We’ve heard the following statement so many times from troubled spouses, “My spouse changed after we married.” Or they’ll say, “He or she isn’t the same person I married.” Sometimes they’ll say, “We just grew apart!” Actually, all three statements are true. Your spouse isn’t the same person you married. But then again, neither are you. And sometimes we do grow apart. But that doesn’t have to be a permanent condition.
I confess that I made those statements when we were having marital problems. Steve HAD changed into a different person from the one I married. Early in our marriage when he came down with Type-1 Diabetes, Steve’s temperament changed, and so did everything else. I didn’t even recognize this man as the one I had married. My spouse changed drastically and I just didn’t want to be married to him any longer. I wanted the man I originally married and the marriage we had before all of this happened. Steve and I write about this critical incident in our marriage in our book, 7 Essentials to Grow Your Marriage where God had to take me to task concerning this matter.
My Spouse Changed
Basically, I wanted to leave the marriage and be done with it. I told God that I hadn’t married a diabetic and never would have. One of my best friends while growing up, lost her father to Diabetes. I watched all that the family went through and swore I would never marry a diabetic. But then surprise! Steve came down with diabetes after we married. It was a shocking life changer for both of us. (Obviously there’s more to this story or we wouldn’t still be married, writing this Insight. You can read about it in our book.)
But I say all of this because Steve and I understand firsthand, how troubling it can be when it comes to light that a spouse changed after we marry them. In reality though, there’s no doubt that your spouse HAS changed.
“Your spouse isn’t the person you married—even if your wedding was yesterday (in fact, especially if your wedding was yesterday). Why? Because your spouse is a living, breathing, and thus changing human being.
“…Everyone changes. [Including you.] Everyone’s worldview evolves because we are thinking, emotional creatures. It’s naïve and foolish to believe that the views, opinions and values held by you or the person you married were cast in concrete on your wedding day.” (Teri K. & Paul C. Reisser, from their book, “Your Spouse Isn’t the Person You Married”)
It may be that your spouse changed because it’s a natural part of living, as noted above. But the same goes for you. Haven’t you changed? Are you exactly the same man or woman that you were before you married? Of course not!
Maybe it appears that your spouse has changed because your spouse didn’t give you all of the information about himself or herself that they should or could have. That could have been on purpose or for some other misguided reason. But, how about you? Did you give your future spouse every bit of information about yourself that would affect your marriage relationship? That’s just not possible.
Or could it be that your spouse changed because he or she didn’t even know that about him or herself until after you bumped into each other in the new dynamic of your married life together. Haven’t you learned new things about yourself as a result of how you interact with your spouse? Some changes can be good; others appear not to be so good, or are not good at all.
But what’s most important is what we do with those changes. What do we do with what is, at this present time, rather than what may have been, could have been, or we believe should have been? This is a crossroad time where we need to be careful. We can let our wants to take us places we shouldn’t go—emotionally and otherwise. Or we can use them as opportunities to help us to grow in healthy ways individually, and prayerfully grow closer together as a married couple.
Spouse Changed: Abusive Issues
Before we go on any further, we want you to know that we aren’t talking about abuse or adultery situations here. Yes, we can grow even in those types of situations. But abusive marriage issues need to be handled very differently than “normal” change points in marriage. If you’re in an abusive marriage, please look through the info we have in the Abuse in Marriage topic. We have additional adultery topics, as well. Some of the info we will give from this point on can be applied, even in the toughest of marital situations. But some can’t. So proceed very prayerfully, asking God for wisdom and discernment.
And that goes for everyone who reads this Insight. Always, always, whenever you are reading advice given by human beings, prayerfully glean through it. Seek wisdom from God and then from others. And then apply that, which God shows you can work (or be adapted) for your marriage. Leave the rest behind for someone else to use. Every marriage dynamic is different.
Change Will Happen
Lets go back to the fact that change WILL and does happen within people. It’s a reality.
