Unlikely Fact Number Nine:

You can’t change your husband or wife—but you can change yourself.  And a changed you will result in a changed spouse.

What this means is that you will need to stop complaining about all of the ways that your partner is disappointing to you and begin listening to and taking seriously all of your partner’s complaints about you.

Many people want to add a corollary to this ninth unlikely fact that goes something like the following: “Since I can’t change my spouse, then my spouse shouldn’t try to change me.  And since I’m supposed to change myself, then my spouse should also work at changing him or herself.”  These folks insist that “my partner should accept me for who I am and should stop asking me to change.”

My reply to them is that “your partner is not in this office, you are.”  And therefore unlikely fact number nine applies to all of your demands for change from your spouse including your request that your partner stop expecting changes from you. In other words, “sorry, but you don’t get to request that change either.”

Implementing this idea that we can only change ourselves requires not that we bend over backwards to twist ourselves into a pretzel.  Changing ourselves does not require that we become the perfect partner of all time, nor that we become a “super husband” or “super wife,” but simply that we begin treating our spouse as we did when we first met.

Do you remember how kind you were when you started courting your partner and how much you looked forward to his or her requests so that you might have an opportunity to prove your love?  And do you remember how your partner responded?  Your partner responded by reciprocating in kind.  When you treated him or her lovingly, your partner treated you even more lovingly.  Human nature is like that.  We have no choice but to answer kindness with kindness and love with love.  (Of course I am assuming you are not in a relationship with a sociopath or a narcissist.)

Apply this idea to your marriage and you will begin to see the loving person you once knew start to re-emerge.  For example, send your spouse one of those cute greeting cards you might have sent early in your relationship, the kind that captured perfectly everything about your partner that you found so endearing. Keep up that loving behavior and although your spouse may not, at first, notice your new changed behavior, he or she will gradually and inevitably begin treating you more lovingly.

It’s important that you understand that this approach to marital happiness is not a ploy to get your spouse to change.  Their new loving behavior is simply the natural byproduct of your own improved behavior.  What ever changes you see in your spouse are the result of the built in way that human beings respond to being treated with kindness.  I challenge you to treat your spouse more lovingly.  And I promise that your spouse will have no choice but to reciprocate.

So what’s the moral of the story?  You can’t change your husband or wife—but you can change yourself.  And a changed you will result in a changed spouse.

Click for Unlikely Fact Number Ten