Want your spouse to change? You might accidentally be hurting your cause. Here’s what to do differently.
I’ve noticed a pattern in human behavior: we want people to change, but then we make it hard for them to do so. For example, a mother may want her son to stop lying, but reacts angrily when he’s honest about his mistakes, shaming him and removing his motivation to tell the truth. Or a husband may want more intimacy with his wife, yet contributes to her exhaustion and detachment by not helping with the kids, doing housework, or communicating affection throughout the day.
If you want your spouse, your kids, or anyone else to change their thinking or behavior, ask yourself if there’s anything you are doing (or not doing) that makes it hard for them to change, contributes to their defensiveness, or leads to resentment. Another way of looking at it is to ask: “How can I help them change or at least get out of their way as they try to do so?”
To be clear, I’m not saying that it’s your fault if he or she is not making improvements. They alone are responsible for their behavior (just as you are for yours). You can’t make anyone else change, but you can create a climate where it’s easier for them to do so. Taking accountability for your own actions, making the changes that they ask you to make, and evaluating whether you’re accidentally sabotaging their change efforts are good places to start. After that, it’s up to them.
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Jonathan Decker is the clinical director of Your Family Expert. He is a licensed marriage and family therapist, husband, and father of five. Jonathan earned a masters degree in family therapy from Auburn University as well as a bachelor’s degree in clinical psychology from Brigham Young University. He is an actor, author, and television personality.