Couple talking

It’s frustrating with your spouse won’t change. Your husband left his dirty socks strewn on the bedroom floor. Again. Your wife came home with the car’s gas tank light on “empty”. Again. Your husband spends Saturday afternoon and Monday night watching football. Your wife makes the same casserole for the thousandth time. You’ve asked and complained and cajoled and bargained and nagged, but to no avail.

“I told them I can’t stand it when they. . . . Don’t they realize how upset that makes me? When is he/she ever going to change?”

I’ve got the answer for you. NEVER!

If your wife isn’t used to watching the gas gauge and filling up when it’s under half full, your yelling at her won’t make her remember. If your husband has enjoyed football all his life and would rather watch the game than do just about anything else, your complaining won’t change that. By the time you marry, most of your spouse’s habits and preferences and behaviors are pretty well set.

I think more women than men hope their spouse will change after they get married, but both genders can be guilty of this. It’s true that some people change. And a husband or wife can sometimes be instrumental in helping their spouse to change. But it’s never something you can demand or expect.

And please, never marry someone hoping they will change!         Tweet that.

Remember the saying, “Never try to teach a pig to sing. The music is bad, and it annoys the pig.”

I’m not calling your spouse a pig. I am, however, reminding you that you cannot change anyone but yourself. You can only choose how to respond to another person, even your spouse.

And by the way, if your spouse seems to change because you’ve asked or nagged them to do so, it’s only outward, and it’s only temporary.

So what do you do about those pesky behaviors you can’t stand in your spouse, but they keep doing anyway? Here are 5 suggestions:

  1. Accept it. And I mean honestly, completely, accept it. And accept them. (The only exceptions to this are those behaviors that are truly destructive, such as abuse or addiction.) Your wife isn’t a creative cook. Your husband loves sports. That’s the way it is! And don’t keep bringing up how you wish they were different. They aren’t!
  2. Enjoy yourself anyway. Look for the fun or positive aspects of how this behavior impacts your marriage. Why not join a women’s Bible study on Monday nights while he’s occupied with football? Or for eating variety, why not take your wife out to eat twice a week? Very few things are all negative.
  3. Say “Thank You” and mean it. When your spouse makes the effort to meet your desires instead of what is most natural for them, notice it. And say Thank You! If your husband forgoes his football game to work on a home project with you, let him know how much that means to you. If your wife tries out a new or challenging recipe, make a big deal out of it.
  4. Encourage them if they want to change. My husband quit smoking when we got married. I never once asked him to do so, but I was there supporting him in every way when he asked for my help. He would never have done that if I had nagged or begged him. But when HE made the decision, he knew I would be there to help him.
  5. For destructive behavior, change how you respond. If your spouse is violent or abusive, you still can’t change them. But you can change how you respond to the situation. You can refuse to engage in arguments, to enable addictions, or to remain in danger. This is a big topic, but the most important thing to know is that you can only change YOU.

Quit trying to teach a pig to sing! Perhaps the melodies the world needs to hear are the ones coming from your own voice. Life is too short to waste energy on something as unlikely to succeed as forcing your spouse to change.

Your Turn: How long has it been since you yelled at, scolded, or nagged your spouse to change something? What was it? Leave a comment below.

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  • If your spouse won’t change, here are 5 things you can do.           Tweet that.

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