You wouldn’t believe the amount of husbands and wives that come up to me and say “Nicola, how do I get my Spouse to Change? ”If you are trying to save your marriage by desperately attempting to change your partner to no avail - STOP!

Want your partner to exercise more? Stop social media? Drink less? Stop nagging or yelling? Clean up more? Pay you more attention? Be more sociable ? Be more intimate?

You are not alone. I see many individuals struggle to change their partner. They typically find that their attempts fail or worse, false promises are given that are never followed through on. Which creates distrust and can further damage the relationship. Or perhaps you find that occasionally they do change, but within a few days revert back to their old habits. That’s because they NEVER really decided to change! They were pressured into changing.

Then there are those who are trying to save their marriage and find their efforts are constantly squashed with statements like “it won’t work for us” or “We’ve already tried that" If this is happening then it's best to let the change come from them, not by your suggestion.

Now you're probably thinking, "makes sense, but isn't there anything I can do to encourage my spouse’s choices?" Is there anything I can do to change them and our relationship? YES there is! You can be the change you want to see in them! You can be an inspiring example to them by showing your commitment to the relationship, willingness to change and by doing so, affect their behavior.

Claim your power to create change in your relationship, now. Start by looking at your current behavior and change it. This is what I do with the individuals I work with, we discuss in confidence the challenges they are facing and come up with different ways to respond.

When Laurie and Ed were first dating, she used to exercise and socialize with him all the time. They ran, cycled and played tennis together during the day, and went for drinks, meals and movies in the evenings. When Laurie fell pregnant, she stopped participating in activities with Ed. Ed had hoped after their child was born she would be is play mate again. That didn’t happen. Laurie was no longer interested in sports, socializing or him (he thought). Their two boys were her sole interest. Laurie was upset that Ed didn’t want to spend time with them as a family and made up for his absence by focusing even more on their children. She desperately wanted him to play a more active role in the family, including childcare, family outings, school events etc. She felt Ed had abandoned her and the more time he spent out; working, exercising and socializing, the more she refused to join him. Anger, frustration and resentment was building and they were drifting apart at an alarming rate. Ed was not the father Laurie hoped he would be and Laurie was not the fun, sociable, soul mate Ed thought he had married. Both wanted the other to change.

It was Ed that approached me, asking whether we could discuss if his marriage was over or could be saved. He shared that he felt depressed going home and although he loved his children, he found his wife and home life dull and boring. He said to me that he had tried everything, date nights and surprise tickets for evenings out, weekend breaks, romantic getaways, but everything he suggested was rejected. For years they had had little intimacy and were living parallel lives. They didn’t argue much but when they did they it was fierce. Both would say hurtful things, which they later regretted, despite this the cycled continued.

I advised Ed to stop pressurizing Laurie to change and do things he wanted to do. You may think people hate change, but I believe it is not that humans hate change, we just hate IMPOSED change. Think about it. When we Initiate change we have no problem with it. But when we feel forced or manipulated to change, then we resist with all our might. Half way through our session Ed said “Nicola this is really useful, I want Laurie to come. "Let’s book her a session for next week.” You cannot book anyone anything unless they decide, I advised him to explain what he discovered and leave her to make her own choices. Being told to change or go to counseling can cause a lot of resistance. Which is why if an individual comes to me for marriage counseling and wants their spouse to join them, and their spouse doesn’t want to, it is best to leave it until they are ready. As, you run the risk of them never agreeing to come or changing. Just like when I help people change habits, smoking, over eating and drinking etc, the desire has to come from them.

So what can you do? How can you change them by changing yourself? I suggested for Ed to change two things his actions and reactions in arguments. Actions suggested included; giving affection, making time for intimate conversation, planning activities she wanted to do, committing to the family more and admiring the work she was doing. We choose these as we outlined her top emotional needs, (which I assessed from Ed’s description of their arguments). Instead of coming home from work late, turning on the news, and pouring a glass wine, Ed hugged and kissed his wife, asked her how her day was, asked whether the children or she needed anything to be done. Later that evening he would focus on her wants and wishes for the weekend, holidays and year ahead. Ed also kept in contact if he was working late, away on trips, making sure the conversation was directed to her day, needs and wants.

