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Relationship Coach Advises Not to be Concerned with Husband's Reaction to Change

Jul 4, 2008
One of the reasons that wives hesitate to try new things in their relationship is for fear of how their husbands will react. If they do something and their husbands get upset, they conclude they did the wrong thing. If their husbands are pleased they believe they are doing the right thing. In many marriages, following this pattern will lead to relationship failure. A husband's anticipated reaction to a new idea or a new change is not a good way to tell if that idea or change would be beneficial.

Naturally, everyone wants their lives and their relationships to get better and better. At the same time, people hesitate to make the necessary changes which will improve their relationships and lives. Change is sometimes scary because we don't know how other people will react. Relationship coaches point out that although all change carries some risk, the greater risk is usually to do nothing. Procrastination and short term comfort often leads to long term misery.

We do need to be wise in our efforts to improve our relationships and lives. The kind of changes that we need to be most concerned about making are not changes which other people will not like, but rather changes which will actually be harmful to them. There is a world of difference between someone not liking something and it being harmful to them. To have a great relationship and peace of mind, you must be able to distinguish between the two.

For example, if you decide that once a week you are going to go out with a same sex friend for lunch, your husband may not like it, but it would not harm him. In fact, in the long run it would be good for him because he would have a happier wife. He would adjust. Things would get better.

On the other hand, if you decide that you are going to stay at home so that he does not become upset, then you are making a decision that will actually harm him. As you give up more and more of yourself to appease your husband, you will grow more and more resentful. This will harm both yourself and your husband as your relationship grows more distant.

To determine whether a choice on your part would be beneficial or harmful to your relationship (and thus beneficial or harmful to your husband), you need to ask yourself what the long term consequence would be if you did that behavior regularly. Staying home one time may avoid short term conflict. Staying home regularly may increase the emotional gap between you and your husband. Sacrificing your happiness for the sake of less conflict ends up sacrificing the relationship.

In a healthy relationship, it turns out that what is good for one of the partners is good for both. "Good" does not mean, necessarily what each person wants at the time, but rather the long term impact on the relationship. We can learn the same lesson from parenting. What is "good" for your child may not be what your child wants at the time, but in the long run will result in greater love and respect from your child. Give your child candy every day for dinner now and he may like you for a while although he will lose all respect for you very soon. When he does, it will take more than candy to satisfy him.

When working on relational goals, we need to be sure that the goals are directed at our own behavior and not that of our husbands. Let's say, for example, that you and your husband have very little communication beyond a few basic greetings and information that is important for the day to day running of your home. You would like to increase the amount of communication that you have with your husband, so you plan to start asking him about his day and telling him about yours. After all, that is a common thing that people discuss. If you make your goal, 1) his talking about his day, and 2) his asking you about your day, then you have not made good goals. These goals would depend on his changing. Trying to change your partner will get you nowhere that you want to go.

On the other hand, if you make it your goal to, 1) ask him about his day, 2) to use good listening skills, and 3) to show that what he is saying is important to you, then you have made good goals. Achieving these goals is under your control. They do not depend on your husband doing anything. Whether or not he talks or asks about your day, you can achieve these goals.

Not having to depend on your husband changing frees you to work on making positive changes in yourself. You can become a wonderful wife without ever making one goal for your husband. There is no more powerful way to change another person than to change yourself. I'm not saying that you should make the other person's changing your goal, but that changing yourself will result in others changing how they respond to you--including your husband.

Your relationship can never be destroyed by your doing something that is healthy and good for both you and your husband. And, although your husband could choose to leave you for any reason, that is true whether or not you make any changes to your life. It is also not reasonable to expect anyone to pat you on the back for making positive changes in your life (except for your coach!). More important than a pat on the back is your contribution to your long term happiness and the long term success of your marriage.

You can begin today to take responsibility for improving your life and your relationships. You have the power to improve both. There is no one that can stop you except yourself. By combining learning with action you can have success in reaching your goals far beyond what you are able to imagine.
About the Author
Jack Ito PhD is a licensed psychologist and relationship coach.

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