What is it about wives that make us want to mold our mates into becoming better men? It starts before we walk down the aisle when we choose to see the potential instead of the reality. “He would be perfect if only…” “He’s a great guy except…” “There’s just one thing about him that could be better…” “I love everything about him except…”
His positives outweigh his negatives so we ignore the latter. Until what once we could overlook begins to bug us. And then, we begin the relentless process of creating a better man.
Wanting to change him
A well-known marriage idiom goes, “Women marry men, hoping they’ll change. Men marry women, hoping they’ll never change.” Every wise wife will tell young women that a man can’t be changed, but that is only slightly true. Everyone changes over time. It’s just not necessarily in the way or in the timeframe that you would like.
Our motives may be pure. We may sincerely believe that our mates will be better off with just a little tweak here and there. If he didn’t smoke, he’d enjoy better health not to mention keep more money in his pocket. If he only went back to school, he’d get a better job and feel more confident about himself. If he were less self-centered, he could develop better relationships with the kids. If he didn’t waste his time playing video games, drinking six-packs, hanging out with his friends all weekend…he could be a better man.
Consequences of “helping a man change”
A smart wife can wield a lot of influence on her man which can have positive effect, but when a woman forces a man to change, there can be hidden consequences beneath the outward “change” of behavior. Conflicts ensue; resentments build. Both undermine the marital relationship over time. So, a wife can see immediate “change” but not the long-term damage her “help” is doing to her marriage.
What your “help” is telling him
No matter how pure your intentions, your efforts to help your mate become a better man imply that he isn’t good enough. Even if you tell him that he’s good enough but can be better, no man can feel good about himself if his wife is prodding him from behind up a never-ending ladder of self-improvement. True self development must come from the self. The best and only way to truly affect lasting change comes from within. Self-motivation. Self-improvement.
When it’s your problem, not his
Even though everyone can benefit from self-improvement, no one is perfect and not every flawed trait or behavior needs to be changed. As quirky, odd, annoying or even counterproductive as our habits can be, they make us who we are. Uniquely individual. Some things should be left well enough alone. If something about him relentlessly bothers you, it could be your problem.
It’s your problem if…
…you want him to “improve” because it will improve your image.
…his “flaws” are viewed as imperfections in your efforts to create the perfect home, perfect family and perfect life.
…there is no real life consequence to his behavior. For example, if his annoying behavior does not affect your joint finances, family affairs or anything serious.
The magic of accepting him as is
Most wives have only their husbands’ best intentions in mind when they suggest changes. I know. I was one of them. I worried my husband’s poor health habits would kill him prematurely. Or his careless financial habits would keep him on that hamster wheel of hard work beyond retirement age.
It took me years (27 years to be exact) finally to understand that forcing change from the outside (as in nagging, complaining and criticizing) only made him feel badly towards me. Even when he knew I was right to point out the damage his habits would have, it did not motivate him to change, just hunker down and feel worse about himself.
There is a magic that happens when you accept your husband as he is. Only when he believes he is good enough can he feel the desire to be even better. He becomes self-motivated because he knows that he has the power to achieve anything as long as he has the love, respect and acceptance from his own wife and life partner.
In an indirect way, a wife still has profound influence over her man. There are ways she can inspire change. But that is the subject of another article entirely.