Here’s an idea that I would imagine almost all married people would agree with: it’s not your job to fix your spouse. Notice I said that this is something that people would agree with rather than saying that it’s something that is easy or most people actually practice. It’s one thing to agree with the idea that it’s not our job to fix our spouses, but it’s a very different thing to actually put that into practice.
I’m the first to admit that this is a lesson I’ve learned the hard way. For many of the 40 years that I’ve been married to Jane, I saw it as my job to fix her. The biggest area of frustration between the two of us was the fact that Jane is a different person than I am. She and I have different personalities, and we sometimes have different perspectives on how to approach things.
When we’re both thinking about things in a healthy way, we see that having two perspectives and approaches is actually very beneficial. But when one or both of us is focused on being right or getting our way, then we’re much more likely to try to insist on doing things our way and fixing the other person. To be honest, if I were able to successfully get Jane to act and think the way that I do, the overall effect would be a big loss. Our marriage and family would lose out on so many of the unique things that she brings to the table. I wish I would have come to this realization much earlier in my marriage!
Now, I realize that there are times when we can see some of our spouse’s blind spots and weaknesses in ways that they can’t. In those moments, it can be beneficial for us to point some of those things out because they need to know. There are times when that is absolutely true, and there is nothing wrong with sharing those things with them. But don’t share these things in an effort to fix them; That’s not your job. I’ve found that when I make suggestions from a place of curiosity rather than an effort to teach or correct, it has a much more positive impact on our relationship.
Sometimes, that is a minor tweak of my wording from, “Can you stop doing _____?” to, “Have you noticed that you do _____?” Do you see how one of those questions is geared toward changing our spouse, and the other question is geared toward helping them see something that they might not have noticed? This doesn’t mean you should assume you can use the right script and things will go smoothly. It’s important to realize that our tone, body language, and word choices will all work together to communicate our message. In other words, it’s entirely possible we say something we think will be beneficial while still communicating something hurtful or demeaning to our spouse. So, make sure that your words aren’t undermined by your delivery.
Basically, it’s up to each of us to work on ourselves. You are the only person who you can change. So, do it. If you work to be a better spouse, I believe you’ll be surprised at the difference it makes in your marriage. When you stop working to fix others and start working on making the changes you need to in your own life, I believe that your relationships will benefit and you’ll be winning more often at home.