Are you looking for change, or to justify yourself?

September 30, 2011

in Seeing Clearly

Gift with a hidden threat © Alexander Onikiychuk | Dreamstime.comThis is a follow up to She does not have a reset button, inspired by comments on that post.

I see a couple of things that men and women do with regard to change – things pretty much guaranteed to fail. Sometimes the person is making a sincere effort, other times I suspect they are more interested in being right than in a real change to the marriage, and they intentionally sabotage things so they can look like the good person and paint their spouse as the bad one. Yes, I honestly think some would rather be unhappy or divorced and look like the victim rather than be happily married and risk looking like part of the problem, or having to change something they don’t want to change. More often, I think the things below are a real but failed attempt, with the person not being aware they are sabotaging their attempt, but the result is the same regardless. A big part of this is our human resistance to change – even good change.

  • Change for too short a time: If you’ve been hurting her for years by something you do, or something you don’t do, you really can’t expect her to change the moment you do. I discussed this in the original post. I think a lot of people give up too fast, and often it seems they give up right as their spouse is making a change. I think this is sometimes because of a subconscious awareness that the spouse is about to change, and fear of change kicks in.
  • The wrong change: He wants X, she wants Y. He gives her A – or A, B and C. Then he says, “Look at all I did for her, and she still won’t give me X!” This can be done to self justify, or it might be unintentional and causes the person feel there is no hope, resulting in them giving up.
  • The wrongly timed change: If you make a change when she is over worked, stressed, has a new job, just gave birth, or is otherwise not at her best, don’t expect her to make changes quickly. If you can only keep up your change for a short time without seeing her respond, then make sure you wait until she is in a good place to notice and appreciate your change, and has the time and energy to work on her change.
  • Change and make it difficult for her to change: Make a positive change, and throw something at her that robs her of time and energy she need to make a change. The feel hopeless, or justified.
  • Change plus back-stab: This is a more intentional form of the one above – when the person wants their spouse to look bad, or is unwilling to make a real, permanent change.
  • Change plus “Oh by the way”: If you have something you need to confess, understand that dealing with whatever you have confessed is going to take a some time and energy on the part of your spouse. If she has said she would feel like having more sex if you took her out for a date weekly, don’t start doing a weekly date, tell her you have been looking at porn, and expect her to start having more sex because of the weekly dates!

When you want to change and have her change as well, try to look at it as if you were looking at another couple. Are you making the change she most needs? Are you doing it consistently, and for long enough for her to think it’s for real? Is she in a position to work on the change you want her to make? Are you seeing the small changes, the hints of change in her?

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3 comments
The Generous Husband
The Generous Husband

@Jerff H - I do not disagree with you. However, as fallen people, we often fall short of what we should do. If I can do something that helps my spouse do what she should, I think I should do that. And is she does something that helps me do what I should, I greatly appropriate it.

Jeff H
Jeff H

Excellent topic, but I feel like there is something else that needs to be said. While I think it is commendable to attempt change for your spouse, I don't feel like that is what God calls us to do. I truly believe that God calls us to change for Him. He wants to know you more and more, and be so present in your life, that the changes you make towards your spouse are a natural consequence of living like He has asked us to do. I still think this can often be used to justify one's actions, but that only further demonstrates the missing and integral aspect of change => Change to be closer to him. I think that when you make prayer and scripture the forefront of your life, God will help you understand when to be silent, when to be supportive, when to lead, and when to be direct. God craves a relationship with us, and until we have built that beautiful relationship with him, no other amount of Change will be "good enough". Love your posts TGH/TMB, they help keep me focused on what God has deemed important in my life.

John Delcamp
John Delcamp

I agree. Working with people everyday in their practical every day lives, I agree and would add two more - change with the expectation the other person will change to suit them, and trying to change their negative behaviors on their own. Selfish and prideful motives for change are almost more destructive than no change at times.

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