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Thursday, February 21, 2013

What to Do When Your Spouse Won't Change

It can be very frustrating to be in a marriage with a spouse who won't change.  You might see  clearly that your spouse's behavior is unhealthy for him and you, but he either can't or won't change.  With the best of intentions, you might speak to your spouse about how you are affected by his problems and ask him, maybe even plead with him, to change.  Maybe the two of you argue constantly about this.  So, what can you do when you feel his problems are ruining the marriage, but he refuses to change?

What to Do When Your Spouse Won't Change
There Are No Easy Answers:  No One Can Tell You What to Do
No one can tell you what to do. Each situation is unique.  Of course, if you're in a situation that's dangerous, you need to get out immediately to remove yourself from harm's way, and stay with a trusted friend or relative.

Here are some of the most common issues I hear about as a psychotherapist from clients who want their spouses to change (for the sake of simplicity, I'm writing about husbands, but these issues also apply to wives):
  • "He drinks too much."
  • "He's gambling away our life savings."
  • "He's cheating with other women."
  • "He's constantly disappointing me by making plans and canceling."
  • "He belittles and embarrasses me in front of our family and friends."
  • "He lies to me."
  • "He refuses to have a discussion with me about our marriage."
  • "He's constantly watching TV, on the computer or iPhone, and he doesn't pay attention to me."
You Can't Change Him
If you haven't discovered it already, the one thing that's true in all relationships is that you can't change anyone, except yourself.  As much as you might see how much happier you and your husband would be if he changed, only he can change if he wants to change.  You can't do it for him, no matter how well meaning you are.  

You Need to Be Honest With Yourself
  • How much is this problem bothering you?
  • Do you think it's something you can't live with any more?
  • Do you feel like you're getting to the end of your patience with your spouse?
  • Are you contemplating a separation or a divorce?
You Can Only Change Yourself
In situations that aren't dangerous, when you've been feeling frustrated for a while, only you know how much longer you can deal with the situation.  If you've recommended marriage counseling to your husband and he refuses to go, you could benefit from going to individual therapy to help you deal with the stressful situation at home and to avoid becoming depressed and anxious.  

Get Help
It can be very confusing and lonely to go through this by yourself.  Even if you have good friends and supportive family, they might not understand.  A skilled therapist, who is objective, can help you to explore what you feel is best for you.  She can help you to develop the inner emotional resources that will help you to take care of yourself, whatever you decide to do.  

You deserve to be happy.  If you're in an unhappy marriage where your spouse refuses to get help or to participate in marriage counseling, you owe it to yourself to get the help you need to lead a more fulfilling life.

I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist.  I work with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006.

Resource:
Al-Anon:  For issues related to codependency, many people find Al-Anon meetings to be very helpful.  Click on the link above and find a meeting near you.

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