1. What can I do if despite the various suggestions and the practical advice, my spouse is still not willing to change?
One person alone can make a major impact on any relationship. A
marriage is like a seesaw: even when only one partner initiates change, it
effects the other. Keeping this fact in mind should encourage you to implement
the suggestions in this article and the previous ones. Remember: when you change
your attitude and behavior you can work a miracle in your marriage. Try it. As
Hillel exhorts, “Bimkom sheh’ain anashim, hishtadel lihiyos ish. In a
place where there are no leaders, strive to be a leader” (Pirkei Avos
You might know exactly what you want to do to create a feeling of harmony between you. You might have identified the problem and taken the responsibility for initiating a change. You might even have implemented various techniques in your quest for improving your relationship. Yet you are not satisfied. Can it be that you expected too much, too soon? When our imaginations work overtime, reality falls short in comparison. If you would realize that compared to how he acted before, your spouse is currently immeasurably better despite not being perfect, you would feel truly accomplished.
When attempting to pinpoint unrealistic expectations which may be ruining your chances for happiness, ask yourself: Is anything less than perfect unacceptable to me? Am I expecting failure, and by my negative expectations creating self-fulfilling prophecies? You will find you are less disappointed and have more positive energy to invest in (and enjoy!) your improving marriage.
2. I am concerned that I don’t begin to
understand my spouse’s hidden agenda, the “unspoken messages” underlying his
words. What can I do?
Congratulations on your willingness to investigate the important differences between you, which might currently be the cause of needless tension. If you know that your spouse’s words might contain hidden meanings and are upset that you cannot unravel them, try to heed the wise words of our Sages who stated, “Al tadin es chavercha ad she’tagia limkomo” Do not judge your fellow until you have reached his place.” (Pirkei Avos 2:4)
The Sfas Emes interprets this to mean that since it is impossible to actually “reach” your spouse’s “place”, to actually be him, we must realize that total understanding of another person is impossible. However armed with the knowledge that his words might hold deeper meaning, ask your spouse for clarification
She: “Do you really mean you don’t care about the amount
for which I write out the wedding-gift check, or are you feeling
left out because I shoulder so much of the responsibility of the
3. We have begun to make some positive changes in our marriage. What can I do to prevent myself, and my spouse, from slipping back into old habits?
If you’ve succeeded in solving some problems, don’t be surprised
if from time to time you find yourself asking ‘How long will this last?’ or “How
long can I rely on him to continue behaving this way?’ It is natural to be
concerned about recurrence of old habits. Accept your doubts, and rejoice in the
knowledge that they might even help you. As long as you are worried about
slipping back into familiar negative patterns, you will be less likely to revert
to them without being aware of it.
By using your fears as a hedge against indifference, you are on the right track and you will succeed in maintaining your improvements. But don’t confuse necessary caution with expecting failure. Instead of worrying, why not think about a future even better than your present situation!
* * * * *
Solving problems creatively is a
life-long process, an attitude, an art. Life is dynamic, full of surprises,
challenges and change. The fact that you have successfully solved one problem
doesn’t guarantee that it will remain solved forever, or that you won’t have
other problems with which to content.By feeling confident that you have the
ability to deal with problems in your relationship, and by realizing that
problems aren’t the real problem, but that your attitude towards dealing with
them is what makes the crucial difference, you will know that no matter what
happens you will be able to not only cope but to strengthen your marriage in the
process.If we merit a good relationship with our spouses, a relationship
blessed with love, brotherhood, peace and companionship, we should continue to
invest in it, all the while remembering to thank our Father in Heaven. But if we
do not merit this ideal marriage relationship, of if what we have is not enough
for us, let us take all that unused love in our hearts and dedicate it to
Hashem. May we all find the strength to begin to improve our lives from this
moment forward. May we have the confidence in our ability to effect change, so
that by our behavior we reflect our true status: Hashem’s chosen
children. Read books, attend lectures, listen to CDs and tapes, seek our
wise, compassionate, spiritual and professional mentors to help you overcome
difficult times. Give yourself and your marriage the best chance to succeed that
you can. You deserve it! You owe it to yourself.