A husband's and wife's wedding bands on an open dictionary over theh word marriage

For Years, I Desperately Wanted My Husband to Change

Greg and I met when I was 15 and he was 16. We dated for 6 years and married when I was 21 and he was 22 on May 28, 1994.

We were both believers in Christ. We both had strong Christian families with parents who had solid marriages and who had set pretty good examples for us.

I was sure this whole marriage thing was going to be a piece of cake!

Our Early Years

A lot of the misunderstandings we had in those early years could have been prevented if we had a better understanding of the differences between men and women and about the different personality types. Or if we had a strong mentoring couple to help guide us or some really great counseling, books, or resources.

But because I didn’t grasp how different we were and that it was actually a good thing that we were not identical—I spent over 14 years of our marriage telling God to change Greg. And telling Greg he needed to change.

I didn’t focus on all his strengths and good qualities. (And he actually had a lot of those.)

I prayed for things like:

  • He needs to talk with me more.
  • He needs to quit watching TV so much and spend hours connecting with me each day.
  • He should do a better job leading me and our family.
  • He should be a better Christian.
  • He should tell me more about what he’s thinking and not be so quiet.
  • He should give me a lot more compliments.
  • He should enjoy me more.

And when those things didn’t change, and he became quieter and more withdrawn, I felt very unloved. So I upped my volume. And he pulled farther away. I didn’t understand!

It’s not that the things I wanted were necessarily “wrong.” Wanting to feel close to your husband and to feel loved by him is a good thing. But the way I approached my husband was not honoring to the Lord.

My Approach and Motives Weren’t Healthy

I was actually sabotaging the very things I wanted most. I didn’t realize that I was pushing Greg away by the way I spoke to him, the way I treated him, and even with my body language and tone of voice.

My approach was toxic, I just couldn’t see it. I was trying to control him and manipulate him into doing what I wanted.

I often told him all the things he needed to change and how he wasn’t doing a good job as a husband. I looked down on him. I was very generous with criticism about things he did, even in front of other people. I thought I was so much more spiritually mature than he was.

I truly believed I was always right and if he didn’t agree with me, he was automatically wrong. I couldn’t receive the idea that other perspectives could have merit, too. Pride can be very blinding.

If he tried to bring up another point of view or gently share his perspective, I would verbally shut him down. I was great with words and I had very powerful emotions to throw into the fire.

And even though I never called him names, threatened divorce, or physically assaulted him, I know now that he did not feel emotionally or spiritually safe with me—because he wasn’t.

He never told me how much I was hurting him. I thought he would tell me if I did something that offended him. But he just shut down more and more in silence.

I didn’t get it. Until God woke me up in December of 2008 when I read “Love and Respect” by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs.

Love and Respect Are Important Keys in Marriage

The book said that (based on Ephesians 5:22-30) a wife’s greatest need in marriage is love and a husband’s greatest need in marriage is respect. I had never thought about it like that, but I couldn’t argue that was what that passage was saying.

I discovered important things like:

  • When wives feel loved by their husbands, they tend to automatically respond with more respect for their husbands. When husbands feel respected by their wives, they tend to automatically respond with more love for their wives.
  • But when a wife feels unloved, she tends to have a knee-jerk disrespectful reaction. And when a husband feels disrespected, he tends to have a knee-jerk unloving reaction. And the “Crazy Cycle” spins round and round. Yep. That is where we have been. For years.
  • The only way to break this cycle is for one brave soul to selflessly put his/her own needs on the back burner and begin to give the other spouse what they need. Even without a guarantee of reciprocity. Just to honor the Lord and to bless the spouse and marriage.

I really hadn’t done much learning or studying about respect. I realized when I read this, that I didn’t know what it even meant to Greg for me to treat him with respect.

Wow! Did I ever have a lot to learn about being the wife God wanted me to be!

I knew immediately that I probably wasn’t a very respectful wife. And I repented right away to Greg and to God for my 14.5 years of almost constant disrespect. What a shock when Greg immediately forgave me. I couldn’t have forgiven him for even small things that quickly back then.

  • Maybe he wasn’t as far from God as I had assumed.
  • And, gulp! Maybe I wasn’t as close to God as I had assumed, either.

When I asked Greg about what would feel disrespectful and what would feel respectful to him, he wasn’t sure he could articulate it.

So I decided I would study the topic. I didn’t want our marriage to suffer because I was ignoring any of my responsibilities as a Christian wife. So I spent the next three and a half years studying over 30 books, journaling, praying, and reading my Bible for three-five hours per day, seven days per week.