“Old age takes its toll, but so do unexpected illnesses and injuries. You may have also discovered that your starry-eyed expectations for your spouse were a tad unrealistic. Or you now see a side of your spouse you were blind to when you were courting. He isn’t the corporate-ladder-climbing entrepreneur you expected him to be. After the kids were born, she never regained her girlish figure as you hoped. The social butterfly you dated has turned into a homebody. On top of all that, you now realize that your spouse is human, not an angel. He or she makes mistakes, forgets things occasionally, and is sometimes short-tempered with you.” (America’s Family Coaches)
There’s no doubt that it can be troubling to the marriage when it is discovered that your spouse changed after marrying them. But please note that it most importantly can be a growth point. What are you going to do with the change? Are you going to focus on the negative aspects, or are you going to grow with God as He directs you? It’s all a journey… and with God, there’s always a redeeming side.
And what about the changes and potential growth points of your marriage? Those have been especially surprising to us. Steve and I (just like you) vowed to be there for each other “for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer.” For us, the “worse” and “poorer” sure took us down paths we didn’t expect. It has been scary at times because of the unpredictability of the future. This has probably been true for you too (either now, and/or in the future).
Spouse Changed and Marriage Changed
Concerning this issue, author and marriage expert Bill Farrell said something that applied to us (and many of you):
“It’s amazing that after all the research, and all the teaching and training that’s been done, people still have a tendency to think that marriage is going to be the same throughout the years. They fall in love, and have met the right person. They have this magic between the two of them and it’s going to be like that forever. Then they enter real life and suddenly, life starts to change on them.
“What we know about people is that the change points in people’s lives are where the testing comes. In between those testing’s, they kind of get things settled and enter a season of life where they now know what to do. They’ll then cruise along for anywhere from one to ten years pretty well. And then a transition point hits and everything changes. Couples who expect, and who are prepared for it, tend to utilize those change points to become stronger couples. Couples who get surprised by those change points, tend to go into turmoil.” (From the Focus on the Family radio broadcast, “Tackling Midlife Transitions in Marriage”)
And that’s what happened to us. Earlier in our marriage we didn’t handle change points well at all. But thank God we learned better. And we’re still learning because life is fluid. Sometimes we still get shaken. However, we’re learning to go to God a lot quicker. We’re learning how to pick ourselves up a lot quicker. Additionally, we’re learning to lean in to go with God at these critical change points. As a result, we’ve both grown and so has our marriage.
We’re sharing below a few of the things we have learned that we believe will be helpful for your growth, as well. Most of these points are quoted from other “marriage experts.” But they are points that we have learned through, as well. It isn’t always important what you have lived through, but what you have learned through and pass onto others. So this is what we are passing onto you.
Below are a few suggestions to consider after realizing your spouse changed (and you have changed) after marrying. And/or they pertain to how your marriage changes at those critical transition points in marriage:
First off, realize:
• “Marriage changes as we change. The process is like any natural phenomenon—uneven, unpredictable, and relentless. Take the surges as they come.” (Toni Sciarra Poynter)
(Cindy talks about this in a blog titled, The Ups and Downs of Marriage. We recommend you read it if you find yourself in one of those seasons.)
Here’s another suggestion from Gerald Rogers:
“Fall in love over and over again. You constantly change. You’re not the same people you were when you got married. And in five years you won’t be the same person you are today. You have to re-choose each other everyday. If you don’t take care of your spouse’s heart, he/she may give it to someone else or seal you out completely. Always fight to win your spouse’s love just as you did when you were courting.”
Here’s what author Gary Thomas suggests:
“For some of you, the best thing you can do is start over and assume your husband or wife isn’t like most men and women. Get to know them all over again. Listen to what really affirms or scares or frustrates them. And then start relating to that person—the one you’re married to. In the end, that’s the only person who matters. Maybe some of you could even start a spouse journal, like my wife did—taking notes and trying to figure out her husband.” (From his book, “Cherish”)
Also, Teri K. and Paul C. Reisser give this marriage advice as it pertains to the many changes we make within our marriages:
“A wise spouse understands the critical importance of creating a scheduled and protected space on the calendar for the sole agenda of allowing the other person an opportunity to put into words what is currently incubating in the heart and mind.”
