As the saying goes, “A woman gets married hoping her husband will change, and a man gets married hoping his woman never will.” Surely, this is not always the case. Some men marry women they deem a work in progress, and some women find men they consider perfect in every way (they will learn the truth soon enough! ~smile~). Regardless of what men and women desire when taking those sacred vows, two truths are constant – men (and women) do not change; and, women (and men) do change.
When Eric and I were young and in love, I thought he was perfect – mostly. ~smile~ He tended to be a bit, shall we say, matter-of-fact. He was private, not wanting us to discuss money, health, or other personal issues with others. And, he is not easily persuaded to do what others want (i.e., he is not going to do anything he does not want to do.). My twenty-two-year-old-self was head over heels in love with this man and none of his “growth opportunities” deterred me from matrimony. Perhaps my love goggles are to blame, or maybe I was plain naïve, but I believed he would eventually change to my liking, or that his good points would overshadow any of my internal angst.
Eric is still matter-of-fact. ~smile~ Eric is still extremely private about money, health, and a smattering of other topics. ~smile~ And, Eric still does not do anything he does not want to do. (If you want to nail your desires even deeper into the ground, try manipulating him into doing what you want. You will regret it.)
Eric and I met in our undergraduate days, in PSYC 405: Group Dynamics. We got to know each other over second-rate cafeteria food and passionate psychological conversations. Those days were awesome. There is nothing like getting to know the person with whom you are going to spend your life (and it gives you happy memories to look back on when you find yourself plotting his untimely demise! ~smile~) As friends, we talked about how we were going to help people after we graduated. We were so dedicated to our objective that we attended a premarital class together – as friends! No one believed we were just friends (seriously, we were only just friends at that time!), but we did not care. The information presented fascinated us and we were happy to put more tools into our couple-helping arsenal. While in college mode, I spoke of counseling with delight and Eric took notice. After some time, and some change of heart, Eric’s intentions towards me turned from platonic to romantic and we were going to save the world one engaged couple at a time!
Then, We Got Married
Once I got a taste of married life, my priorities began to shift. Suddenly, I wanted babies, and a home, and to be a homemaker. Graduate school did not do for me what it did for Eric. Rather than a chance to learn and grow, it seemed more like a distraction from what I wanted most – nothing more than a necessary hoop to jump through. (In retrospect, we wish we had taken the first year of our marriage off from school and spent the time with each other. It would have put us a year “behind,” but it would have given us a strong foundation which is priceless [cf. Deuteronomy 24:5]) As my interest in school and the plans we made pre-marriage began to fade, Eric felt a handful of emotions including disappointment, betrayal, frustration, and even anger.
Eric did not change in the ways I had hoped. He mellowed a bit, and he has taken strides to understand me better (which has made a huge difference!), but his core is the same. I did change, as Eric hoped I would not. Though I have made efforts to be the original me, we have both surrendered to the fact that I am not that girl anymore.
And, there is the Flip Side!
Eric changes all the time because he is a lover of all things variety! When we were first married, he loved Dave Ramsey. We went through his Financial Peace University, trained to be financial counselors at his office in Tennessee, and Eric listened to over 3,000 hours of his radio show. Then, Eric became crazy about Wretched Radio, Ray Comfort, and Paul Washer sermons – frequently passing out CDs to friends and co-workers. From there, he poured himself into our internship (as there was no other way to approach our internship), and then, PreEngaged! Though PreEngaged is still a priority, he dabbles in other interests because he cannot stay in one place. He was built to grow and change and evolve.
As for me… well… I could eat pizza six days a week, I can watch the same movie 100 times without getting tired of it (no, not exaggerating), and I love mind-numbing data entry jobs. My need for change is very, very low. It exists; but, compared to Eric, my need for variety is effectively non-existent.
So, what is the moral of this (rather long) story? We both changed and we both stayed the same. We both changed in ways which aggravated and unnerved each other and we both stayed the same in ways which frustrated and discouraged each other.
In preparing for marriage, it is important to embrace the fact that your significant other is going to change in ways which may not excite you. And, he or she is not going to change some of those pesky habits which thoroughly annoy you.
But, all is not Lost! Keep Smiling!
Your marriage will give you thousands of opportunities to grow and mature. Your spouse refusing to change to your liking in certain ways is not completely bad. It will provide some helpful resistance in your life. It will give you the chance to work through issues rather than having everything handed to in pretty packages. The tug-of-war in marriage strengthens us. Instead of dreading those moments and seasons, start thanking God for them now. Your attitude will make all the difference!