I didn’t care what it took, I was going to learn to be a godly wife!

I stopped demanding that God change Greg. And for the first time in my life, I began begging the Lord to change me.

Lord, Change Me! Whatever It Takes!

I dove headfirst into studying everything I could about godly womanhood, biblical marriage, and being a godly wife. It took me a LONG time to figure things out. I didn’t have a mentoring wife. And I didn’t get much feedback from Greg for a few years. But I was determined to understand God’s design and His wisdom!

Greg hung back, waiting to see if this was going to be a real change or just another of my brief fads. I had read other books and tried other approaches. Usually, after a few weeks, if he didn’t change and do what I wanted, I would give up in frustration and anger.

I honestly wasn’t sure if God could lead me through Greg. I didn’t know at the time that if I gave him some space and the chance to lead, that he could actually lead very well. I didn’t have any guarantee that Greg would change at all. I didn’t know if I would feel more loved in my marriage one day. Or if Greg would ever feel genuinely respected by me.

The only guarantee I had from God was that He was willing to change me if I was willing to lay everything bare before Him and let Him dig around in the darkest places of my mind and rip out the nasty stuff so He could heal me. I knew He could change me. And that had to be enough.

But God, What About Him?

Sometimes, I would try new things and work and work for weeks or months, and it seemed like we weren’t getting anywhere.

I would get frustrated, and pray, “God, I am trying so hard, and I don’t see Greg changing. He is still really quiet and shut down. He still doesn’t do all the things I want him to do for me!”

And God would so sweetly, gently speak to my soul, “April, why are you doing all of these things? Why do you want to change yourself? Is it just to please Me? Is it simply out of love and obedience for Me? Or is this just a new way to try to control Greg to get what you want from him? Are you still depending on what he does for your identity and security? Is he still your idol? Or are you looking to Me to meet the deepest needs of your soul?”

I decided that I wanted God to change me and that I wanted to obey God and pattern my life after His wisdom and His Word for me no matter if Greg ever changed or not. No matter if I ever felt more connection in our marriage or not. No matter if anyone else joined me. No matter what anyone else said or did. I decided that God was completely worthy of my all.

And even though it was scary, at first, this decision was LIBERATING and POWERFUL!

God broke the chains of codependency and my idolatry of my husband during those painstaking three plus years. He helped me learn to live for an Audience of One. He helped me see that the only thing that mattered was pleasing Him. Not anyone else. Not even myself.

The wild thing was, as I stopped demanding that Greg give me what I wanted and as I learned to selflessly be a blessing to him just to honor the Lord—God began to slowly… very, very slowly heal us both.

What Will Your Story Be?

I can’t guarantee you that if you decide to seek Christ first and allow Him to transform your life by the power of His Word, the Bible, and His Spirit, that your husband will be healed and your marriage will grow and flourish.

But I can tell you that if there is going to be healing, this is the path to take.

And I can tell you that God can heal and change you. And that you can live by His strength so that you don’t have to have constant regrets about what you think, say, and do. And you can have peace with God, knowing that you are allowing Him to conform you to the image of Christ.

You can know that God will honor your obedience and reward you with eternal rewards in heaven that nothing on this earth could rival.

And you can invite God, the sovereign Lord of the universe, to cleanse you and make you a powerful example and instrument in His hand to attract your husband toward Himself.

Ultimately, we each answer to God alone when this life is over. We each have free will. We don’t get to control other people’s decisions. God, Himself, doesn’t try to do that.

But what we can do is be as close to God as we can be. And we can allow God’s healing and love to pour into us and splash out of our lives to bless everyone we touch. We can be a godly influence on our husbands. We can choose to use our influence in ways that bring healing instead of dysfunction when Jesus is on the throne of our lives.

We can choose to live in the very center of God’s will for us and enjoy rich fellowship with Him no matter what circumstances we may face. He will help us through every trial and even use it all for our ultimate good and His glory. The painful times are often times of purification and refining fire.

For more about my story and to find a potential guide for your own journey into being a godly wife, check out

The Peaceful Wife Book.

Verses For Reflection This Week

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. Matt. 7:3-5

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. Hebrews 11:6

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. Gal. 1:10

Not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, Eph. 6:6

SHARE

Can you relate to my story? Why or why not?

Is it a struggle for you to decide to honor Christ just because He is worthy of all of our love, submission, obedience, and trust? If so, what is the hardest part? If not, what helped you overcome your fear?

Much love!

