Of course, you love your spouse dearly, but I’m sure you know how he or she could be just a little bit better. It’s obvious, right? You married them for who they are, but now that you really know them, you know how they could improve. But getting them to change is hard. Nagging doesn’t work. Sincere discussion with lots of “I messages” probably hasn’t done the trick either. But don’t give up. Change is possible and I’m going to tell you how.

Experts and self-help books will tell you can’t change another person. What do they know? They tell you to accept people for who they are. Silly! Or, the only person you can change is yourself. Ha! So not true. They are on their own journey. Rubbish – give them a different map. You know what’s best for him or her, right?

You may ask what qualifications do I have to give this advice. None, actually. I haven’t studied this and I don’t have any formal training. I don’t have any licenses or certifications either. However, I gotta admit that my track record is pretty darn good. While my sample size of one is less than ideal, the results are impressive, if I do say so myself.

You can change another person and my husband’s living proof of it. Let me tell you how I did it.

You Can’t Care

First, we start with the hardest step: you have to 100% not care if he or she changes. Not at all. Pretending not to care doesn’t cut it. They will sniff that out right away like a drug dog discovering an Egg McMuffin. Truly, deep down, you have to not give a rat’s a** if they change. Drop your desire for their improvement like a hot potato.

If you have wanted them to change for a long time, this is going to be tough. I never said this would be easy. But remember folks, no pain, no gain!  You gotta work on it. Make it your number one goal. Repeat after me, “I don’t need my loved one to change.” Or “Let go and let God.” If that doesn’t work, consider prayer, a support group, journaling or therapy.

If you can’t not care, you are out of luck. Stop reading now. Change will not happen. You just have to find a way to let go.

You Don’t Get to Choose

Changing someone when you don’t care if they change is tricky. If you don’t care, how do you decide what needs to change? Here’s the secret: you don’t get to choose. If you have specific ideas about how they could be better, they will sense the talons of control descending upon them and dig in their heels. It will be like trying to get your cat into a carrier to go to the vet. Get ready for some hissing and scratching.

Let the Magic Begin

Now that you’ve found a way to not care and haven’t chosen anything about him or her that needs to change, the magic can begin. Try new things that make you healthier and happier. Live the life you want and see what happens.

Almost a year ago, I was reading a book about Alzheimer’s Prevention (“The Alzheimer’s Solution” by Drs. Sherzai) that recommended a whole food, plant-based diet (code for vegan) along with no added sugar. At first, I thought this way of eating sounded like a sentence worse than death. I howled, “Oh no!!!!!!” as I read the book. I didn’t want it to be true! But Alzheimer’s runs in my family and I don’t want to get it, so I gave it a try.

My husband Joe ate a somewhat healthy and traditional diet – never, ever, ever in a million years did I expect him to change how he ate. Why would he do that? Of course I want him to be as healthy as possible, but I didn’t really care if he began eating plant-based or not. This was just something I was going to do. No big deal.

But then we were on a road trip and listened to an interview with Dr. Kim Williams, former head of the American College of Cardiology, that extolled the widespread benefits of giving up animal products. Within a couple of weeks, my husband had gone vegan. I was (and still am) shocked.

How did this happen? Well, I followed my own advice. First, I didn’t care if he changed. Second, I didn’t want him to change his diet specifically. And third, I was minding my own business and just trying to make myself healthier. And the unexpected happened: my husband jumped on the vegan train with me.

More Examples of Change

There are many more examples of how I’ve changed Joe. Always a cat-lover, he now calls our dogs, “The best friends he never knew he needed.” He now listens to classical music and is a yoga devotee too.

He says that I’ve changed almost everything about him. And I haven’t tried one bit.

All of this might make him sound like a malleable, wishy-washy person. But he’s not. He’s strong willed and opinionated. However, he’s open to good ideas and like most of us, willing to change when he doesn’t feel pressured to do so.

Perhaps this approach is called leading by example or being a good role model. Maybe there’s some synergy mixed in there too. But all of that sounds kind of formal. I like to think of it as freedom – freedom for me to live my life and for him to live his. And what do you know, it leads to some interesting developments.

I suppose Joe has changed me too in our years together. I’m living in a downtown condo and never thought I would enjoy that, but I do. He’s good at helping me get outside of my sometimes boring way of thinking.

It’s a paradox. If you want someone to change, they won’t. If you leave them alone and enjoy them for who they are, some mighty interesting things might happen. Or maybe they won’t. We don’t care, right? 🙂