On Trying to Change Your Spouse

Editor’s Note: This is Part 4B in the Let’s Talk Sex series.

Cinderella & Prince Charming

The Problem

Culture has perpetuated the myth of the perfect man. It begins when you’re little. You play princess and you’re captured by an evil bad guy and you must be rescued by a handsome, daring, strong  prince who will sweep you off your feet. You expect Prince Charming to rescue you, and when he does, everything will be perfect. You grow up and realize that the Prince may want to be dashing and adventurous and rescue you, the princess, but when he brings you home, you see that he has dirty socks on the floor and piles of dishes in the sink, he snores when he sleeps, and he forgets to trim his nails. Naturally, you assume that even if you married so-called Prince Charming, he’s not so perfect and if he’s lacking in something…say charm… you can un-school him in the ways of the world and reeducate him in how to be the husband you desire.

Do you see the problem? You assume you can retrain and change him, and that is a grossly unbiblical assumption. Why do you do this?

An Improper View of Your Spouse

In 1 Samuel 16, the Lord speaks to Samuel and tells him, “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (vs. 7). While this verse was speaking about judging others, I believe it applies. You judge your husband as inferior or lacking when he fails to do something you want him to, when he fails to live up to the appearance you desire, when he fails to be the man you want him to be.

Love is a choice, and it’s a choice we make over and over and over again. You may look at your husband and ask, “When’s the last time you showered because you stink?” You may be in an argument with him and yell, “When’s the last time you spent time with God because you suck at this husband-stuff this week?” Do you see what choice you’re making? You’re choosing to be unkind and ungodly. In that moment, are you remembering your wedding vows to love, honor, and cherish this person whom you chose to be your husband for better… or for worse?

We need to remember that our husbands are sinners. Romans 3:23 says, “for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (ESV).” All of us are sinners. You didn’t marry Prince Charming; you married a sinner. 

You must accept your husband for who he is, not who you want him to be. I have come to recognize that my husband may just drop his dirty clothes inches from the hamper and he might forget to take out the trash and he may even forget to spend time with God during the day, but I’m not my husband’s savior; I’m his wife. Savior is not a role we are prepared to take on when we get married, but we often attempt to “save” our spouses, to change them.

Marla Taviano, author of From Blushing Bride to Wedded Wife: Practical Advice from a Girlfriend – What Marriage is Really Like, writes, “Convicting others of sin isn’t on our job description, yet how often do we try to take the Holy Spirit’s rightful place in our husband’s life?”

When Adam and I first got married, I wanted him to pray with me more, to discuss sermons on the way home from church like my family used to do, to read his Bible with me more. I wanted him to be the spiritual leader of our home as he rightfully should be. But he didn’t initially. I grew annoyed with him easily, and yet at the same time, I thought I was more spiritually mature because I spent more time in Scripture than he did. I thought it was my job as a Christian to help change him. After all, doesn’t God want us to help others? Isn’t it loving my spouse when I point out where he’s obviously failing and try to fix the issue?

James 1:22 says, “ Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”

It doesn’t matter how much time I spend in Scripture, if I am impatient and unkind, angry and proud, selfish and mean, I’m not putting the Word of God to practice in my life.

Without love, I am nothing, as 1 Corinthians 13 warns. And without love, you cannot build a good foundation for your relationship with God, your marriage, and your sex life.

Imagine you are training for a 5K race. You spend weeks training, gradually working up your speed, endurance, and strength. Then on the day of the race, you throw all your training out the window and just do whatever. You run into obstacles on the track, but instead of trying to work through them, you ignore them, running head long into them, or just give up.

Living with your husband is like running a race. You need to be trained in godliness, in Scripture, so that when you hit obstacles in your marriage race, you are prepared. You need to put love into action in your marriage because without it, you’re like the runner who throws out her training out the window. When you recognize who your spouse is, you won’t hold him to unrealistic standards and will love him the way you should on and off the marriage bed. 

An Improper View of Self

You didn’t just marry a sinner; you’re a sinner too.

John and Stacie Eldredge in Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul write, “Fallen Eve controls her relationships. She refuses to be vulnerable. And if she cannot secure her relationships, then she kills her heart’s longing for intimacy so that she will be safe and in control…women dominate and control because they fear their vulnerability.”

When Adam and I were dating and when we were first married, I struggled with letting him love me when I was mad at him. If I couldn’t feel safe, I would shove down those desires for his embrace and his love, and would push him away with angry and hurtful words, refusing to be touched. I still struggle with letting go of my barriers and giving into that illusion of security. When I push Adam away, I am denying my womanhood – my need to be loved and protected. I let my anger run away with me, thinking it was better to be safe than burned again. This is wrong.

When you think you’re right and he’s wrong, and you argue your position at the expense of your spouse, you dishonor God and disrespect your husband. God calls us to do the opposite of what we naturally feel – to be kind and compassionate and forgiving toward those who have wronged us. When you withhold love and forgiveness, it is just as much a sin as the one done to you.

Women who try to control their husbands, also like to be in control in their sex lives. This is not how God designed sex. He designed sex to be a selfless act of pleasure, intimacy, and love. As scary and vulnerable as it may be, allow your husband to lead you intimately, putting aside selfish desires to control.  

An Improper View of God

We forget that our husbands need God’s grace as much as we do, and they need our forgiveness as much as we needed forgiven by God. Only God can truly change our husband’s will, his mindset, his attitude, his character, and his heart.

Colossians 3:13 says, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” 

And sometimes we’re making a mountain out of a molehole. Sometimes we need to just learn to let things go. Proverbs 19:11 says, “A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.” Overlooking an offense is not the same as pretending it didn’t happen, but it is a conscious decision to forgive in your heart and avoid an ugly confrontation. So he left the peanut butter out of the refrigerator again or he dropped his socks right in front of the laundry hamper. Put the peanut butter away. Drop the socks in the hamper. And let… it… go!

John 13:34-35 says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.”

Invite your husband into guilt-free sex, showing him the deepest love possible, remembering that you have been forgiven and cleansed by the blood of Jesus and are called to demonstrate that love toward others.

What better place to start loving others than your husband?

I’d love to hear from you…

Share a time in your marriage where you let something go – how did it shape your love for your spouse? How did it strengthen your walk with the Lord? What’s one thing you can just “let” go in your marriage – one thing to let your husband off the hook this week?

Related Posts: 

To read other related posts in the Let’s Talk Sex series, click here.

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3 Comments

  1. Wonderful, encouraging words for brides-to-be and for those of us who have been married for years.
    My hubbie is in a new supervisory position at work, and things have been particularly difficult of late. When he comes home, he is not his usual upbeat self. Rather than berating him for letting the day get to him, I just listen as he pours out his day. Sometimes all each of us need is for someone to really listen.

    • Thanks Kimahall, and what a wonderful way to uplift and serve your husband! Keep up the good work! So true about needing someone to listen. The other day my husband had a friend over almost all day. I was a bit frustrated since I was hoping to get some time with him. But instead of pouring out my frustrations on him, I listened to his frustrations as he spent almost the entire day off with his friend fixing computers (which is his normal job), not goofing around and playing games like I thought he was. I’m so glad I listened first because then I was able to encourage him and tell him how proud I was of him for his generous, compassionate heart for people. We avoided an argument, and I made his night!

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