On changing your significant other


#1

People often say "don't marry someone thinking you can change them". That sounds like very sound advice to me. Here is the thing, I often think about my vocation- I'm currently single but have discerned a call to married life, and I always think that couples should want to change for each other, right? I'm I crazy for thinking that part of marriage should be striving to become the best spouse you can?

I see so many couples including my parents and ex-girlfriend's parents, they seem so unhappy. I feel like they are constantly rubbing each other the wrong way. Am I naive for thinking that my future spouse and I should want to change for each other? Is that an unrealistic expectation?

God bless you and thanks.


#2

I think you need to define what you mean by change for each other.


#3

You should look for the WANT in a future spouse, that they themselves are willing to work on their own issues to be the best spouse possible and they have your best interests in mind before their own. You need to look for that quality, that the person you are discerning about has the quality of self realization and will work on themselves to be a better spouse and person. Its not unrealistic to desire that in a future spouse. But if you don’t see that quality in your intended before the actual wedding ceremony, don’t make the mistake of presuming you can change them after you get married, that somehow you are going to change them to work on being a better spouse. You can’t force them to change or to suddenly possess the desire to be a better spouse. The wedding ceremony doesn’t magically give people the qualities you truly want in spouse or give you the power to somehow magically influence them to change if they never want to change in the first palce.


#4

I don’t mean change who you are fundamentally. I mean things like trying not to lose your temper, avoiding things that annoy your partner, becoming more patient etc. Most importantly, striving to become the person God has called you to be.


#5

[quote="PatriceA, post:3, topic:220831"]
You should look for the WANT in a future spouse, that they themselves are willing to work on their own issues to be the best spouse possible and they have your best interests in mind before their own. You need to look for that quality, that the person you are discerning about has the quality of self realization and will work on themselves to be a better spouse and person. Its not unrealistic to desire that in a future spouse. But if you don't see that quality in your intended before the actual wedding ceremony, don't make the mistake of presuming you can change them after you get married, that somehow you are going to change them to work on being a better spouse. You can't force them to change or to suddenly possess the desire to be a better spouse. The wedding ceremony doesn't magically give people the qualities you truly want in spouse or give you the power to somehow magically influence them to change if they never want to change in the first palce.

[/quote]

Great point, thanks.


#6

[quote="kib, post:4, topic:220831"]
I don't mean change who you are fundamentally. I mean things like trying not to lose your temper, avoiding things that annoy your partner, becoming more patient etc. Most importantly, striving to become the person God has called you to be.

[/quote]

I don't know if this helps, but remember that you can only really change YOUR actions. No matter how much you love someone, you can't change theirs. It's tough, and I learned/am learning that the hard way.

If you are talking about basic human failings (anger, arrogance, etc) those are because we live in a fallen world-that's something you constantly work on changing in yourself. You can help your partner change if they want too.

However, and this is sad, you cannot change the big things. If you are talking about "My girlfriend was raised by two bitter racists. She always uses ethnic slang and hates all minorities" Your NOT changing that, no matter what. Same thing with infidelity. If your boyfriend is a world class skirt chaser and has never been faithful, hate to break it to you, but he won't be faithful to you no matter how much you might cry, nag, beg and plead to change him.

Marrying someone with serious issues and thinking to yourself you can change them is a sure fire way to 1) get divorced and 2) make your life much harder than it should be.


#7

Rascalking, that is pretty much my point. I don’t think you should try to change the other, we should try to be the best spouse we can be by changing ourselves for the better.


#8

[quote="kib, post:4, topic:220831"]
I don't mean change who you are fundamentally. I mean things like trying not to lose your temper, avoiding things that annoy your partner, becoming more patient etc. Most importantly, striving to become the person God has called you to be.

[/quote]

I think that is your answer, right there. It is God whom each person should be striving to please. If both people are facing God, then they are looking in the same direction, not just staring at each other, and any changes will make them a better person, thus a better spouse. The key is in finding the mate God intends for you to have, and not forcing someone into that position who doesn't want to be there.

:)


#9

Is it unrealistic to expect to find someone willing to strive for you? Am I being unrealistic by expecting myself to live up to that standard?


#10

It is a fallacy to "change for each other," instead embrace change to become a better version of yourself. The impetus must be internal, not to please the other. For a man, acting with integrity is your best guide.

Establish your principles and never compromise those principles to appease others. Be willing to ALWAYS pay the price for this. In this way you will change to become a more trustworthy, stronger dependable man. Even your woman will challenge you from time to time, to see if your really have what it takes. When she observes you do, then she will relax, trust and be more content.
Whims, wants and fancies are negotiable.


#11

[quote="kib, post:9, topic:220831"]
Is it unrealistic to expect to find someone willing to strive for you? Am I being unrealistic by expecting myself to live up to that standard?

[/quote]

Yes, as long as you asked, I think you're being unrealistic.

I started dating my husband when we were 16. We got married when we were 21, and we've been married 31 years and love each other more than ever. So I speak with the voice of experience.

People want to marry someone who accepts them just the way they are, flaws, annoyances, irritating mannerisms, quirks, habits (including the bad habits like smoking) and all. We want to be completely free to be ourselves, our TRUE selves, with our beloved.