NOTE

If you are dealing with severe issues in your marriage like abuse, uncontrolled mental illness, demonic possession, addictions, or infidelity please seek the wise counsel of an experienced, godly counselor you can trust. And seek out other resources as appropriate, as well—medical help, legal counsel, or police protection—if needed.

RELATED

Things Got Worse When I Began to Change by The Restored Wife

What Is Respect in Marriage?

25 Ways to Respect Myself

Why Is My Husband Not More Supportive As I Try to Change?

The Cure for My Compulsion to Control

THE PLAN OF SALVATION

22 thoughts to “For Years, I Desperately Wanted My Husband to Change”

  1. April, you are amazing and continue to be SUCH a blessing to me! I really need to donate to your ministry because you’ve made a huge difference in my life!!! I think every wife needs to read your blog!!!

    1. BrokenButGrowing,

      I am so thankful that God has done miracles in my life and what an honor it is to share His power with my sisters. May God bless you and your marriage.

  2. Thank you so much for this post. I’ve been reading your blog a lot, but it is definitely hard to undo years of habits. You give me so much hope… Thanks again for sharing your story.

    JB
    Charlotte, NC

  3. I am in about week four of “I’m going to be the one who loves and respects even when I’m not receiving anything in return” and I needed this encouragement and a reminder that I’m not doing this to control, I’m doing this to surrender my life to God and if that heals my marriage, then so be it. And if it doesn’t heal my marriage then I have a deep and personal relationship with my Savior so I win either way. When you are in the midst of the fight, it’s hard to remember that so thank you for the reminder.

    1. Tammy,

      I needed that reminder a LOT those first couple of years. Because my motives, if I was really honest, at first, were that I wanted to feel loved and I wanted Greg to do what I wanted him to do.

      God used those first 3 years to purify my motives a lot. I’m so thankful for that time now, beceause I needed it in order to be free from idolizing Greg and my own desires.

      Yes, when you have Jesus, you win no matter what happens in your marriage.

      You are most welcome. We all need encouragement on this journey!

      Much love!

  4. From an anonymous wife:

    Having endured a loveless marriage for over 40 years, I too struggled in the early years with “unanswered” prayers to change my husband. I eventually accepted that I was the one who had to change and reminded myself that my husband was just “wired” differently and I began focusing on the positives of my life.

    A few years ago we discovered that he was born with a mild type of autism (Aspergers) which affects the way he relates to people. Although the label helped me deal with my disappointments, I was still living in a loveless marriage. We tried counseling, reading marriage books together, and various retreats (all at my request). It didn’t seem to bother him, so I gave him space, respected his leadership (which led to our daughter marrying someone I was not in agreement with) and we continued in many fruitful ministry endeavors.

    A week before our 40th anniversary I discovered gay porn on his phone. He had been indulging in this since early in our marriage and it had escalated to gay “massage” sessions. We attended counseling (again, at my insistence) to get over the initial turbulence this new revelation caused. But now I am living with a gay, aspergers husband.

    The ministries we are both engaged in are strong and effective, so any public disclosure would destroy that work for the Lord. I have now accepted my living arrangement more as a ministry partnership. My husband continues to go to sexual addiction meetings and is accountable to a couple of the men there. It is not easy, but it is do-able with God’s faithful support.

    It’s not something I can talk to my friends about. The only ones who know are our counselors. There’s no recommendation here, just an opportunity for me to share and perhaps encourage others who are experiencing similar, loveless marriages. I found a quote a few weeks ago from a pastor I admire: “Marriage is not mainly for romance. Marriage is mainly for displaying the covenant-keeping love between Christ and His church.” – John Piper

    1. Anonymous wife,

      I am so very sorry to hear how painful and difficult things have been. I wish no spouse had to experience such things.

      I’m praying for God’s healing and comfort for you and His healing and glory in your marriage and in your husband’s life.

    2. God will bless you for sticking to your marriage vows and maintaining your husband’s privacy during this difficult time. Very few women would do that. You are truly nailed to the cross with Christ and will be rewarded abundantly for it.

  5. Hi April,
    I think that if our husbands changed quickly and easily, we wouldn’t be challenged to do the hard work of identifying our idols, seeing the logs in our own eyes and work hard to change ourselves.

    I married a man from a communist country who doesn’t know Christ. I prayed for him to come to Christ, bought him a Bible and some prayer books, invited him to church and have tried to encourage him to get to know Christ …. but that hasn’t worked. He told me more than once that as a believer, I should act like a better person. For example, I shouldn’t get angry or impatient or ever do anything hurtful or unkind to others. I humbly admit that he is right. My words and actions really do not always reflect the love, humility, beauty and kindness of Christ. It should be glaringly obvious to others, by my actions and words, that I am a Christian.

