HELP, my husband won’t change!

September 16, 2010 | admin river.jpg

HUSBANDS COME IN ONLY TWO FLAVORS:

Impossible.

And…

The very difficult.

I know what you are going to tell me, your first cousin twice removed married a guy who she says is a dream.

All I can say is, I have a cousin like that who saw Elvis.

The truth is (are you still sitting?) the men are really not the problem.

Let me explain.

Children, like husbands, really come in the same two categories, and not only do we manage ok, but we miss them when they aren’t around.

The real trouble is that wives also come in two flavors:

The first is the woman who thinks she is going to marry someone like the fictional character your cousin tells you about (not Elvis – actually, maybe Elvis). He will be easy going, listens attentively and loves having your mother over, often.

As I have mentioned, this dream is only perpetuated through mythical sightings and every Hollywood romance movie.

It’s not so much that the husband (being impossible) is the problem, it’s more the fact that the wife is living in constant and absolute disappointment.

What’s more she has no inhibitions in telling her mate that he is the disappointment of her life!

But don’t give up, hope is on the way. I plan to reveal to all concerned wives the secret to getting men to change. I know a lot of men are going to call me traitor (listen guys, someone had to tell them).

However, before we start the merry-magic-formula of matrimonial bliss, it’s necessary to point out an ever so slight error in the thinking.

Let’s examine this statement: “My husband won’t change, despite the fact that I’ve told him to grow up, countless times over many, many years.”

Think for a moment. For whatever reasons he likes his bad habits and ghastly taste, he was not influenced by your arguments. Not when you started using them and not now.

Repeating the same argument reflects just as much on our own inability to change as it does for our spouse.

It’s at this point that every wife says to me, “You just don’t know my husband. He really won’t change.” So let me remind you, he did.

When you first were married he and you had to adapt to the new circumstances. You changed and he changed.

It is like a river meandering through the countryside following the path that avoids the hardest rocks. So too in marriage.

The initial changes were with those issues that had to be faced (the rocks). He staked-out his behavior, as you yours. He and you changed where you had to and pushed back where you could. Each of you is the river. The river wants to continue the same path it has always been on but nevertheless has to bend where it needs to.

Each spouse is a reflection of who the other is, and just as importantly who the other spouse is not.

The Torah’s (Bible) description of a spouse is “Help-Mate” (Genesis 2:18), but literally the words in Hebrew mean: “Help-Opposite.” Meaning, your spouse helps you because they are opposite and reflect you, like a mirror.

Your spouse has changed where you are strong and hasn’t where you are weak.

And of course, so have you.

In other words, each one’s behavior is a reflection of the other. For example, there are things you would really like to do but won’t because your husband becomes extreme. The same is true for him with you. There are also things you both do because the other is not as adamant.

The point of this river parable is not to become adamant about getting your way, but to realize you and your spouse both changed where you had to. What’s stopping him from changing now is your own inability to show him he has to.

If you communicate it the right way, he will adapt. He’s a river, he will change if he has to, he just doesn’t want to and you haven’t shown him he has to.

Telling him 1000 times is not communication.

This is a true story (only the names have been changed to protect me): Jane called me up one day to tell me she wants to get a divorce. After 20 years she had enough.

Despite what you might think, the very thing that broke the camel’s back was that Todd (her husband) finally changed!

This is what she told me: For 20 years I’ve told Todd to get his act together and he wouldn’t listen. One day he completely embarrassed himself doing what I told him not to.

So I told him this: “It’s not just because I don’t like what you do, but the real reason I have been telling you these past 20 years is because you are better than this.”

Do you know what Todd said?

“You are right, I am going to change.”

That was it, that was the last straw. She couldn’t take it anymore. As she said to me, “It took me 20 years to get him to change, I just don’t have the patience with every issue like that.”

Listen to what I said to Jane:

“It didn’t take Todd 20 years to change, it took you 20 years to figure out how to say it.”

They are still married, and last I looked, happily.

Listen, if (God forbid) your husband lost his right foot, he wouldn’t just sit in the car trying to put it in drive. It’s absurd to think your husband won’t change. Given the right circumstances, everyone will.

So here’s what you have been waiting for….. the secret to getting him to change:

Change your approach.

Let me explain.

Marriage is not the only place where we meet dead ends. However, when we get stuck at work or maybe with the kids, we invariably seek advice and counsel, sometimes from books or experts we know.

However, no therapist or advisor ever said this: “I will call your boss, son, cleaning crew or neighbor and work it out for you.” They all told you this basic idea: change your approach and your problem will be solved.

In fact, we seek out the people who can tell us how to change, so that we can change the people around us. Whether that be a change in attitude, maybe not getting defensive, or a host of other strategies, we have to change first to truly get the results we want.

Even though it’s our boss or child or neighbor with the problem, nevertheless, they won’t change until we make a change in ourselves.

We need to change the way we communicate to really change any of those abundant little (and not so little) bad habits.

The truth is, everything in life is like this. Change and the world is your Oyster.

Nobody got rich or became successful by doing what everyone else was doing. They had to first change what they would normally do. In hindsight their new move may seem obvious, but at the time it was bold.

There is really no reason why marriage should be any different, yet somehow we think that success will occur only when our spouse changes. Not only doesn’t marriage work like this, but nothing works like this.

Your husband’s inability to change is a reflection that you have exhausted the techniques in your arsenal. It’s time to get some new ideas.

Oh, and what is the second type of wife?

She thinks she is going to marry someone who will be easy.

As I said, change the way you deal with your spouse, and voila, the magic will happen.

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