Yes, Christians in ANY vocation, including married people, should desire to become like Christ. This means eliminating sins and cultivating virtues.

But we have to be careful that we don't lump "things that annoy your partner" in with sins. It's not a sin to be an extreme Green Bay Packers cheesehead-wearing fanatic, or to cry during romantic movies, or to be a devoted slave to your Siamese cats, or to wear the same "I Love Bee Gees" t-shirt that you wore all the way through college. These things might be annoying (to some people), but they're not sins, and it's not realistic or big-hearted to expect our spouse to change just because we are annoyed by these things.

These are the things that we need to accept and even cherish about our partner. We should not be thinking that "if they truly love me, they will want to eliminate these things that annoy me". Instead, we should strive to accept these traits in our spouse and enjoy them and treasure them.

We need to have large hearts when we are married.

What you need to do during the dating period is discern which habits, mannerisms, etc. are "deal-breakers" for you, and end relationships where these things are an issue. For example, you may be willing to accept the Packers and the Bee Gees t-shirt, but you will not tolerate cats or any feline obsession. That's OK. You're being "you," and that's fine.

Dating is the time to make these decisions. Make the decision BEFORE you allow yourself to fall in love. Write out a list. Think about things that annoy you and add these things to the list. Then avoid dating people who do these things. Then you won't have to worry about your spouse making changes after the wedding.

For me, smoking and drinking were huge issues. I would not have wanted to marry anyone who indulged in either of these behaviors. For others, these things wouldn't be a problem.

Yes, often, our spouse will change with the years as love increases in the marriage and the spouse decides of their own free will to give something up or change in some way to please their spouse. E.g., my husband has learned to accept the fact that I have to have a fan blowing at night while we sleep. He doesn't like it. But he accepts it and doesn't berate me for this. And I have come to accept that he will always have to hit the snooze button in the morning and this doesn't mean that he is lazy or shiftless. (I tend to wake up before the alarm goes off, and I jump right out of bed.)

But basically, you need to look for the person who encourages you to be your true self, and you in turn should encourage that person to be their true self.


#12

Great post. Thanks, Cat.

I guess I just worry about being old and unhappy, or young and unhappy as I see so many people are. I don’t want to have unrealistic expectations for marriage either.


#13

[quote="kib, post:12, topic:220831"]
Great post. Thanks, Cat.

I guess I just worry about being old and unhappy, or young and unhappy as I see so many people are. I don't want to have unrealistic expectations for marriage either.

[/quote]

I don't blame you.

I wish you could see my husband and me!

Keep this in mind: some older couples appear unhappy because they bicker and fuss at each other. But if you ask them straight out, they will state with great conviction that they are happy and love each other very much and can't imagine living without each other. Appearances do not always reveal the truth.

Another thing to keep in mind is to not take anything you see in movies or on TV seriously. It's all fluffy fiction. Real-life marriages aren't like that at all.

Instead, get to know real couples in your parish, especially older couples who have been married for decades and have children and who aren't wealthy. Spend time with them (perhaps join a home Bible study that they attend). You will be very encouraged by these couples, especially when you hear the hardships that many of us have endured and are still enduring.

Our diocese (and I'm sure many others) has an annual Mass celebrating anniversaries of couples who have been married 25 years or more. If you could see how many hundreds of happy couples attend this Mass, walking in hand-in-hand like young teenagers, your heart would be warmed and you wouldn't be so worried about your future.

Seriously--get to know some older couples and see if you can use them as "romance mentors."


#14

[quote="kib, post:7, topic:220831"]
Rascalking, that is pretty much my point. I don't think you should try to change the other, we should try to be the best spouse we can be by changing ourselves for the better.

[/quote]

Yes, I agree. You hear it alot though, "Well, it'll change if we get married. He'll stop doing coke!" Or, "Put the ring on her finger and she'll stop sleeping around!'

Um, no. Doesn't work.


#15

[quote="Rascalking, post:14, topic:220831"]
Yes, I agree. You hear it alot though, "Well, it'll change if we get married. He'll stop doing coke!" Or, "Put the ring on her finger and she'll stop sleeping around!'

Um, no. Doesn't work.

[/quote]

Yeah, Marriage does not stop bad behavior. It magnifies it! Add some kids, and you've got a full blown disaster! The coke and sleeping around has to either 1)NEVER have happened, or 2) stopped with a very clear history, and future...


#16

I didn't mind my last girlfriend trying to instill some healthier habits in me. Kinda sign the girl cares.


#17

[quote="chevalier, post:16, topic:220831"]
I didn't mind my last girlfriend trying to instill some healthier habits in me. Kinda sign the girl cares.

[/quote]

That makes a lot of sense. I honestly wouldn't mind that either. I want to be the best I can be for the person I love.


#18

I always thought that your spouse should bring out the best in you, and you would feel compelled to do so because you wanted to. Yes, I’m aware that sounds duly romantic, but you don’t hear of many happily married couples who say that the reason why they’re so happy is because their spouse indulges in illegal activities, scandalous affairs, or corruption. We are supposed to be concerned about the health of our spouse’s soul, and sometimes that requires changing on our part more so than changing on their part.


closed #19

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.