By Peyton Garland, Crosswalk.com
I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a time or ten-hundred times when I’ve prayed, “Lord, I’m going to kill this man.” Whether he’s placing his dirty socks right beside the hamper (rather than inside the hamper), pretending to be asleep when the dogs want to go outside at three in the morning, or producing his own collection of dirty coffee mugs left to cramp up the car, I think to myself, “If he would just function like me, this wouldn’t be a problem.”
In short, I believe that yes, it’s okay to want to change your husband because that’s normal. It means you want him to progress as a Christian, husband, father, human being, etc.
After all, there are simple, around-the-house things that I would change about my husband, if I could. And then there are more complex, intricate things about him that are never mine to change... though I would love to grab the steering wheel and drive him toward better, cleaner, more spiritual, more “me” habits.
However, it’s not okay to believe that you actually can change your husband.
The Difference between Encouraging and Controlling
There’s a fine line between wanting him to carry his weight in the kitchen and believing you can actually make him enjoy the art of unloading the dishwasher. There’s an even thinner fine line between wanting him to join a Bible study on his own and signing him up for one yourself.
The “want to” should never reach a “force to” sort of action. These slippery slope actions create routines, and these routines can morph into an unbalanced, unhealthy relationship where no one is growing.
Full vulnerability, I couldn’t come face-to-face with the reality that I couldn’t “fix” my husband until I was honest with the mess I was creating. For the longest time, I would pick up his socks, I would wash his dishes, I would initiate the conversation about confirming that we were going to church that Sunday.
Rather than giving him the space to clean his own dishes, to lead and create the conversation, I would step in before he could. I was growing angry that I was doing all the work while he was doing nothing, but in all reality, I was the one throwing off the leadership dynamic, yet blaming him for it.
Let Your Husband Own His Job of Leadership
About a year ago, I was frustrated with Covid, with isolation, with mental health, and my marriage was nowhere near earning a five-star review. Agitation and frustration were couped up in our home, creating a natural, yet unhealthy hostility—instigated by me 99% of the time.
But, in the middle of that 1% moment, when my husband was in the wrong, rather than stepping in to fix the problem or lead the resolution, I simply looked at him and without yelling, screaming, or being dramatic. I firmly said, “Just lead. That’s your job. Now do it.”
When you approach your husband with the right tone, from a true place of wanting him to not only pick up the slack, but lead, it’s a whole different ball game--the kind of ball game that produces winning results.
He cocked his head at me, partially in shock, partially infuriated by my honesty that he could only take like a hard pill that he had to swallow. He took the dogs on an hour-long walk, just to think and blow off steam, and when he came back into our tiny apartment, he looked at me and said, “You were right.”
I didn’t throw confetti. I didn't say, “Told you so.” I just nodded my head, breathed a quiet sigh of relief, and thanked God that for once, my desire for him to change didn’t result in a full-blown war.
This doesn’t mean that he now understands what the true purpose of a hamper is. And, in fact, I picked up his cereal bowl and cleaned it myself just yesterday. But, when your desire for them to change is seen not as something that you can fix, but as something that’s meant to be worked out with healthy conversation and a faith that God will do the grunt work, change will happen without your assistance.
Realize Who the True Changer Is, and Focus on Yourself
In the meantime, you’ve gained a healthy respect for open, honest communication, and even better, you are now on a constant journey of surrendering control over to God.
Roles have swapped, everyone is functioning under the umbrella of heartfelt honesty and humility, and while he’s growing, you can focus on the areas where you need to learn, grow, and change too.
There’s no easy, one-time fix for fully accepting that it’s not in your control to change your husband, but you can rest assured that there are plenty of us wives out there who have those “God, if you don’t get him out of the house so I can actually get some work done” moments.
Trust me, we’ve all been there. We’re all still there... because he’s never going to follow you around with an apron and a bottle of Clorox.
But, once you let go of the control, of the expectations, of assuming you should take charge, God can implement some humility into your spirit. Humility creates the space for honest, yet encouraging conversations.
When you can calmly, yet hopefully say, “Hey, bud. It’s your time to lead,” you let him know that you have faith in him, that you want to see him succeed, and that deep, deep down, it’s your honor to let God grow the marriage.
Related Resource: Listen to our new, FREE podcast on marriage: Team Us. The best marriages have a teamwork mentality. Find practical, realistic ideas for strengthening your marriage. Listen to an episode here, and then head over to LifeAudio.com to check out all of our episodes:
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Peyton Garland is an author and coffee shop hopper who loves connecting people to a grace much bigger than expected. Her debut book, Not So by Myself, was promoted by Former White House Press Secretary Dana Perino and Endorsed by TED Talk speaker and creator of the More Love Letters Movement, Hannah Brencher. She lives in Colorado Springs with her husband, Josh, and their two gremlin dogs, Alfie and Daisy.