (and others). You’ll be glad you did!
— ALSO —
Below are some links to additional articles. We suggest you glean through them to see if you can find more information to help you in your marriage. If the article is written to wives and you are a husband looking for answers, or the reverse is true, please read the article anyway. Look to see if you can adapt the info given to help you concerning functional fixedness in marriage.
• WHEN YOUR HUSBAND WON’T CHANGE
• WHEN YOUR HUSBAND WON’T CHANGE – Part 2
— ALSO —
• MY WIFE WON’T MEET MY EXPECTATIONS
• HOW TO GET YOUR SPOUSE TO CHANGE
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.
If you are an InterNations member and would to contribute an article, do not hesitate to contact us!
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: //thehotline.org