This might be an Earth-shattering realization, but, there is nothing you can do to make someone else change. “WHAT?!?” Yes, you can’t change them… I know, it is hard to hear. However, it is still true that we do not have the power to change a soul… we can’t change our parents; we can’t change our children; and, most of all, we can’t change our spouses. Our parents may love us unconditionally, but you cannot make them change their ways or minds. Your children may look up to you for a time, but no amount of “beating” truth into them is going to make them how you want them to be. And thinking of changing a spouse? That’s simply laughable. Your spouse is an individual who is not genetically predisposed to love you. They don’t have a blood tie in common with you. They don’t innately love you as second nature. Spouses CHOOSE to love. Parents and kids choose to love as well, but it is much more natural to love a blood relative than a chosen marry-in.
A famous quote, attributed to Albert Einstein: “Men marry women with the hope they will never change. Women marry men with the hope they will change. Invariably, they are both disappointed.” For anyone who has been married at least fifteen minutes, this statement accompanies a knowing laugh. Ladies, you may be thinking “yes, I know he obsesses over cars and sports, but I’ll train him to love shopping and fashion.” I, and every other married woman on the planet, am here to tell you, he is not going to quit loving cars and sports simply because you will or wish it. If he does spend less time on these things, it is either out of love for you (a choice he has made) or out of bitterness (to make you shut up about it). Men, that beautiful woman with the sweet disposition and perfect figure will eventually get wrinkles, likely gain weight, scream at you from time to time, and then when all of that is normal routine, she’ll go through menopause.
Please don’t get me wrong. Marriage can be, and is often, a wonderful thing. However, in order to move towards a tremendous marriage, you have to have a realistic expectation of other people. If you are in the habit of trying to change people, now would be a good time for a reality check. You may be able to convince someone of a new way of thinking, but you cannot force such a convincing. When the person does change his or her mind and/or ways, it was a decision of his or her own and you did not make it happen. The quickest way to be dissatisfied in your marriage is to have unrealistic expectations of your role in your partner’s life. In your quest to change your spouse into the model citizen you believe he or she should become, you usually cause roots of bitterness to grow and become stronger. You may not intend any hurt to come of it, but human nature does not respond well to someone who is always trying to “improve” them. The message being sent out is this, “You are not good enough as you are. You must change to be worthy of my affections.”
Before marriage, a man or woman may strive to be the right person because he or she desperately wants the relationship to continue. However, after marriage, this striving usually wanes. There is a misunderstanding that says “if I become who they want before marriage, then all will be well after marriage.” This is not true. We can only keep our masks of “perfection” on for a short season before we fall into our true patterns. This is one reason that we (and the Song of Solomon, when read carefully) recommend at least a year of dating – to really get to know the other person through the seasons of a year. Our beliefs will always steer our behaviors. If our significant other has asked us to change our ways, and we did so for him or her, it won’t be long before we are back where we started – only this time with bitterness in our hearts. When someone continues pushing for change after marriage, his or her partner will likely lash out in anger or shut down emotionally.
I bring this topic up for two specific reasons. The first reason is that if you are dating someone who has issues that you do not think you can live with for a lifetime (smoking, alcoholism, drugs, anger, no life ambition, etc.), do not marry him or her expecting the person to change (or for you to change the person). This is not to say that they won’t change, but YOU have no personal control over it. My second reason for bringing this up is to say that while we do not have the power to change anyone, God does! Prayer really does change things. We have to pray according to God’s perfect will and not simply for our own gratification; yet, God does have the power to release people from captivity and to change hearts and minds.
If you are in a marriage, and your spouse has several areas that you think need to change, start taking them to the Lord daily. A couple things may happen. One: God may gradually or miraculously change your partner. Two: as you take things to the Lord, He may reveal areas in your own life that need to change. You do have power over changing yourself and it could be your change that influences your spouse (or spouse-to-be) to change. What is for certain is this: if you take your concerns to the Lord, and pray fervently according to His word, you will be changed. Your attitude will change. Your relationship with the Lord will deepen and more than likely, your love and compassion for your significant other will grow.
It is so tempting to still try to change others. Some have spent their entire miserable lives trying to change people. That is a life’s ambition that will leave you feeling like a failure in your old age. Only God has the power to change and rearrange. I urge you to take some time and reflect on this topic. Have you been trying to change your boyfriend, girlfriend, fiancée, husband, or wife? Did you even realize you were trying to change them? Make it a point to daily take your loved one before the Lord in prayer. It is the best way to bless them… and it will change you for the better.
How have you tried to change your significant other? What were your results?