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How Do You Change Your Spouse?

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

Editor’s Note: The writer of this testimony, Beverly Weeks, posts regularly on the website intentionallyyours.org. She and her husband reach out in marriage enrichment ministry throughout North Carolina—including military couples stationed there. Our hope is that this testimony will be beneficial to those who are struggling in their marriage during deployment or any other time.

. . . clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. — Colossians 3:12b

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment . . . instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. — I Peter 3:3a, 4

How do you change your spouse? Nervously, I began to fidget, play around with my jewelry and crack my knuckles as I sat on the brown sofa. It had taken all my courage just to muster up enough strength to walk into the Christian counselor’s office.

It just felt so awkward. I mean for years I had taught Sunday School, sung in the choir and now I was having to admit to a total stranger that I did not have it all together. I felt as if my marriage had fallen completely apart. In all honesty, I had already begun to “check out” of the marriage relationship….yet my husband pleaded for me to reach out to this one who was trained, and willing, to help.

I went to that counseling session really as a way to appease my husband. I wanted to be able to tell my friends that I had done everything possible before dissolving the marriage. I guess that deep down I went secretly hoping that the counselor would affirm my decision to separate from him. At the very least, I had hoped that she could tell me how to change him.

 I took a sip of water from my water bottle, composed myself and then all of a sudden me and my 150 plus pounds of head strong ATTITUDE decided to blurt out my frustrations… Before you say anything, I want you to know that I am not taking him back if HE doesn’t change this, this and this…” I proceeded to call off the things on my list, things that aggravated me to the core! I mean how dare my husband not show me any affection, I feel like he always put his job before me, he never lets me help with making decisions, he is never affectionate, I am a people person, he loves staying at home, I love a clean house and he, well, let’s just say we are totally opposite…..”

I began to rattle them off, one fault right behind the other, until I noticed she wasn’t saying very much. Of course, if the truth be known I didn’t give her much of an opportunity! Finally, she lifted her pen, cleared her throat and spoke in a near silent whisper. Although full of conviction, her words were not at all what I had wanted to hear. “What if God is more interested in changing YOU than in changing your spouse?”

Hmmm. I want you to know that I did not exactly receive her words in the love of Christ! As a matter of fact, my fleshly sinful side wanted to leap off that sofa, pluck every blonde hair out of her head and her eyebrows and shout, “Lady, seriously, were you not just listening to what I said!?”

Her words, which were unsettling with me at the time, began to resonate in my ears. For the next few weeks and months, our marriage restoration and healing would begin with me first recognizing the fact that I could NOT change my spouse. No matter how hard I tried, the only person I could change was me. For some time I had naively thought that if I could just change my husband it would fix our relationship and the problems would vanish.

How to Change Your Spouse: The Power of the Two “P” Words

PRAYI began to pray in a new way… Lord, change me. I remember one night just sitting on the end of my bed weeping and pouring my heart out to God. “God, You know my heart. You know all the ways my husband has hurt me, all my frustrations, the bitterness and the callous feelings. Lord, you know all my expectations, hopes and my dreams. Father, I realize that I cannot change him so I ask that You will help me to compromise, accept the things that I cannot change, and God use these things to make me stronger…”

Now I won’t lie, for weeks it was just plain hard to pray that way. But I noticed over time that things really did begin to change for the better. My reactions changed, my behavior changed and it triggered my husband to want to make small changes.

PRAISEI began to praise my husband. I learned right quick that my positive reinforcements to my husband added fuel in his tank. Pretty soon he began to pick up his towels, he began to be more affectionate, he agreed to go out more and ironically every one of the small changes that he had put into place were things I had completely stopped nagging him about! I totally got rid of six words from my vocabulary…“You have to change or else!”

You see in the past, my ultimatums had only stirred up bitterness and frustration. I found that my new words, ”thank you for picking up the towels, thank you for helping in the kitchen, I like it when you hold my hand,”…. all of these affirmed him. For the first time, my husband began to feel respected.

As God began to change my heart, I was able to communicate with my husband more clearly. In the past I would have easily snapped and torn into him. I think my gentle and quiet spirit began to win him over. I am not saying everything was magically fixed. What I am saying is that instead of compressing and stuffing my frustrations (which earlier almost always led to an explosion), I began to communicate what I needed from him instead of assuming that he already knew.

You see, I learned it’s not my place to change my husband. That is God’s work. There was a lot of compromising, determination and a whole lot of hard work involved in turning around our marriage. NO, you cannot change your spouse, but you can pray that GOD will change you! In return, when GOD softens your heart your marriage will have no other choice but to change.

It’s hard to believe that encounter with our Christian counselor was over two and a half years ago. Even more incredible is the fact that GOD has placed us in marriage ministry together. How AWESOME is that? She and her husband—my husband and I—humbly serving together helping couples just like us.

I want you to know that the change did not begin in my marriage. My husband and I are closer now than ever before. God has restored our home. That change began in me.

Work Cited:

http://www.intentionallyyours.org/2013/08/06/how-to-change-your-spouse/

Questions to Share:

1. Spend time in prayer asking God how He might want to change you in your relationship with your spouse.

2. Praise your spouse for something specific they do that you admire. If you are experiencing deployment, praise them in email or phone—or in writing.

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