Can My Spouse Really Change??

Can My Spouse Really Change?

by Dr. David B. Hawkins

“I’ve been praying and praying for change, believing that God can do anything. But my husband seems to become more stubborn and angry every year. I’m not sure he will ever change.”

Such was the latest email I received, the same as many I receive about men—and women—from well-meaning people.

“Can people really change?” people ask sincerely. I can hear the doubt in their voice. They’ve been told by many professionals and friends that people don’t really change. They’ve been told that once you are narcissistic/ borderline/ depressed, you will always have those traits. “The past is the best predictor of the future,” they’ve been told.

This counsel is, sadly, short-sighted and in many cases, wrong. While it certainly has elements of truth, it is negative, pessimistic and fails to fully incorporate what we know about the change process. It also fails to fully appropriate the changing power of the Lord in our lives.

Recently an influential and powerful man called me. He had run his marriage like he ran his business—with directness, firmness and determination. He had ignored all the warning signs that his wife of twenty-five years was not his employee and had reached her limit of feeling voiceless. She had been divorcing him one day at a time for the past five years. Finally, the day arrived when she “suddenly” left, leaving him bewildered, anxious and incredibly threatened. All efforts at talking her into coming back failed. He had resisted change for too long and she was fed up.

He reached out to me for help.

“What can I do to win her back?” he pleaded. We embarked on a process of change that has, as of this date, slowly begun to melt the ice built up around her heart. They remain separated, but he can see glimmers of hope that are encouraging to him. We began with understanding some truths about change.

Consider the following:

1. Most people resist change in their lives;

2. Most change happens after a significant event causes us to shift our view of our world—“it takes a breakdown to have a breakthrough”;

3. Most change brings with it a time of ambiguity and subsequent fear;

4. Most change leads to a time of temporary chaos—our lives are turned upside down;

5. Most change is foist upon us, not sought after;

6. Most change leads to a positive outcome.

Think about this. Do you agree with what I’ve said? Can you look into your own life and notice times when you have clung to the familiar, even if it was painful? We prefer the struggles we know to the struggles we don’t know.

“But what about someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder?” a worried wife asks. “What about a Borderline Personality woman?” a distraught man asks. “Aren’t these impossible to change?”

To say that these people cannot change is far too simplistic of an answer. Change really IS possible, but it will not likely happen simply, and perhaps not quickly. If you are facing these situations in your life, consider these steps of action.

I recommended the following to help cultivate an atmosphere and environment for change in your life:

First, it begins with you. While we desperately want our mate to change, we must step back and ask if we have created an environment for change to occur. Have you reached your bottom? Have you experienced enough of a crisis in your life that you are ready to walk across ‘the swinging bridge of change?’ Are you crystal clear about what change you expect or must have in your life?

Second, have you stopped enabling ‘the status quo?’ When you insist on change, you must let go of ‘the status quo.’ You must look at every way you enable change NOT to happen. How do you tolerate the way things are? How do you accept the situation just the way it is? How do you make it easy for him/ her NOT to change?

Third, prepare for ambiguity and chaos. When you insist on change, you will face ambiguity. Having reached your ‘bottom,’ you are ready to face uncertainty. This may involve emotional, spiritual and even financial uncertainty. To face change means you have faced the likelihood that your lifestyle, as you know it, will temporarily change. Are you ready for this?

Fourth, prepare for resistance. Few people readily embrace change. Most cling tenaciously to the way things are, even if they are painful. When you face your mate with the challenge of change, it is very unlikely that they will greet you with a smile and a big ‘Thank you.’ Rather, they will twist your words, shift blame and throw down roadblocks as to why they cannot go to counseling, give up drinking or go to an Anger Management program.

Fifth, create a crisis. Unfortunately, change comes when someone does something to disrupt the status quo. You must make it clear that you will no longer do things the way they’ve been done, hoping for change. Change comes as a response to someone putting a stick in the spokes of the tires, causing us to look at our lives from a different perspective.

Finally, insist on specific change and trust the outcome to God. Seeking professional help, you consider how to set boundaries in your life that insist on specific change. You cannot force anyone to change, but you can make it clear that you intend to live life differently. Confident and convicted, you make it clear that the change you seek is for the welfare of both you, your mate and your marriage. Reinforcing your love for your mate, you set out the path of change for your mate to consider. You then take the leap—stepping onto ‘the swinging bridge of change,’ inviting your mate to join you when they are ready.

Remember that amidst this significant change process, God is by your side. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

I thought this was a GREAT article! I’ve always felt that PA Man CAN change…IF he lets God work on his hardened heart….BUT it’s up to him…I can’t make PA Man do anything….trust me, I’ve tried!


Update on Counseling…

So PA man went to counseling….and he seems to like the counselor, Tom, and he made another appt. for week after next (he’s going to be out of town this week..yay!)

What I have an issue with….and maybe I shouldn’t….is that PA Man has now latched on to…Depression. He now tells me that he feels he’s been depressed for several years.

He told me this last week, and he told Tom that on Friday.

I don’t see it.  But what do I know, right?

Except it sounds like an excuse to me…

So anyway, he brought home a book that Tom wants him to read….It’s called The Exemplary Husband…

PA Man hasn’t touched it since he brought it home.







He didn’t go to counseling….

So PA Man didn’t make his counseling appointment…. He went to the office but they told him that he had an appointment for NEXT Tuesday!

Yes, I KNOW….I was suspicious also, I mean seriously…how convenient, right?

