If Only They Would Change….How do I change my spouse?

fullsizeoutput_1b9She stormed into the room. She had gotten him to counseling, finally! Now she could finally get him fixed. She had had it and someone better get him to change or she was finished.

He was quiet, not humble. He held his head down understanding the position he was in. He felt he was in for it. Two women again one man. She had won. He was going to get the bashing he deserved. He accepted his fate and waited for his trial and punishment to begin.

I asked their names, address, phone, etc. She was already annoyed. Why do you need all of this? He needs help? I want to get to know you. She wasn’t having any of it. She wanted to get to his problems and proceeded to announce what they were. When she was finished she waited for me to agree and begin to tell her husband what he needed to do to change.

Despite what I was hearing about him I couldn’t get over what I was hearing from her. She was rude, loud, mean, boisterous, and set on having her way. She cared only about getting what she wanted and when she didn’t she reacted like a child. The problems her husband had were superficial and could be fixed easily, but her problems ran much deeper and were the true cause of why they had come for counseling.

After the second session she announced that this type of counseling wasn’t for them. She wanted me to fix her husband and she didn’t understand why I was asking her questions and trying to talk to her so much. I explained that marriage problems are rarely one sided though it’s possible and that there is always room for improvement for both spouses. She got up and left. I never saw them again. Her husband meekly thanked me.

Fix Him/Her

The short answer is you don’t. I am not sure where we ever got this idea in the first place. The idea that we can fix other people. It’s simply not possible. I can no more fix you than you can fix me. I can’t fix my children and I have tried.

We can teach, sway, affect, discipline, neglect, love, ignore, assault, hurt, encourage, tear down and control people. Even then we still can’t change them. We still can’t fix what is wrong.

We can work on problems and that in and of itself means both of us. No matter what he or she is doing there is always room for us to improve. The power we have is to change ourselves and how we react to others. When we focus on that we will often see our relationships improve.

In Reality

I have an idea of how difficult this can be. I don’t say this lightly. I understand what it feels like to be betrayed, to not know if your spouse is meeting another woman, to wonder if he really went to work, or will come home. To catch him viewing pornography and using you at the moment he needs release. I get what it feels like when he leaves and when he comes back. I understand the pain that comes with being neglected and ignored. With being used for sex because you are simply strangers in your own home.

I understand the desire and need to want them to change. I understand the yearning for intimacy and romance. I know what it feels like to wish you were “that” family in town. The ones that smile all the time, hold hands, and truly enjoy every moment together. Where every one gets up on a Saturday and smiles and says “let’s enjoy life”! Not like us where we get up wander around and them come up with a plan to go through the motions. Where we drift through time and make it look like everything is okay.

I understand what it’s like to beg God to take you from this world to end the misery. To pray that he would leave again and not come back because the pain is too great. To hurt so bad that you feel like you have died and that there is no happiness left in the world.

Yet, we can’t fix that. We can and we should work on ourselves. It’s what we have the power to do. It’s what can keep us sane in the hard moments and propel us forward into the future.

Day by Day

For seven years we struggled after my husband came back after leaving us. We were both hurt and kept hurting each other. We barely understood the problems and knew less about how to fix them. We found ourselves in a counseling room once too, but didn’t stay long either. We got through day by day.

I tried to work on me though I was often unsuccessful. As time went by we healed and our relationship strengthened. In the end I didn’t fix him. Our story still continues, but the hurt we caused each other back then has been healed. I no longer wonder if he will leave and who he is meeting, but those problems have been replaced by others.

Our relationship is weathering mid-life now.  My depression his career crisis.  My despondency his joy for life.  My confusion about life and his clear understanding of it.  My career change and his coping with it.  The changes that come from an emptying nest and the realization that we somehow got older.  In some ways we are more vulnerable now.  The kids aren’t holding us together.  It’s a dangerous time.

So I work on me. I focus on being a better wife, mother, daughter, and friend. I realize that my faith provides me with the motivation to please someone greater and that when I do so I find the joy that I have been looking for. Things are made right when my focus is on Him.

I also realize that very few families, if any, are all that. They are like us. At home they are dealing with problems, finances, relationship issues, children, parents, and on and on. They somehow all make it in the car, smile and show up acting like it’s all okay, but in reality, it’s rarely okay.

Work on you. That’s enough. I’ll work on me. Be an example to others of how to live, demonstrate the person you want others to be and work hard to make a difference in peoples lives by teaching, guiding and loving. We are going to be alright.

Marcy Pedersen

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