So in my last post I asked you to consider the question, “What can I do to have a great marriage?”
In essence, how can you BE THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO SEE?
Before we look at some specifics about what you can do, it is important to consider the response you may get from your spouse. You see, it’s entirely possible that the more you work to make your marriage great, the more resistance you may encounter from your spouse!
Why? Well think about it? You came into this discussion with your own list of reasons why you have a ‘not so great’ marriage. You also, as we discussed in the last post, likely came into it with the question, “What can I do to get my spouse to change?” Your spouse probably has their own list and is asking the question- about you! Or it’s entirely possible that they have emotionally ‘checked-out’ of the marriage and they don’t care that you are working to make the marriage better. They are not interested in making any effort to that end themselves.
So what can you do about it?
Well for one thing, realize that you are both probably grieving the dreams you had for this relationship? Even if it is a ‘good’ marriage, it hasn’t been as wonderful you had envisioned on your wedding day. It is more work that you had anticipated. Now you are looking at this marriage and wondering if it can ever be more than it is right now. And if it can become more- what will have to CHANGE!
Ah, there it is! There is that word…CHANGE. You know, most of us are hard wired to be resistant to change. Change can be a kind of loss. We want to be sure that any changes that are made will really make something better and be worth the effort. We have to have clear definitions and structures to give some certainty to making a change? Why mess up a perfectly ‘not working, but currently comfortable’ thing in the hopes of getting something just a little better? How do we even know if it will be a GREAT thing?
Someone once said, “Until the pain of remaining the same hurts more than the pain of change, people will choose to remain the same.” What makes change (even good change) so scary? What can we do to combat our fear of change and break free from unhealthy but comfortable patterns in our circumstances and relationships?
You obviously are at a point of willingness to face the pain of change required to make things different for your marriage. You are still reading this post. But is your spouse there? What is worse than having to face scary change that you choose to face? It’s having to face change that is IMPOSED on you.
Think about it. It is hard enough to deal with change that WE INITIATE. But when we feel forced or manipulated to change, then we resist with all our might. You’ve probably already learned that the more you nudge them, urge them, push them, ask, beg or scream at them to do something, the less likely they are to do it. Your spouse may not be willing to change for the sake of your marriage right now, but that’s not because your spouse doesn’t want a great marriage. We all want a great marriage. It’s because if they’re going to change, they want the changes they make to be THEIR CHOICE!
Sure it is hard to do that! But what happens when you make a change because you have felt pressured to do it? You might make the change for a while, but eventually you go back to the old ways of doing things. Why? Because you tried to do something to make someone else happy. But you didn’t make the decision to change for yourself. Making changes because you feel manipulated seldom works.
If you want to see change that is truly empowering in your marriage, you have to do what you can do on your end, and give them the freedom to make their own choice toward change.
Now another thing to be aware of is that it is possible that you will NOT be the person to inspire your mate to make that change. You know it’s true. A complete stranger is more likely to get through to your spouse than you are. A chance experience or encounter is more likely to shake up your spouse than anything YOU could say.
Remember that time when you had finally given up trying to get your spouse to do that “thing” that you thought was so important. And then, one evening they come home and share with you a conversation they had with their lunch buddy or a coworker that lead them to do the exact thing that you had been harping on them about before. It happens so often. You have done it to them as well.
So, I hear you asking, is there anything I can do then?
Absolutely! How about making the changes you can that help to create a more positive energy in your relationship? That will probably include
- ‘backing off’ of the issues that have caused such dissention and giving your mate the space to make his/her own choice.
- recognizing that you may be ‘getting in the way’ of the very change you long for. Step back, create space for your spouse to CHOOSE to change! That’s the only way it will happen.
- letting your spouse see by your example how the choices you are making impact how you feel about yourself and your marriage.
Don’t think for a minute that your marriage won’t get better until your spouse ‘gets with the program.” The choices YOU are making speak volumes about what is important to you. When you make choices that communicate how important your spouse is to you, maybe they will begin to believe you. But more importantly, you will begin to feel your love grow for your spouse. Your choice to let your mate choose has great potential and power- even for you.
So, bottom line, “You must be the change you wish to see.” It’s YOU changing that will have the greatest influence on YOUR EXPERIENCE of your marriage AND it’s YOU changing that will be the single most important thing you can do to motivate your spouse to change.
Remember, YOUR GREAT MARRIAGE Starts with YOU!