You Can’t Change Your Spouse

Question: “My husband will often make a sarcastic put down comment about me. If I came to him in private to ask if he could please not speak to me that way in front of the children, especially because of how they’re treating me because of it, I’d get more chiding about how sensitive I am or another sing-songy voice ‘oh I’m so sorry I’ve upset you.’ What is the best response in this situation?”

Answer from Israel Wayne:

Your husband’s problem is that he is not content within himself. He is dissatisfied. Not with you….he’s just dissatisfied. His expectations for how he thought his perfect life would be panning out at this stage isn’t playing out exactly as he assumed, so he’s frustrated. It has nothing to do with you, it has everything to do with him. He will only stop this behavior when he finds peace within himself (in a right relationship with God). You can’t manufacture that for him, or likely even help facilitate it. The best thing for you to do is recognize it for what it is.

What you need to do is to stop trying to figure out how to get him to stop being a jerk (because you can’t). Doing so will lead to constant frustration. You can’t change or modify him. Any efforts in that direction will be met with disappointment and anger on your part. This is why most marriages fail. People read books hoping it will change their spouse. They go to seminars hoping it will change their spouse. They go to counseling or therapy hoping somehow they can change themselves, and that will somehow change their spouse. It doesn’t.

You Can’t Change Your Spouse

You need to think about what you can and should change about yourself. Not to change him, but to align yourself with God’s will. What does God want you to do? God wants you to become content within yourself. He wants you to find your satisfaction in Him. He wants you to know that He loves you simply because you are His child and you belong to Him, not because you perform well enough to do everything (or remember everything) perfectly. You need to focus on finding so much satisfaction in your relationship with Christ that you are no longer dependent on finding it in your husband. If you find contentment in yourself, you can be happy even when your husband isn’t. You can find peace even when he is in turmoil. Your happiness will be no longer dependent on his. Will this change him? No. Will this change you? Yes. And that’s all you have control over.

Now granted, a lot of people are going to say, “Leave the bum.” Or at least insinuate it. I’m sure you know that doesn’t magically fix your life and make everything better either. Just because you aren’t married anymore doesn’t mean he goes away or stops trying to make you miserable. It usually just means the kids are caught in the middle of the ongoing custody and visitation tug of war and become causalities in a battle caused by adults. So, you kind of have two choices:

1. Leave the bum.
2. Find contentment in yourself that isn’t reliant on his approval of you.

Are there other things you can do? Sure. You can try to invite him to counseling with you. You can go to counseling yourself (which may be helpful to find peace within yourself). You can try to have a very direct conversation with him telling him exactly how you feel. Maybe even writing down all of your thoughts and feelings and giving him a letter so it removes the emotions of the in-person conversation. You can try a Matthew 18 process to get the church involved. But in the end, he won’t change unless he wants to. You can’t make him change. If he wants to change, he will. If he doesn’t he won’t. You have no control over any of that. You can invite him to change, but you can’t change him. You can only change you.

We always want a silver bullet that fixes these difficult and painful situations. Sadly, there aren’t any. There are no magic solutions. There is no wand to wave that makes it all better. We live in a fallen world full of sin and selfishness. I’m very sorry you are having to live with this. It’s unfair and unjust. I pray you can find the right resources to help you to find contentment in your relationship with Christ that sets you free from having your sense of self-worth tied up in his warped perception of you. It won’t set you free from his negativity attacks, but it will set you free from being dependent on his approval for your self of security and self-worth.

Israel Wayne is an author and conference speaker and co-founder of Family Renewal, LLC. He and his wife, Brook, have been married for over twenty-five years and have eleven children. You can download a four and a half hour audio seminar they conducted on marriage here: https://familyrenewal.org/store/product/marriage/

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

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