Here is another tip from author and blogger, Fawn Weaver:
“Say something like this to your spouse: ‘I want to make you and our marriage a priority every day of my life. What does that look like to you?’ Asking that question may yield some interesting results. …Remember, you and your spouse are constantly changing so questions like this keep you up to date on how they feel at this time of their life.” (From the Happywivesclub.com article, “5 Simple Ways to Prioritize Your Marriage Even in Busy Times”)
Be the First
We believe the above advice is wise so that you grow together. Our philosophy is that if you find yourself in a phase of your marriage where you feel out of sync with each other, you work on getting into sync. If you’ve “grown apart” then do the hard work of growing back together as a marital team. You won’t always think alike, but you can think together.
And if your spouse won’t join you in this (especially in the beginning), don’t let that stop you from doing your part. You never know what God will do with the changes that you make, rather than keeping your focus on your spouse’s stuff. Here’s a great article that talks us through that matter:
• WHY SHOULD I BE THE FIRST ONE TO CHANGE?
Another Way of Looking At It
Here’s something that author relationship expert Michele Weiner-Davis says about this issue:
“I have worked with so many people who live in quiet desperation because they are utterly convinced that their way of seeing things is right and their partner’s is wrong. They spend a lifetime trying to get their partners to share their views. I hear, ‘I’ll change if s/he changes,’ a philosophy that ultimately leads to a stalemate.
“There are many variations of this position. For example, ‘I’d be nicer to her, if she were nicer to me,’ or ‘I’d be more physical and affectionate if he were more communicative with me,’ or ‘I’d be more considerate and tell her about my plans if she wouldn’t hound me all the time about what I do.’ You get the picture… ‘I’ll be different if you start being different first.’ Trust me when I tell you that this can be a very, very long wait.
“There’s a much better way to view things when you and your partner get stuck like this. I’ve been working with couples for years and I’ve learned a lot about how change occurs in relationships. It is like a chain reaction. If one person changes, the other one does too. It really doesn’t matter who starts first. It’s simply a matter of tipping over the first domino. Change is reciprocal.”
So, what we’re trying to say here is to work on your own issues as it pertains to all of this. Steve was very resistant to change in the first part of our marriage. We still both can be sometimes, even at this point. But again, we’re learning. I learned early on is to keep my eyes off of Steve’s stuff and focus on mine. Let God work with Steve. I’m not responsible for him. I’m responsible for doing the right thing regardless.
And what has been amazing is how eventually (at least in our marriage and in others we know of) is that eventually the other spouse responds. Now Steve is just as quick to work on his issues, which positively influence me to work on mine. And the same is true visa versa.
And if your spouse hasn’t “changed for the better” yet, remember something that Gary Rosberg said:
“When you are trying to accept your spouse, try to remember how God responds to us in our weakness and failure. We are painfully aware of our own fumbling and bumbling as his children.”
Give grace whenever it is possible. Allow for points of growth and the need for grace. Consider the fact that you want grace given to you whenever you fumble or bumble; so does your spouse.
We know we have given you a lot to consider here. Please know that we understand that we don’t have it all figured out. But insight shared, can go a long way. We GREATLY welcome your tips in the comment section below on this matter. We hope you will.
Cindy and Steve Wright
— ADDITIONALLY —
We give a lot of practical tips to help you grow in your marriage partnership in our book, 7 ESSENTIALS to Grow Your Marriage. We hope you will pick up a copy for yourself. (It’s available both electronically and in print form.) Plus, it can make a great gift for someone else so you can invest in their marriage. And who doesn’t need that? Just click on the linked title or the “Now Available” picture below to do so:
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