As you prepare to share your life with someone who will change (and stay the same) in so many ways, look for the positives! They are there if you take the time to find them. Here are a few useful takeaways to remember when you tie the knot with your ever-changing, never-changing, future spouse.
- Without change, we dry up and crumble. Some adventurers see change as the very breath in their lungs; whereas, others see it as a (sometimes) necessary evil. Speaking as one who becomes nervous at the thought of change, I must confess that much good has come out of the changes in my life. Without change, we grow stagnant and fall into ruts – and the deeper we fall, the harder it is to crawl out. We were created to grow and transform. God programmed change into every stage of life – crawling to walking, short to tall, brown hair to gray hair. We are always in motion. Without changes in weather, we do not enjoy the fullness of the flowers and the colorful leaves. Whether its marriage or anything else in life, if we go into it expecting everything to remain the same, we set ourselves up for sure disappointment. Change is always coming and, even though I do not always want to admit it, we need change.
- A changing spouse will either make us bitter or better. The choice is ours. My tenth grade Bible professor told us a story to illustrate God’s sovereignty and I have never forgotten it. He purchased a new lawn mower and for whatever reason, one of the back wheels would not turn as readily as the others. He kept telling himself, “I need to fix that wheel,” but life is busy, so he just went on using the lawn mower and dragging around that stiff wheel. After several uses, the three flexible wheels looked great and worked beautifully, but the wheel which “refused” to turn looked haggard and worn. At that moment he realized, “That is just like God’s sovereignty in our lives. We can follow Him willingly and get to our destination joyfully, or we can resist moving and changing, and end up in the same place, only resentful and exhausted.” Your future spouse is going to change – sometimes in ways you like and sometimes you ways you do not. When those changes come, you can dig your heels into the sand and refuse to adjust or you can try to change some yourself to accommodate your partner’s new paths. To be happy in our marriages, we have to adjust how we think about change. “Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” ? George Bernard Shaw
- Dealing with our sweethearts’ annoying habits or ways of thinking reminds us we are not in control. We do not have the power to change anyone. We cannot force change on someone who does not want to change. Eric has habits I find highly annoying which I consider easily changeable. In my mind and experience, making those adjustments would be a piece of cake. For years, I have tried various ways to “inspire” him to come over to my side, but he is no closer today than he was thirteen years ago. ~smile~ Some of his habits are not going to change. I cannot control that, but I can control my response. How we react to what life throws at us is all we can control. Praying for change goes much further than nagging for change.
- A person’s character is far less likely to change than his or her interests, career plans, life goals, and appearance. Choose someone with a stellar character. Even if he or she changes a thousand times, you can take comfort in his or her persistent honesty, loyalty, and hard work. Eric’s plans and ideas change frequently, but his moral core and desire to live a godly life does not. I take so much comfort in his steady, upstanding character.
- When we find ourselves angry because our other half has changed, or refuses to change, we can wallow in our anger or take the opportunity to change ourselves. “Surprise, Heather, I am going back to school!” Well, he did not blurt it out exactly like that, but Eric did come to me a few months ago and say, “So, I am considering going back for my doctorate. Pray for me. I am starting to get that academic itch again.” Knowing how much graduate school took over our young marriage, I was concerned at the thought of him returning to weekend homework sessions and term A few weeks later, he was in class and going his normal speed: give it all I’ve got! This sudden fork in the road not only affects Eric, but it plops me at a crossroads as well. What is my role now that Eric is going after this new goal? I can use his busyness as an excuse to hide from life, or I can ask myself, “What awesome changes can I make while school occupies him?” These next few years can be ones of loneliness, emptiness, listlessness, and laziness, or they can be years of tremendous personal growth. If the Lord tarries and we remain alive and well, Eric will likely reach the end of his educational journey. I will either reach the end with him joyfully or resentfully, having wasted a perfectly good opportunity. That is up to me.
Sharing our lives with another is not all sunshine and roses (sunshine and roses all the time would become quite boring indeed). The way Eric lives and thinks is still far outside of my comfort zone which forces me to bend, and stretch, and go on adventures I would never choose on my own. He provides a resistance in my life which causes me to grow and, admittedly, it hurts sometimes. In the moment, I want to scream, “Just see it my way, Dude! Seriously, how can you not understand that I am 100% right?!” Sometimes, I want to shake him! But, when it is all said and done, I know I am a better version of myself because of him, because of not always getting my way, and because of the changes married life has caused me to endure.
So, when the time comes, keep smiling and looking for positive takeaways as your marriage ebbs and flows. Enjoy the sunshine and roses but prepare for storm clouds and hail. You will experience them all; and, if you let them, they will all make you better.
I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination. – Jimmy Dean
How do you currently deal with change?