Marriage is risky! When a starry-eyed young woman and a totally smitten young man decide to say “I DO,” perhaps there should be some huge yellow CAUTION light that starts blinking, and a warning siren that begins blaring. Expectations that everything will be rosy are almost certain to be dashed. Is the risk worth it?
One big source of trouble comes when one of them thinks, “Once we get married, I’ll be able to get him or her to change. He’ll stop drinking and watching pornography. She’ll learn to be a better cook. He’ll come around to wanting children. She’ll learn to get along with my mother.” Those expectations may not happen. Then what?
Expecting or demanding change from your spouse is likely to result in profound disappointment. People can and do change. But your role in someone else’s change, especially your spouse’s, is a different matter entirely.
Think for a moment about how God deals with us. He requires a lot of us. In fact He requires everything! He demands our perfection in body, mind, and soul. It’s a high standard.
But that requirement is step 2. It comes after step 1. Before asking anything of us at all, God loves us. Jesus demonstrated now complete His love for us is. He loves us first, without regard to who we are or what we’ve done. It’s only then that He asks anything of us.
Yes, Jesus loves me. And you! He loves us just the way we are. But He also loves us too much to let us stay that way. His love changes us from the broken people we start out to be and transforms us into mature, happy, loving, courageous members of His family.
And it works just that way with you and your spouse. Demanding change will only result in resistance, conflict, and misery. If you truly want your spouse to change, love him or her first. Love them unconditionally, lavishly, with the unconditional love that God has for you. Your spouse will know the difference between real love and conditional love. It must start here.
Then, your love may be able to give your spouse the strength and motivation to change. Then, it’s between them and God. He’s the only One who can truly change their heart, or yours! And if they DO change for the better, you both can rejoice.
A few resources you may enjoy:
- Dr Carol’s list of how she got her husband Al to change
- Dr Carol’s popular list of Ten Things A Woman Wants and Needs
- Dr Carol’s comments on HALT: 5 Ways to Stay Filled Up
- Ransomed Heart offers great resources to help men (and women too) meet the needs in your soul.
On the most recent Dr Carol Show we talk about specific tools that can use to help your spouse make changes. And we talk with a caller in a very challenging marriage. The three-minute Saturday Memo gives some specific highlights, as in this post. And the full archive is available here.
Your Turn: What would you change about your spouse if you could? What have you found to be the best way to help your spouse make a change? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
If you enjoy these posts, why not receive them in your email inbox? You can sign up with your email address right here: