How To Change Your Husband (Or Wife)
Welcome to another episode of Full Frontal Fatherhood.
Today I want to talk to you, the mothers, about how you can change your husbands. And yes, this works on women as well. I know a lot of you women are very frustrated with how your husbands act or don’t act and wish you had some way to influence their behavior. Unfortunately, most of the things that women and men do to change their partners backfire.
1st Step: Stop what Doesn’t Work
As you probably know, and yet don’t know what else to do, when you put pressure on somebody they resist. They do the opposite. We all do it. We were all controlled far too much as children and we have this instinctual response to push away when we feel pressure. Yes, sometimes we will acquiesce or go along or be good for some period of time, but it’s not sustainable. Before you know it, no matter how nice you were when you asked your husband to help out, it will fall off and you’ll be left with the same old pattern.
Unfortunately, nagging and controlling and writing a list and telling him how he could be better, or even asking him in a nice way, “Could you do x, y, and z?” all of it doesn’t lead to sustainable change. Which is extremely frustrating, because we need to be able to collaborate.
2nd Step: The Power of Vulnerability & Empathy
If the first step to changing your partner is to not put pressure on them, the second step is to take advantage of empathy. Empathy is when we feel what another person is going through. If somebody we care about is suffering, we feel empathic towards them and we are motivated deeply to help them. If you share your difficult experience with your partner and ask for their help in not feeling that, they’ll be motivated both to help you and to find a good solution. Next time you’re struggling with something, go and talk to your partner and say, “Hey, can you listen to me for a few minutes? I’m struggling with something and I’d really like to work it out.”
Now that you have their attention, share with them whatever is happening for you. Say something like, “It’s so hard for me how rarely it seems like you clean the kitchen. I always feel like it’s up to me. After dinner you disappear and I’m left to it. Maybe I’m just distorting that in my mind, but I feel all alone in that moment and I hate feeling all alone like that. I wish we could do it together in some way, but I also get that you need time to check out after your long day at work. Is there some way that we could work this out together?” You share your feelings and you ask for help in solving the problem, but only once you’ve asked for the other’s attention.
3rd Step: Dolphin Training
The third step to creating long-term, sustainable change in your partner is acknowledgement. Acknowledging your partner any time they do something even close to what you like has a remarkable affect. The way that trainers get dolphins to do amazing tricks up into the sky is that any time the dolphin does something even close to what the trainer wants, the dolphin gets a treat and acknowledgement. The dolphin learns: “If I do this, I get what I want.” That creates a deep motivation to do that more. They never chastise or punish or do any negative reinforcement to the dolphin. It’s all positive.
So next time your husband cleans up part of the kitchen, don’t point out how he didn’t clean the rest. That will lead to him cleaning less of the kitchen next time. Point out your appreciation for what he did clean. That will lead to an increased desire to clean more in the future.
We are just like dolphins. When we get positive feedback in a sincere way we feel valued and motivated. Of course it can’t be manipulative. It doesn’t work if we’re really saying, “Wow, you finally cleaned up the bathroom. That’s great, honey. Thanks a lot.” That’s not going to go anywhere.
If you’re sincerely expressing appreciation for all the little things that your partner does, that will inspire them to do more. There is no value in the negative comments. There’s no value in saying, “Oh, that doesn’t work for me. Don’t do that.” Yes, have these conversations like I said in the first step where you sit down with your partner and you communicate how it is for you in that experience and work it out together. But this is done within the framework of asking to be listened to and supported, which is far different from just being prodded randomly throughout the day.
The three things that you can do to change your partner are:
1. Don’t be controlling in any way or apply any pressure to them. Even through asking them to do things for you.
2. Go and share your feelings and ask them to solve the problem with you.
3. Acknowledge anything they do that you like.
These three things can actually lead to sustainable, long-term change.
Thanks for joining me for another episode of Full Frontal Fatherhood. I would love to hear your thoughts on this juicy and controversial subject. Please join the conversation below, but let’s keep it friendly because this is hard stuff and we’re all really doing our best. If you like the video, please share it with your friends and I’ll see you next Friday for another episode of Full Frontal Fatherhood.