It’s easy to see how couples get stuck when ‘being right’ has become a habit. Clinging to our ‘right to be right’ is like gangrene in a relationship – it eats away at our intimacy by destroying our willingness to be vulnerable and open with each other.

Insanity has been described as doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result. If you’re stuck in your relationship, stop the insanity and start doing something effective to make it better: start a ‘change reaction’ by changing yourself first.

All relationships are dynamic. When one person changes, the relationship changes and that leads to change in the other person too. Let’s look at three common scenarios.

Scenario 1: He/she doesn’t spend enough time with you

When you constantly criticize your spouse because they don’t spend enough time with you, can you really blame them for not being in a hurry to get home? If you’re in the habit of criticism, you’re unpleasant company, and your spouse will likely avoid you out of self-protection. Working late, community activities, doing things with the kids, hobbies, even sitting in traffic will be more attractive than being at home with a cranky spouse. 

So do something different. Stop criticizing your spouse for being absent, and start working on making the little time you do have together more enjoyable. It will feed your spirit and will more than likely attract your spouse into being more available.

Scenario 2: He/she won’t change an ANNOYING habit!!!

What do you do about your spouse’s annoying habit of ____ (fill in the blank)? You nag, you berate, you make jokes about it to embarrass them into changing, but they obstinately refuse to budge. It’s driving you wild.

How about a change in tactic? Instead of using humiliation and manipulation, demonstrate some good will by kicking one of your annoying habits (you know you’ve got them!). Prove you care and want to be more loving, by developing yourself into a better, more likeable spouse. And if they don’t respond? Surprise them by kicking another annoying habit! Keep going, improving yourself  – you’ll feel better about the person you are becoming and your good nature will be a better motivator of change than your surliness.

Scenario 3: The unwanted argument that seems to ambush you when you least expect it.

What about those argument/conflict patterns? It starts with a careless comment or a sharp word. The other reacts by volleying the hurt right back. Before you know it, you’re going down the well worn path of isolation. You don’t want to go, and neither of you planned it, but soon you’re saying things and thinking things you regret.

Time to change the script. When your spouse serves you a sharp comment, instead of hitting back, do something different. Pull the ball out of play for a time out – ‘Hey Hon, what’s going on for you?’ or ‘Ouch, that hurt my feelings. Did you intend to do that?’ How about bringing some humour into the dynamic – tickle your spouse, blow a raspberry, tell them how sexy they are when they’re angry, sing your response.

Making a Change

It really doesn’t matter who makes the first move in a ‘change reaction’. It’s simply a matter of getting started. Change is contagious – once one person initiates a different way of being in relationship, the other is invited to adapt.

When the change is made with love and in the direction of deeper intimacy, the adaptation in our spouse is also positive. All change should be a move towards your spouse and in the direction of deeper intimacy.

When our relationship gets stuck, instead of trying to convince your spouse to change, it’s better to change your approach to the situation. When ‘your right to be right’ is getting you nowhere, it’s time to do something different. Be more pragmatic, flexible, creative and generous. When you quit trying to drive your point home, you can focus your energy on being the spouse in which your loved one will delight.

Take your marriage to new levels

Questions for Reflection:

1. What could you do to be more fun for your spouse to be around you?

2. What habit of yours that your spouse finds annoying are you prepared to kick this week?

3. How do you usually react when your spouse says or does something hurtful or annoying? How can you respond differently next time?