After a few days of shock and adjusting, Laurie began asking him similar questions. He was able to share his highs and lows of the day, what he was desiring most and what he wanted to do that weekend month and year. She loved the attention and affection she was getting and it made her want to do more for him. They often slept in separate rooms, but Laurie no longer would let that happen, which he was really pleased about. Ed also noticed how she started doing her makeup and hair again, the more he complimented and was kind to her, the warmer and more effort she made towards him. To his surprise a month she got tickets to his favorite music concert and arranged childcare for the weekend. The more they communicated, the more they felt connected and did things for each other.

Laurie told Ed she had felt abandoned and Ed shared he felt neglected. It was the lack of openness and honesty had caused them to drift apart and also led to heated arguments. As most of the rows they had were when one of them exploded. When I asked what triggered them to explode, they were laughing and said it was something small (like a sock on the floor or over a household chore). Their angry outbursts were a result of an accumulation of things they bottled up until they had had enough. Their arguments would escalate because they kept bringing up each others’ past mistakes. By being honest and making time to talk regularly, any issues could be addressed then and there.

If you've had the same argument over and over, state that you will not rehash the issue and leave the room if you feel like exploding. But if you've not expressed your feelings previously, do share how you feel with your spouse, rather than carrying resentment. Ed didn’t realize now how his selfish attitude “I’ll do what I want to do” made Laurie not want to do anything he wanted to do. When he started acting unselfishly, she put him at the top of her priorities again.

If you are currently hoping to change your partner, I encourage you to take control and change your approach. It’s easier than you may think. When they can see you giving, they will give. It works even if you believe that your spouse has lost all hope and won’t put in any effort. This happened to Jenny, her husband Brian had emotionally checked out of the marriage, but she was committed to turn it around.

Talking through Jenny’s marriage, she realized just how miserable she was acting around him and how her constant complaining was driving him away. She moaned at him for never being there for her, and how he never did anything right. This had to change! In our session she made a vow to focus on making herself and him happy. She no longer would moan, complain or argue. Everyday she would do things she thought would make him happy and a long list to make herself happy. When she started doing things for him without expecting anything in return, stopped moaning, and was always upbeat making jokes, he found her irresistible.

In summary your spouse will only change if they want to. And the more you try to persuade, push or ask them the less likely they will. I know it’s frustrating. But you have to let the change come from them. So focus on what you can do for them.

Just think for a minute about the love you have for your children. Do you love them because what they do for you? Is it because they are such angels? Of course not. The love you feel for your children is a result of what YOU DO FOR THEM. The love you feel in your marriage is a result of what YOU DO too.

So as Gandhi said, "You must be the change you wish to see." It's YOU changing that will have the greatest impact on YOUR EXPERIENCE of your marriage AND it's YOU changing that will be the single most important thing you can do to motivate your spouse to change.

As always, I hope you can take something useful away from today’s article.

From my heart to yours, Nicola

Author's Bio: 

Nicola Beer is an International Relationship and Divorce Coach who helps her clients find peace and create a new beginning after Marriage Breakdown and Divorce. This includes helping couples on the verge of a breakup to resolve their relationship issues once and for all, so that they can revive the love, passion, respect, and fun that's been missing.

As well as helping clients during and after Divorce to manage stress, create more income and adjust to new financial realities, redefine who they are, create a new social life, and when they are ready attract someone great. Nicola also runs 2 parenting programs that support children through and after divorce

Nicola has combined 11 years' experience helping people with emotional issues. This comprises 7 years private coaching and 4 years as a volunteer for the Samaritans where she supported callers dealing with any emotional distress. She is UK certified in Coaching, Grief Recovery for Adults and Children, NLP, Time Line Therapy, Hypnosis.

Nicola's passion to support people before, during and after divorce comes from her own childhood, where due to the stress of divorce her mother suffered a mental breakdown. As 1 of 5 children the divorce was devastating for her family and affected each of her family in different ways. More recently Nicola's older sister with 4 children is going through a difficult divorce. Having experienced and seen the pain and stress associated with divorce Nicola is focused on proving solutions. She knows divorce doesn't have to mean disaster and takes her clients and their children from surviving to thriving. She is equally passionate about saving marriages, so has a program to overcome relationship problems.

Nicola works with expats and locals, Muslims and Non-Muslims from all over the world, mainly from Dubai, London, India, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, either in person for a 2 day intensive package or further afield US, Australia via video conference and phone.