Hoping a Spouse Will Change

Colleen Sheehy Orme

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I write about relationships but my career began in marketing. The two sound wildly different. They are not. To decipher the undercurrent of a business, one has to have the ability to see beyond the obvious. They must understand human behavior and relationships.

I read a few words from marketing visionary Peter Shankman about change.

"All I ask of you today is to think about how hard it is to change yourself, Whether you're trying to stop a bad habit, lose weight, learn a new skill, whatever. Changing yourself is super, super difficult, right? Once you realize how hard it is to change yourself, you'll realize what little chance you have of ever changing someone else."

I first met Peter in the early days of HARO. HARO stands for Help A Reporter Out, a transformative connection between journalists and PR professionals. Shankman morphed a Facebook group into an email and a business he would sell only three years later. He is a world-renowned entrepreneur, author, and speaker.

Peter Shankman's distinction is that of a true visionary and thought leader.

The ability to take a complex thought and dumb it down. To make it consumable in an otherwise noisy world. Many of us seek to change something about our spouses. We invest a significant amount of time doing it.

If not actively, we allow it to occupy space in our minds.

I've devoted a decade to counseling and researching relationships. I write about this topic. I explain the inability to control others. We can only manage ourselves. I clarify the difference between growth and change. I promote counseling for one when two parties won't engage in couple therapy.

It's the foundation of my own thought leadership, reflection, restoration, and resurrection.

Yet Shankman's words were transformative.

They emphasize the daily absurdity most of us exercise. Even those who've abandoned the need to change people. We spend too much time focusing on others. It distracts from positive personal change. The type we neglect to make time for.

We are better suited to indulging ourselves. To inspire by our own pursuits and example. To invest in a better version of who we hope to be. The purpose and passion we want to live. A leader can motivate more than the begging pleas of a beleaguered spouse.

Peter closed his thoughts with the following words:

"Use your time wisely. Don't try and change other people. Focus on improving yourself for the better. That's all you can do."

So simple. So profound. I talk about my experience of marriage counseling for one. It wasn't my choice. It was the result of my options. But it became the core of my beliefs. Our relationship with ourselves must be prioritized. All else stems from it. I couldn't change my husband. I could only grow myself.

It was a gamble.

There was a chance it would bring us closer together. Or widen our gap. A risk I was willing to take.

Because I couldn't change my spouse. I couldn't will him into trying harder or caring more. I couldn't make him do anything he didn't want to do. It was either perish together or prosper personally. I wasn't ready to leave him. And I wasn't willing to remain stagnant.

Relationships are at the core of every interaction we have.

They involve two but start with one, the only one we can change.

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Colleen Sheehy Orme is a National Relationship Columnist, freelance journalist, and former business columnist. She writes about love, relationships, and self-restoration. She has spent more than a decade in research and counseling on the topics of divorce, relationships, and Narcissistic personality disorder.

Reston, VA
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