I often hear from wives who are desperate for their husbands to change. Many of these wives do not believe that they will be able to maintain the marriage unless some serious changes and improvements are in the very near future. But unfortunately, many of those same wives have heard endless promises for change that have never come to fruition. Often, these promises are made by husbands who, at the time, seem very sincere and convincing, which makes the let down all that more heartbreaking.
I heard from a wife who said: “for the past five years or so, I have been very direct in telling my husband that if he doesn’t change, our marriage just isn’t going to make it. He is lazy, selfish, and cold. He doesn’t invest any time or effort in our marriage. But he invests all sorts of time in his own hobbies and his own friends. It’s as if myself and my kids don’t matter nearly as much as his own needs. He doesn’t ever notice if something is bothering me or if there are issues in my life, but he expects me to coddle him. I’m really sick of it. The other day, I told my husband for probably the millionth time that he had better change or else. And then when I heard my own voice, I realized that I sounded like I was only making empty threats. My mom says that I should move out or separate from him in order to scare him into changing. Will this work? Is it a good idea? If I thought he would change, I would do it in a second. But if he won’t, then what is the point of disrupting my children’s lives if I’m only going to get more of the same?”
Not knowing the husband, it’s very difficult for me to answer these questions with complete certainty. However, often trying to force a person to change under duress is usually only a temporary solution. It may work for a little while, but over time people fall back into their old patterns and habits and then the result is resentment and anger, which only makes a bad situation worse. I firmly believe that people can and do change. I have experienced this in my own life and in my own marriage. But, lasting change will often come when the person in question truly wants to change and is motivated by something within themselves.
Sometimes, something will shake the person up and inspire them to change. Other times, they just realize that it is time for them to take the initiative. However it happens, I find that almost universally, the person who changes because they want to is happier and more resolute about the change than the person who feels as if they were “made to” change or forced to do so.
So where does that leave you when it’s so frustrating to know that he has to want to change on his own when you don’t know how much longer you can wait for him to finally evolve? Well, in my opinion and experience, you can often nudge him along using positive reinforcement without making him feel manipulated or forced into doing something that he never thought was necessary in the first place.
Encouraging Your Husband To Feel Empathy And To Want To Please You Will Often Inspire Change: Please don’t take this the wrong way, but many husbands admit that when their wife is trying to pressure or threaten them into change, they mostly see her as a nag or as a point of stress that they want to escape. I am not telling you this to make you feel badly. I just want to be honest so that you can see the best way to approach this situation which will in turn give you the best chance of getting what you want.
The way around this is to make him feel accommodating rather than pressured. If you can make him feel genuine affection and empathy for you, then he will actually want to please you and he will be more inspired to change because he wants to continue to make you happy. I know that this might sound somewhat backward. But I promise you that I find it so much more effective in almost every instance. If you give your husband positive feedback, he will feel better about himself, your marriage, and what you are asking of him.
I know that praising him is not what you had in mind. And I’m not suggesting that you praise him for behavior that you don’t want. But, it’s usually possible to catch him doing something right or to be in a situation where laughter and teasing would help more than criticism. Once he sees that you aren’t going to constantly focus on the negative, he will likely feel a good bit more loving and empathetic toward you and he will want to make some changes in order to make you happy.
So, Should You Push For A Separation In Order To Get Your Husband To Change?: That’s really a decision that you alone must make. My answer would be that if there were other valid reasons for the separation, then look at those reasons in order to make your decision. But separating for the sole reason of forcing your husband to change probably isn’t the best idea, at least in my experience and opinion. Admittedly, sometimes a separation does bring out the best in people because suddenly, they miss one another and don’t take each other for granted anymore. As a result, they can be on their best behavior in order to inspire a reconciliation. This might include changing some of their behaviors.
But this can also have the opposite result. Sometimes, separations bring out the worst in people because they are reacting out of fear and uncertainty. It truly can be a risk that you must consider very carefully, taking into account the state of your marriage, both of your personalities, and your tolerance level right now. Sometimes, it is better to try positive reinforcement first and to use a more drastic tactic (like a separation) as a last resort.