    Him “not changing” has done a lot to challenge me to spend more time in prayer and Bible reflection and to beg God to radically change me in every way. I want him, and our son, to see abundant fruit of the Spirit in my life so they would be inspired to come to Christ.

    You, April, are a great example to all of us. Your every post shows the beauty of Christ and I’m sure that you are a powerful instrument of transformation for your family and friends. Keep doing what you are doing.

    Lots of love,
    Nikki

    1. Niiki,

      You are SO right! If Greg had immediately changed, I know exactly what I would have done… gone right back into idolizing him and expecting him to meet my deepest needs instead of looking to the Lord.

      God is able to use even an unbelieving husband to point out a Christian wife’s sin. Isn’t that amazing? And as you continue to allow the Spirit to refine you, I pray that the Lord might work powerfully in your husband’s heart and life, as well.

      I praise God that He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it, my precious sister. I pray for the victory of Christ and for His greatest glory in your life and in your husband’s and son’s lives.

      I have to give all the credit for any good in me totally to Jesus. I pray He will use me to bless everyone around me with His love.

      Thanks for the encouragement and love!

      Much love,
      April <3

  6. Wow! What a powerful testimony! You describe my wife to a “T”…

    My approach was toxic, I just couldn’t see it. I was trying to control him and manipulate him into doing what I wanted.

    I often told him all the things he needed to change and how he wasn’t doing a good job as a husband. I looked down on him. I was very generous with criticism about things he did, even in front of other people. I thought I was so much SMARTER AND SOPHISTICATED than he was.

    I truly believed I was always right and if he didn’t agree with me, he was automatically wrong. I couldn’t receive the idea that other perspectives could have merit, too. Pride can be very blinding.

    If he tried to bring up another point of view or gently share his perspective, I would verbally shut him down. I was great with words and I had very powerful emotions to throw into the fire.

    And even though I never called him names, threatened divorce, or physically assaulted him, I know now that he did not feel emotionally or spiritually safe with me—because he wasn’t.

    He never told me how much I was hurting him. I thought he would tell me if I did something that offended him. But he just shut down more and more in silence. THIS IS HOW MEN TELL YOU YOU HURT THEM. THEY GO TO THEIR “CAVE” TO HEAL.

  7. Hi April,

    Your post prompted me to buy your book and I’ve been so broken over how much over my whole life I’ve gone my own way and told God it was better than his way. Sometimes it was in ways I thought were “Christian” and godly, but were my ideas of what I thought he wanted. It was my way of escaping from trauma and abuse, but it became sin that I expected God to do things “my way” and then would get confused and angry as to why it didn’t work.

    As I reflected back I realized that NOTHING MY WAY HAS WORKED. Even when God called me to my husband I told him, “this isn’t how i thought things should be.” And I sit here in tears realizing how I tried to rule my own life for so long and how its not only hurt me, but others as well, and most of all its impacted my relationship with God. I realize there’s only two ways, the way to destruction (the way I’ve gone for so long) or the way to life, which is complete surrender to God.

    Thank you for sharing your life and story with us. You’ve helped me to see how I’m ready to surrender and go God’s way.

    Sara

    1. Sara,
      Today is my birthday and this is the BEST birthday present ever! Even better than a big pack of toilet paper! (Ha!)

      How I praise God that He is working powerfully in you and transforming your heart and mind. And that you are open to what He is saying and the healing He wants to do out of His great love, mercy, and grace.

      I am so excited to see all that He will do in your life and marriage for His glory!

      Can’t wait to hug your neck either here on earth or one day in heaven!

      Much love! <3

      1. Awe Happy belated birthday, April! I’m praying God showers you with His blessings and love and that you are filled with a year of new joy springing in your heart. 🙂

        Yeah. I pretty much have highlighted almost every page! Especially where you talk about codependence and enmeshment. I often wondered even in dating “why doesn’t he have all the same feelings as me?” Also, his heart is much lighter than mine in many ways that are a blessing, but I took it as “he’s just not as deep as me” as I have tended towards being more serious due to my family trauma history. So many of your words have resonated with my heart and i’m only through chapter 3! But i’ve also had to stop and pause alot because theres been so much hitting my heart on each page. Like I’m being exposed to the depths of my soul for the purpose of knowing God the way he intended. You also wrote about how you became the “real” you. And that has given me so much hope. When we were dating and I was in the midst of working through trauma triggers, my now husband said, “I know the real sweet and kind you is underneath there.” So when you wrote that i thought, “oh my gosh! Its possible to find out who that person really is!”

