Refusing To Change
Stunts One’s Growth
I’m married. I like being married! It’s great and I wouldn’t change a thing.
My wife is a beautiful person, an incredible woman, a wonderful partner, and a great friend – as in best. I am grateful every day that she accepted my proposal and loves me still.
I actually joke that God partially blinded her for life on the day I proposed.
But I think we are lucky. Not every marriage is happy. Marital experience can range anywhere from bliss to dysphoria. In extreme cases it’s dangerous.
That’s a strange thing to say. You don’t associate danger with something God intended to make us secure but we all know it’s true. Something as potentially wholesome as marriage can become a war zone.
The real question has to do with change, though. People change people. It’s a fact. There’s is no such thing as a neutral relationship. Every person within emotional/intellectual/cultural range exerts influence.
And that applies to all people, not just family: neighbors, schoolmates, friends (close and not so close), teachers, employers, fellow employees, colleagues and more.
Accents illustrate the point. Everyone has an accent but no one has any recollection of trying to form one. It just happens. We become like the people around us.
We don’t even know where accents come from but accents are evidence that each one of us is influenced by the people around us whether we want that or not. This truth has both positive and negative effects.
One bully can bruise your psyche for life, the negative. One good teacher can unleash your possibilities, the positive.
But what about marriage? Is any relationship closer? Should we be surprised that marriage changes us in the deepest and most profound ways? Hopefully in good ways but, good or bad, marriage changes you. You must expect it and be open for it to happen. It works best when we approach it with the right attitude.
Marriage Requires Change
Describing it simply, marriage is two relatively independent people agreeing to become somewhat dependent where personal needs are concerned. There is pressure in that. It isn’t a bad pressure but it is pressure. Like gravity, it keeps us relationally grounded.
Ideally, married partners want the same thing:
Satisfaction personally and a happy and secure household.
But the smartest people, the ones who become the happiest, are those who approach marriage knowing that change is coming.
Marriage is two people who decide to become a team. Instead of two separate individuals, partners become one unit. They retain their individuality. Each will always be responsible for their own actions, but they work in unison. Blending their strengths and weaknesses is the object. They know this going in.
But that’s not the biggest change produced by marriage.
Marriage Is Discovery
There is a certain amount of discovery that takes place between married individuals, not live-togethers but people who actually tie the knot. According to write-ups on the topic, replacing a live-together situation with marriage adds a sense security. The kind of security that liberates us to be ourselves and liberates each partner to fully surrender to one another and the relationship.
That’s an important difference. Living together is nothing more than an extended date. You can never be sure your role as a starter is solidified until you hear “I do!” Marriage is the moment when each party singles out the other as “The One!”
In the live-together stage, you’re only a possibility.
You don’t need to live together to discover a person’s toothbrush or toilet roll habits. If you’re curious, ask if they hang the bath towel properly or chuck on the floor.
And living together or not there is always a risk when you get married.
The things people hide from one another before they get married are not necessarily made obvious just by inhabiting the same space. If a person hides who they really are while dating, then living together only enables them to learn deception at close range.
It’s not so much discovering the person you married is not who you thought they were. That is one issue but another is discovering they aren’t how you thought they were. Toothbrushes and toilet rolls notwithstanding, impulses fire at different times and in different ways. You may not realize just how true that is till you’ve been married a long time.
And even when you think you have figured your partner out, they may surprise you.
A person who by nature is tightfisted can still make one colossally poor monetary decision that affects everyone in the family for a long time. You don’t see it coming or expect it, but all of a sudden it happens.
That’s a truth we don’t often talk about. Decisions are like garlic. Once you crush the clove, everyone in the room knows it. You can’t isolate the people you are connected with from the bad decisions you make.
But getting back to my original point.
No one marries their reflection. Each person is unique. We’re all similar but no two people will ever be the same. The differences push for change. If one person loves and eats liver every week and the other hates it, something has to give.
That happened to us. In the earliest years of our marriage, we were poor. Our lifestyle was limited by an ultra-small budget. Liver was the cheapest meat available. I hate liver but learned to like it. The choices were few and my wife cooked liver as well as anyone could.
And that brings us to an important point about marriage.
Marriage is two people changing their personal focus from me, what I want and how I feel, to you and us. What is best for us? How can one partner love the other without recognizing the things they do or don’t do, like or don’t like.
What are you thinking? What Do you want?
Some people struggle with marriage. For them, it’s not a happy place and there could be many reasons for that.
- Maybe both refuse to change.
- Maybe one changes and the other not.
- Maybe each is focused on changing the partner rather than changing for the partner.
- Maybe one or both are incapable of the changes needed to meet in the middle.
It happens! And there is no set answer to blanket all marriages. We’re all different. Each marriage is different.
Marriage counseling doesn’t impose a set of universal rules on partners. There is no ideal husband or wife to mimic. Counselors do, however, help partners discover the friction points where change can occur.
Keep these things in mind:
One, marriage will definitely change you. People change people.
Two, marriage is managed best when each partner plans to change and making a deliberate effort to change is one way to say I love you!
Three, though marriage will change you, it should never be allowed to hurt you. Change is not the same thing as warping your personal identity. Marriage draws each partner out and makes each one a better person. It never diminishes one at the expense of another.