Can you change your spouse?

OK, first, a confession: I watch “The Bachelor.” I’m going to pause a moment and let that sink in while any respect you may have for me takes an appropriate nosedive.

And… moving on. What I want to discuss is a comment this season’s Bachelor made while choosing his final woman, Emily. He said several times that he wants to be a better man for Emily and that she is making him better everyday.

I turned to my friend at that moment and said, “Yikes. Run Emily run.” In my opinion, women (particularly Emily who is a single mom) have way too much going on in their lives to take on a fixer-upper spouse.

Sure, it’s a sweet (albeit clichÉ) sentiment that your spouse makes you a better person everyday, but the question then is, can someone really change their spouse?

This is a discussion my husband and I have had many times over our nine years of marriage. I am the guilty party here because I am constantly trying to get my husband to do things or change his habits. He reminds that he has never and will never try to change me, so why do I try to change him?

It’s a valid point. When I do something that irritates him, he doesn’t try to change me. He may try to show me another way to do something, but if I’m too dense to get it, he drops it. Instead, he changes his reaction to my behavior.

I, on the other hand, have more trouble letting go. I use the completely ineffective method of confronting my husband, nagging him to change and then forcing him to commit to change against his will. This has never worked. Ever.

Most of his traits are ones I was well aware of before we got married. Well, at least I thought I was aware of them but for some reason the way he left his clothes on the floor was endearing before we got married. It has lost its charm.

What I’m learning is that you can’t make a spouse change. People must choose to change. They can’t be forced into any meaningful transformation. They have to change themselves, and the best a spouse can do is provide help and some inspiration along the way.

I recently wanted to start reading our scriptures more regularly at night, for example. I declared a 10 p.m. scripture-reading curfew and told my husband he had to do it with me. Surprise, surprise – this did not work. So I tried something new. I simply got into bed at 10 p.m. and started reading my scriptures. Miracle of miracles, my husband saw me in there and joined me. No nagging required!

So when I hear comments from the Bachelor about changing for a woman, I think it’s great as long as he is making the choice to change. There’s a big difference between saying “she makes me want to be a better man” and “she is making me a better man.” If he is reluctantly changing who he is for a woman, that’s only setting up for a life of resentment and failed promises.

Former LDS President David O. McKay once said, “During courtship we should keep our eyes wide open, but after marriage keep them half-shut.”

It’s great advice: choose wisely because in the end you are marrying a person — a real person, not the promise of what they could become with a little help.

What do you think – can you change a spouse? Even if the answer is yes, should you?

Erin Stewart is a regular blogger for Deseret News. From stretch marks to the latest news for moms, Stewart discusses it all while her 4-year-old daughter crams Mr. Potato Head pieces in her little sister’s nose.

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