Change Starts Here

Change Starts Here WP

Part 4 of It Takes One to TangoSee others in this series here, here. and here.

All change in our relationships should start with ourselves. While it’s comforting to be able to blame our spouse for the inadequacies of our marriage, expecting them to change to meet our demands is not only ineffective, it’s not a very loving approach.

The truth is, I can’t control my spouse. I may certainly try, but I most likely won’t succeed.

And even if I do manage to coerce my spouse into the behaviour I want, I’ll undermine our trust which will ultimately erode our  intimacy.  Domination, manipulation, coercion, or any other form of control, really is a losing strategy in any love relationship.

Rather, for effective and powerful change in our relationships, look to ourselves. Our thoughts inform and motivate our actions, so think about how we can change our thinking. For example:

  • If we are in the habit of criticising our spouse, we can apply some mental discipline so that whenever we start to think negatively about our spouse, consciously choose to think compassionately.
  • Instead of keeping a mental list of our grievances against our spouse, we can make a mental list of our gratefulness.
  • If we are in the habit of reacting aggressively when things don’t go the way we want, we can challenge our attitudes of entitlement.
  • If we tend to brood on past hurts and disappointments, we can consciously discipline our thinking to dwell on positive memories instead.
  • and so on…

Almost every marriage will have periods of disillusionment. If we are of a mind to wait for our spouse to lift their game, we are in danger of slipping into a downward spiral of increasing isolation.

Don’t wait for the other; be the grown-up and make the first move.

Change your thinking and you will change your reactions. And that will change the dynamic of your relationship. It’s that simple.

 

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Francine & Byron Pirola

Francine & Byron Pirola are the founders and principal authors of the SmartLoving series. They are passionate about living Catholic marriage to the full and helping couples reach their marital potential. They have been married since 1988 and have five children. Their articles may be reproduced for non commercial purposes with appropriate acknowledgement and back links. For Media Enquiries Please Contact us here

6 Comments

  1. Francine & Byron Pirola on September 12, 2021 at 12:28 pm

    Maria, the key idea is that trying to change our spouse against their will is futile. It is also, by definition, unloving and, if it involves coercion, abusive . If a spouse’s behaviour is abusive towards you, we are not saying you should just take it. You should change YOUR behaviour and reactions to clearly communicate that the abusive behaviour will not be tolerated.

  2. Maria on September 12, 2021 at 12:27 am

    This is good advice. Unfortunately if you feel the behavior is inappropriate your suppose to change your thoughts and continue to let the other spouse do it? I think this would work if your in a relationship mutual to doing this, and not if your spouse uses you as a door mat

    • Paul Hale on September 12, 2021 at 7:51 am

      No, the thought to change is that you are a door mat. You aim to change your spouse’s perception of you and the marriage so that it succeeds, as (one hopes) both of the parties want!

    • Francine & Byron Pirola on September 12, 2021 at 12:27 pm

      Maria, the key idea is that trying to change our spouse against their will is futile. It also, by definition, unloving and, if it involves coercion, abusive . If a spouse’s behaviour is abusive towards you, we are not saying you should just take it. You should change YOUR behaviour and reactions to clearly communicate that the abusive behaviour will not be tolerated.

  3. Fr Martin Maunsell on September 10, 2021 at 10:05 pm

    Thanks so much Byron and Francine for sharing your wise and proven wisdom to us all. Blessings, Fr Martin Maunsell

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