“Men marry women with the hope they will never change. Women marry men with the hope they will change. Invariably they are both disappointed.”
— Albert Einstein
Change is an inevitable fact in life, let alone married life. Yet there is too much change for one gender, generally, and not enough change for the other. One hopes for improvement, whilst the other hopes things will remain as they are. Both have unrealistic hopes. Both will have their expectations dashed against the rocks of marital realism.
Hopes and expectations are strange things in marriage. We tend to wander wistfully into a lifelong arrangement without the balance of pragmatism guarding our way.
In many of our marriages we had no other hope than be disappointed. And when we approached this disappointment from an angle of humble recognition, we understood, finally, that we both needed to change; but in different ways than we initially thought.
The Subject of Change in Marriage
As with anything in the relational life, the moment we begin to expect change, forcing it without an unequivocal agreement or contract between parties, is the moment we end up facilitating a conflict situation. The sparks fly!
There is a principle here: there is power in asking, but force in telling. When we tell someone to do anything we can expect resistance. But when we co-opt them in negotiation, always allowing an out, always providing for flexibility, it can be surprising just how much someone may be willing to bend our way.
The subject of change in marriage is never more poignant. Because one party may refuse to budge, and the other party may insist on change, both will be unhappy. We can just imagine how much individual and collective freedom there would be if one backed off enough to allow the other to change toward them.
This, of course, is a risk. There may not be change forthcoming. Perhaps the willingness to change or not is proof of love, or it least of the ability of one to give to another. Relationships don’t work very well when only one party gives. But when we give to one, in faith, most of the time there will be some return.
Inevitably mature married couples will have negotiated these tremulous roads, having found their way, eventually, to a gentle and safe one-way street where both travel their days happily in the same direction, give or take.
Change is a massive issue in marriage. If we expect change we will be disappointed. If we expect nothing to change we will be equally disappointed. Marital happiness exists in being flexible enough around change that both parties’ are considered.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.