Question: Why Won't My Spouse Change?
Answer: Because it's hard.
Long established habits and tendencies can be tough cycles to break. When you begin to factor in our sin nature and our natural tendency toward selfishness, the strongholds in our lives can be even more powerful.
Most of the time, we are very good at keeping track of the sins and shortcomings of our spouse. By contrast, we are really good at downplaying our own shortcomings. Our logic is that they need to change far more than we do. If only our spouse would make an effort, then we would be motivated to do likewise.
So why are we so wired to resist change in ourselves? Jimmy Evans of Marriage Today has some great thoughts on this subject. Here's what he says:
In Ephesians 5:22-33, the Apostle Paul gives God’s blueprint for a successful marriage. It describes the ideal husband, who loves his wife as Christ loves the Church. It describes the ideal wife, who honors and submits to her husband “as to the Lord.”
When couples come to me for counseling, I share this passage with them, and we always agree that a marriage based on these roles would be healthier and holier. But while husbands and wives are always ready for their spouse to commit to their biblical roles, making a change in themselves can be much more difficult.
Why is this? I’ve identified three reasons people resist making big changes to their own lives.
1. Fear of Going First
I’ll do it when she does it. Or, I’m not changing until he does. They are reluctant to transform their own lives until their spouses change. This is because it makes them vulnerable, and they are afraid of being taken advantage of.
What if I submit to him and then he walks all over me? What if I give myself up for her and she becomes even more of a control freak? Relationships already marked by pride and hurt tend to result in this kind of stubborn standoff.
2. Societal Influence
Why do men turn into selfish, pseudo-macho egomaniacs instead of sacrificial overseers? Because that’s the model of manhood our culture likes to show us. Why do women react with hostility to the idea of submission? Because radical feminism has loaded that word with such negative baggage.
But if we believe that the Bible really does have the blueprint for a successful marriage, then we must pursue these roles as a test of faith. A sacrificial husband and a submissive wife may cut against society’s grain, but they will be rewarded with deep satisfaction in their marriage.
3. Lack of Belief
Sometimes husbands and wives fight their biblical role because they just don’t believe it will work. “Without faith it is impossible to please God,” the author of Hebrews wrote, “because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).
Faith in God’s Word is the only logical choice for any Christian. If we believe the Bible, then we should do what it says. If our marriage isn’t working, then we should follow the roles the Bible prescribes for a healthier marriage.
Are you attempting, each day, to live as your spouse’s ideal mate as described in Ephesians 5:22-33? If not, what keeps you from fulfilling those roles?
If it is fear of going first, then trust God to lovingly bring your spouse along beside you as you are personally transformed by the power of God.
If it is fear of what society says, then ask yourself: Is what the world thinks of me more important than a successful marriage?
If it is lack of belief, then ask God to strengthen your faith in Him, in His word, and in His plan for you and your spouse.
What are the pressures that are preventing YOU from changing? And are you open to changing in the first place? Married people who follow Christ must be willing to ask these questions regularly.
Stop looking for your spouse to change. Instead, invite God to begin to powerfully change you. That's when good things can start happening in your marriage.