Most people fail in their efforts but blame the lack of any real change on their spouse. Others blame the strategy they used and cruise the internet for more tips or strategies to get their spouse to change. Maybe this is where you are.
You may hold one or more of the following assumptions about your spouse right now:
- Assumption #1: Your spouse is being unfair or mean by repeatedly saying or doing something that you’ve said makes you unhappy or worse.
- Assumption #2: Your spouse is intentionally hurting you or driving you crazy—and this really cuts deep.
- Assumption #3: If your spouse really wanted, s/he could make the change you want—which means a lack of motivation or character.
You can probably see that these thoughts about your spouse are toxic for your marriage, even if you feel they are justified by years of experience with your spouse.
Now if we were seeing both of you in marriage counseling, we would be able to go deeper into these assumptions. Marital reality is usually a lot more complex than it seems, and both of you might come to see each other more clearly—and less harshly.
But since you’re no doubt reading this by yourself, and not with your spouse, we’ll try to imagine your spouse’s reactions so that we can help you see the first end of the thread you need to untangle if you’re going to make changes on your own.
Assumption #1: Your spouse is being unfair or mean by repeatedly doing something that you’ve said makes you unhappy or worse.
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Your spouse’s reactions to assumption #1 may include:
- I simply cannot get on board with your desire for me to do or say what you want. I just simply don’t agree with you on what you want.
- I’ve done what you wanted and you still accuse me of being mean or unfair so frankly, I gave up and started doing what comes naturally to me since I can’t win no matter what.
- It isn’t mean if I’m being honest with you about why I won’t do or say what you want me to. In fact, I don’t get why you would rather have me be fake than honest.
Assumption #2: Your spouse is intentionally hurting you or driving you crazy — and this really cuts deep
Spouse reactions to assumption #2 may include:
- I never set out to hurt you but you misread me and then blame me.
- The last thing I want is for you to go crazy, and honestly, I don’t get why this is such a big deal for you. I’m going to keep doing what I do unless I get an argument that makes more sense to me. In the meantime, I hope you get over your belief I want you to be miserable, because it just isn’t true. I’m just sticking up for myself.
- Sometimes I admit I do things that that I know will drive you crazy but it’s only because I feel so locked down by you, so child-like, that the only way I can feel like an adult is to do what I want, even if it hurts you.
Assumption #3: If your spouse really wanted, s/he could make the change you want — which means a lack of motivation or character.
Spouse reactions to assumption #3 may include:
- I simply do not see what I do as making me less of a responsible adult than you, and you should chill out and stop being so judgmental.
- I am not capable of the change that you think is so easy. When I try to change for you, I so often fail that it’s not even worth trying. Why can’t you just accept me as I am?
- It feel like you want me to be a completely different person. Even if I agreed with you, I don’t see the change lasting or ever feeling natural.
- Understand their perspective to the point you can repeat it in a way they feel you really understand and respect their vantage point—whether you agree or not.
- Work to understand the deeper emotional need you have underneath your request for change. Ask yourself if you’re setting your spouse up for failure by creating a crisis where there doesn’t need to be one. (It also helps to realize you likely drive your spouse crazy too.)
- See if there is a way you can move “half-way” towards your spouse so they see you don’t want to just be a nag.
And if you really still struggle and are stuck, we can not recommend marriage counseling strongly enough. These topics are the “meat and potatoes” of couples therapy. We do not judge the “size” of your struggles (often individuals feel their fights are not “big enough” to seek therapy.) We focus instead on the fact you have struggles and want to get unstuck. The techniques and approaches vary among our professionals, but the key is that we see beyond either of your vantage points, which offers us the ability to ignite change that neither of you can necessarily do on your own.
The therapists we have vetted for their passion, values and experience are listed on our marriage counseling directory. Click the banner below and it should automatically send you to your local listing page.