Wives trying to change their husbands

I saw Disney’s new move, “Frozen,” with my girls over Thanksgiving weekend. Loved it. I also cried like a baby at several points because the two sisters in the movie reminded me so much of my own two daughters. My own sister was at the movie with us, so add that to the emotional heap and I was a bit of a ridiculous mess.

There was also another scene that hit home for me. One of the sisters and her love interest are meeting the boy’s family, who sing a song about both the girl and the boy being “fixer-uppers.”

At the beginning of the song, the lyrics are all about the shortcomings and problems each character has. But then this verse comes in:

“We’re not saying you can change her, ‘cuz people don’t really change
We’re only saying that love’s a force that’s powerful and strange
People make bad choices if they’re mad, or scared, or stressed
Throw a little love their way and you’ll bring out their best
True love brings out their best!”

This verse stood out to me because I have sometimes been accused of trying to change my husband. The accuser will remain unnamed except to say that he may or may not share my last name and wedding anniversary.

I think it’s pretty common for women especially to try to change the habits they don’t like in their husbands or to get their husbands to change their way of thinking or acting.

I am totally guilty of this. Even without realizing what I’m doing, I am trying to make my husband someone more agreeable to me every time I critique the way he does something or disapprove of how he handles a situation. I know that only sends the message that he needs to be changed or fixed to be acceptable. That’s a horrible message to send to my husband — the one person who I should love and accept unconditionally.

My wise mother-in-law once told me that if your spouse had a certain trait before you got married, then you can’t complain about it after you get married.

I have to admit that’s hard to remember when the habits and quirks you thought were adorable when you were dating are now irksome after a decade. It’s much easier to critique than to just fully accept someone for who they are. But I do know it’s true that you can’t change someone. You can pester them, remind them and eventually make them resent you, but you can’t change them. Either you love them for who they are or you don’t.

But I liked that this “Frozen” song hits on the idea that that the simple act of loving someone can sometimes help them become better versions of themselves. I know that’s true for me. My husband doesn’t try to change me, and I know I have a lot of flaws that he could target. Instead, he loves me and supports me—even in the things I know he thinks are nutty. Because of that, I have actually changed over the years in many ways that make me better. I never felt pushed or coerced or nagged. In fact, all I felt was love.

Do you think your spouse ever tries to change you or vice versa? Should husbands and wives try to change each other?


  1. citygrrl

    I guess I wonder what you mean by the word “change.” And I always take issue with “unconditional love.” I agree that we are all entitled to our opinions and ways of thinking. Humans are a complex species, and our selves are created by so many influences and experiences, genetic make up and just who we are. You can’t, for example, marry an introvert and then complain that he isn’t an extrovert. I used to tell my newly-married friends that no one gets everything in a mate — if you marry someone who earns tons of money and is a corporate star, chances are he is not an easy-going spouse to have around the house, and vice versa.

    But what if your husband really mishandled a situation with your children, or you said something inappropriate — wouldn’t you move to correct the situation, and want to be corrected as well? Before we married, my husband used to use a very derogatory term — something he grew up with, but a phrase that I knew if he ever used it in the wrong company he would, at best, get called on the carpet by the offended by the wrong party or at worst, cost him his job. He’s not a prejudiced person — he was just uninformed. And he has told me when I’ve been out of line. It hurt to hear it, but I know him well enough to know he was right to be offended and that I needed to recalibrate my thinking. This is very different than being told “I wish you were prettier/skinnier/more accomplished, etc.” I guess the bottom line is that you need to understand and respect your spouse and decide what battles are worth fighting and whether you can live with the outcome of those battles.

    • Erin Stewart

      Great thoughts. I think we are getting at the same idea here that love can help whereas judgements just hurt. You were honestly loving and caring for your husband by teaching him about prejudiced words. I think if love is the cause for the correction and it’s done in a loving way, then it’s a whole different story.

    • Shawnm750

      I think there’s a difference in trying to change who someone is, versus something that they do. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with encouraging someone to develop a personality trait that he/she has recognized as being one of their “weaknesses.” But it’s something else, like you pointed out, to try and “condition” them to be someone their not and have no intention/desire to be.

      It seems that sometimes we (both men and women) marry someone thinking that somehow that person, with all their imperfections or shortcomings, will somehow become everything we’ve ever wanted them to be. I think, as far as marriage goes, we need to take a good at that person before we get married and ask ourselves: If this person never changes from who they are now, is enough for me to be happy?

      I think it’s wrong to expect them to change who they are. Yes we need to voice our concerns about things they do. Those are behaviors, not necessarily a personality trait. But I don’t believe any of us have the right to ask someone to change what makes them who they are. Just my opinion…

  2. Danny

    Great post! I have yet to see “Frozen”, myself, but I’m excited to take the family out for it. As for “changing one’s spouse”…this is something I’ve given thought to/struggled with for years. You can know each other or date for years (which I highly recommend), but only when you’re married will ALL the bugs come out of the woodwork. Hopefully anything serious, like addictions, will be noticed and dealt with before the knot’s tied.

    But people do change, and not always for the better. I and my husband have picked up new (and sometimes bad) habits over the years. Moods and outlooks on life can change, sometimes drastically. Economic situations can change which affect behavior, too.

    One of the most helpful pieces of marriage advice I ever came across actually came from a book on parenting. The concept applies to spouses…anyone we interact with, actually. Basically, it’s this: “I cannot change what he/she does, only how -I- will respond to it.”

    I may not be able to change the fact that, despite years of trying (read “nagging”), my husband will leave all his dirty clothes on the floor. IN FRONT OF THE HAMPER. I can, however, and have, changed my laundry habits to “I will be happy to wash any and all laundry placed in the hamper by this time/date.” I’m happy to say it’s already begun to work.

    I may not be able to make him study or do his homework. I can however, let the consequences of his actions do the teaching. (I just wish the price tag for failure wasn’t so darn high now. Graduate school ain’t cheap.)

    I may not be able to make him pleasant to be around when his favorite sports team loses. But I can take myself and the kids shopping or to Grandma’s until it’s enjoyable to be home again. Discovering this has given me a new sense of empowerment, and I don’t have to nag anymore (a bad habit I’m still working on, myself).

  3. Dean Bender

    Reward or acknowledge all behavior you want repeated. Ignore inconsequential negative behavior and it will most likely extinguish. Negative behavior that has consequences should be dealt with gentle, kind, and loving persuasion and patience.
    When I was a very young dad and our very young son broke one of my gadgets, I yelled at him and sent him to his room. A couple of hours later, my sweet wife sat with me on the sofa, put her hand on my shoulder and said softly, “Dean, your children are going to break your gadgets, crash your cars (when teenagers) and a number of other things, forgive them right now for everything they will ever do – because you love them and they are your children – they are learning. If you do this you will be a much happier dad and we will have a much happier home”. My thought (honestly): Wow! did I marry well.

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