But mistakes ARE made so I will trust that it was an honest mistake…

Anyway,  he told me tonight that he made another appt. for next Friday, because he will be out of town early next week and can’t make the Tuesday appt.

So ok, I’ll admit I’m a little surprised he made the appt. Well, to be honest, A LOT surprised, but still keeping my guard up!!

I’ll keep you updated after the appt. next week.

BTW, tonight my youngest son prayed at dinner…and he said this at the end of his prayer,  “and please help mom and dad so that they don’t get a divorce.”

I found that very sad.

Another great blog to follow!

I love Elisabeth Kline…she has a great blog! Also, she has a private FB page where you can connect with other women who are in abusive marriages…just email Elisabeth and ask her to join this page…I’ve found a great group of women who pray and support each other!

He made a counseling appointment.

So PA Man actually called and made an appt. for this Tuesday with the therapist I found weeks ago….Interesting.

I wonder why? Is it because he feels the “need” to be the “good” dad and show his kids that he’s “trying?”

Or is it because he now knows his family has seen him for what he is and won’t be fooled by his “Poor wittle, ole me…I had a mean mom and dad and you all need to understand and feel sorry for me the rest of my life!!”

Or is he REALLY tired of living “this way” as he’s told me repeatedly??

Or is he finally seeing that I AM stronger than I’ve ever been before and not afraid of letting out all his secrets and certainly not afraid to stand on my own two feet…without him??

I guess time will tell, won’t it? But I AM cynical about this latest move, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt…for now.

I mean really, when you think about it…’s a win win for me, either way it goes…If he goes to counseling  and quits AGAIN, then this will be the FOURTH time he’s said he’ll go and then quits….and if he does continue going, but there is NO change in his behavior, well, that’s just another example of WHY we have to separate and it will be easier for my family to accept that PA Man isn’t serious about working to heal our marriage.

BUT maybe he will continue counseling, and he will actually see how harmful his behavior truly his…and let God change his hardened, prideful heart….I DO believe in miracles and for that to happen it will surely take a miracle!

So now it’s a waiting game.

Will keep you posted.

PA Man and counseling…have fun, Dude!

So today PA Man asked me for the info for the counselor I told him about several weeks ago…and I gave it to him.
What he actually does with it, who knows??
But what I do know is that I don’t care anymore if he goes or not..

The last few weeks have been tense, so much so that my youngest son started speaking up and telling his dad that he NEEDS counseling, and telling his dad that he’s hurting our family by not getting help!
Last week (Thursday) he again mentioned counseling to his dad. And he asked PA Man to PROMISE he’d make an appointment the very next day, Friday, and PA Man promised…well, of course his promises are as empty as his heart…and he didn’t make the appointment…(I knew he wouldn’t!)
So on Saturday my son AGAIN asked his dad WHY didn’t he make the appt. and of course PA Man had all kinds of excuses…but my son called it what it is….a LIE!

Shame on YOU PA Man! Shame.On.You!!

Anyway, my son and I have really had some good talks the last few days…and I’ve encouraged him to pray for his dad, and when I pray with him at night before bed, I pray for PA Man, that he will trust God and do what’s best for our family.

But you know what’s happening now?

That scared kid, the one who if he heard the word D-I-V-O-R-C-E would start crying and plead with me to not divorce his dad….he now has told me he understands how it must hurt me that his dad lies to me…and he actually said today that maybe it WOULD be better for his dad to move out!!! Wow!!

I’m telling you, it HAS to be God working in his heart, giving him peace to trust that I will do the right thing and am trying to protect this family the best way I know how…even if that means asking his dad for a separation!

All of my children have said they will support me if we separate. I’ve had an opportunity this weekend to speak to each of them individually and to lay out all that has been happening, the “growling” incident, the anger, the silences, etc…

So it will come as no surprise when we do separate.

As of this weekend, one of us will be sleeping in the spare bedroom…I’m hoping PA Man will be a “gentleman” and move in there, but if not, I’ll be moving in.
Also, I won’t be making PA Mans lunch the night before…either he will be making his own lunch for work the next day, or he’ll buy junk fast food, which we don’t eat…it’s his choice. I stopped doing his laundry a while back, or else I would stop that also!

I’m setting more boundaries in place…he’s ignored the ones I’ve set in place so far…so moving into the spare room is a must. He needs to know I’m serious, that there is no more room for manipulation in MY life and home!

If he wants this marriage, he needs to work for it…because I refuse to do so. I’m done.

Lack of Empathy…it’s a joking matter!

Pa Man and I were in the car today with our second oldest son and I’m not sure how it came about but something was said about having empathy for others…and PA Man piped up and said “I have empathy!”

And this was the conversation that followed…

ME: Oh, you do? What does that mean, what’s having empathy mean to you?”

PA MAN: “It means feeling what others are feeling, feeling bad when they feel bad.”

ME: “And you are saying that you do that?”

PA MAN: “Yes, but if I don’t, that just who I am. So you have to accept it.”
(He said this in a joking manner, like it’s no big deal)

ME: Even when a lack of empathy hurts those that you’re supposed to love?”

Silence. End of conversation.

A side note…In May 2012 PA Man went to see a therapist, after I threatened him with separation if he did not…he went 3 times then quit.
On his 3rd session, the therapist told PA Man that he has a severe lack of empathy for others…and PA Man obviously never let that bother him, since he’s done nothing to try to correct that.
I thought today’s “talk” was a great insight into what PA Mans thinking really is….this is how I am. Deal with it.