        I could go on and on, but I’m gonna get to work on the homework in the book of writing down my false beliefs about myself, marriage, and God and look for scriptures. One of my lies has been “if i follow/trust God, i’m not going to get everything I want.” And what i really wanted from the beginning was a mother who loved me unconditionally. When I wrote that down God reminded me of Psalm 27:10 “Even if my mother and father forsake me, God will take me in.” Its amazing how powerful God’s word is and how he has already provided everything for us.

        May God continue to bless you, April! Thanks for going before us.

        Sara

        1. Sara,

          Thank you! It was a good birthday. A quiet one at home, but sweet.

          Interestingly, I didn’t have trauma as a child, but I am an identical twin and I was the dominant twin and my sister was the follower. We had a codependent relationship because I felt very overly responsible for her. She was always more sickly and fragile, so I became overly responsible and she was rather passive so I always made the decisions and took the lead. I took that same mindset into my marriage. I idolized Greg, but also myself, romance, and my will. I expected him to make me happy and to do whatever I wanted, no questions asked. I expected God to now to my will, too. But, like in your experience, my will never worked out very well.

          Thankfully, God healed Greg and me, but also my sister and our relationship. SO thankful!

          I am overjoyed at what you are learning and the insights God is showing you. So powerful and beautiful!

          I can’t wait to see all the healing and beauty God created in you.

          I’m honored to get to walk beside you on this incredible journey.

          Much love!
          April 🤗💜❤️💜

  8. April, I was led to your blog ~5 years ago after earnest prayer and a google search with your blog at the top. I have since recommended it to many people as an important part of my story and how I have survived the extreme emotional lows of my marriage due to my husband continually neglecting and rejecting my bids for connection. I saw increased peace in myself and in the relationship when I focused only on what I could control.

    However, I have gotten lazy in my focus on God (and idolizing “a happy marriage” instead) and have become dragged down lower than ever before lately. While not a truly abusive situation, in the past few months my husband has taken a turn for the worse and treated me with near-unbelievable unkindness, disrespect, resentment, and has broken my trust (despite me treating him with respect unconditionally). This new set of blows has been heart shattering. If not for our sweet children this would definitely call for an ultimatum of sorts that his denigrating behavior toward me change. But I don’t feel that is the answer right now.

    Reading through this blog post and comments has given me a renewed spark of hope that all can be well with Jesus. Specifically, your reminder that it’s a win win either way if I live the way I should. And the comment with the imagery of being nailed to the cross with Jesus really got me. Of course I am nothing compared to him but that imagery reminds me that he knows, he cares, and he saves. Even me, in this bleak situation.

    Thank you so much for your ministry. Marriage, and this life, is truly a marathon not a sprint, and occasional validation from my husband will not sustain it. You remind me that only God can sustain me. I have been woefully neglectful of my connection and relationship with him and right now, rather than dreading the morning and the inevitable hurt that will ensue from my interactions with my husband, I actually look forward to choosing to focus on God, and then blessing my children with the time we have to spend together in the new day.

    Even though I have not effectively implemented the Wisdom you’ve shared, your writing has made such an impact on me over the years and I thank God for your blog and for you. Thank you to Greg too for his insights through you which help me to understand what may be going on with my husband.

    I also send my support and love to whoever reads this comment. You’re not alone in reading comments for further insight, ideas, and validation. Life feels so unfair and unbearable from where we are at but I believe we have reason to rejoice anyways. <3

    1. Hope,

      It is so great to hear from you! Yes, there is much peace when we focus on God and on our obedience to Him, isn’t there?

      I am so very sorry to hear that things have been extremely difficult and painful in recent months. I am also glad you are turning your focus back to Jesus. When I focus on an idol, things are a mess! But when I put Jesus first and invite Him to radically change me and I yield fully to Him, I am close to Him. And when I am close to Him, that is the best place to be in all the world! Then He can give me the power, love, wisdom, discernment, and prompting I need to respond in His Spirit and to pour His goodness and healing into my relationships rather than destroying things even more with my flesh.

      Yes! Only God can truly sustain us. If we look to our husbands for our sense of security, identity, purpose, etc… we will inevitably be disappointed. Only God can meet the deepest needs of our hearts.

      Praying for a new chapter in Christ for you, dear sister. And praising God for all He is about to do in your life for His glory!

      Much love!

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