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I want my husband to change and I am getting frustrated – how do I react to this situation?


heart to heart
Question
I was married recently (about 4months ago) and my husband is a wonderful man. He has a good heart, is very generous and importantly he adores me deeply and is always looking for ways to make me happy. We had been seeing each other for three years before we got married so I knew him well. I am very religious, not to an extreme point, but I try to perfect my spiritual life however I can and my husband is not. He has no spiritual feelings at all! He drinks alcohol and gives too much importance to unimportant things like going out to clubs and the like. He says it relaxes him. Apart from that, he doesn't give much importance to manners, whereby I have been brought up to mind my manners. For example when I am making sure visitors are well attended to, he would go and surf the net whenever visitors come to the house.

I want to help him change, especially with regard to his spiritual life. I am trying to be patient and encourage him but I don't know if that change is ever going to happen. I don't want to change his personality but I want him to appreciate the good positive things in life. This is especially important for me as I would want to raise my children, if God will bless me with some, in a God fearing home and in an environment where they will grow up to be respectable and productive people in the community. I don't know exactly how to react to this situation as I am getting frustrated and I can't be the best wife I can be to him because of this and many other small issues, while I know I can be a very good and supportive wife to him. God bless.

Wallace's reply
Wallace
We cannot change another - we can only change ourselves! In a marriage both partners need to be open to learning from each other. Your husband may not recognize the spiritual teachings or traditions that mean so much to you, but if he is a responsible husband he will be open to learning from you and you need to be open to learning from him. This may not sound like religion but it is true spirituality.

I would approach your husband with the idea that you both agree to learn from and teach each other - not about symbols and religious teachings - but about one another's values, communication styles and needs.

You say you knew each other well before you married - believe me, once married there is a lot more to discover and learn about each other. By agreeing to engage in honest open communication about the things that are most important to you and by learning from such shared perspectives on life, you will both experience a deepening of your relationship and growth in intimacy.

For example you say you would like to have children and raise them with certain values. Why not share your thoughts on these values with your husband? If his values are different, explore those differences together. See your different perspectives like the different facets of a diamond. In your discussions search for the top facet - the perspective that contains the most value and the highest truth for you as a couple.

Do not hold to the idea that you are right and your husband is wrong. Take time to understand his perspective by listening intently to what he says without interrupting. Then give your perspective. Then both of you search together, by a process of loving communication, for a higher perspective that contains the most value and that you can both share. This process may be ongoing all your married life, so do not be impatient. If your husband is open to learning from you and you approach him with care, he will respond positively.

If your discussions are conducted in the right spirit, both of you will be challenged to grow and change as a result of your explorations. Embracing this imperative to change is essential because it leads to a marriage which is constantly renewing itself. Marriages that change and grow because the partners are each changing and growing are happy marriages. To effect these changes sometimes great patience and love is required. Do not demand that your husband change. Accept him as he is and let him change and grow naturally as a result of his relationship and marriage to you. Regard your frustration as a warning sign that you are not succeeding in the twin tasks of open communication and acceptance.

Further Help and Resources
On Trans4mind, Peter Shepherd has an excellent Communication and Relationships Course that is free of charge, which you can both do together to help you progress your discussions in a loving environment.

Peter Shepherd writes, "We may feel an obligation to help another who has wounds to be healed. This is a belief that needs clearing, because it leads to a co-dependent relationship and that's good for neither you or the other. We need to be clear, that our feelings about the other person are not colored by our feelings about ourselves (projection). And also to discriminate between a loving empathy for the other person and his feelings (that are the result of his own frustrations and distorted beliefs) and sympathy, which is usually an identification with the other that is of no help to either person. The only person who can heal another is that person him/herself. We can be of assistance if that person wants and requests it, but that's all, and if they don't want that then that's very much their right."

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