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4 Truths to Remember When Someone You Love Won’t Change

Sometimes, in spite of our pleas, those we love most get into a rut and seem unable to change or they simply refuse to change in. Often we respond by “doubling down” and tirelessly try to change them with even more pleading. But what if God has other ways than through us to bring about change?Do you wish your spouse would change? Or perhaps a child or a dear friend? When someone you love won't change, it can be difficult to discern our responsibility. Here are four truths to remember in the thick of it.

What Doesn’t Work

The woman was adamant: “I just think I need to tell him that what he’s doing is wrong.”

“Do you think it’s at all possible that he doesn’t know you think what he is doing is wrong?”

“Oh, he knows all right.”

“Then what’s the use of telling him what he already knows, as if what he lacks is information?”

This mom was frustrated with one of her family members. With a good heart and good intentions, she was bound and determined to “turn him around.” But sometimes in our determination, we lose all sense of logic. By her own admission, the person in question knew what she thought and felt, but she thought what she needed to do to “change” him was to let him know what she thought and felt.

I understand this frustration. I really do. When we are concerned about someone, our natural thought is, “What can I do to save them?”

I’m not saying we shouldn’t try. It’s noble and godly that we want to get involved. But sometimes we have to recognize that there are many ways for God to reach a person, and sometimes those ways don’t involve us.

For instance: wives, you may have an ongoing issue with your husband. You may have stated your feelings and concerns so often that as soon as you say the first sentence, your husband could give you, verbatim, your next ten sentences. And yet you continue to think that another “talk” will fix everything.

There comes a time when we have to say, “Lord, apparently I’m not getting through here. Would you please send someone he will listen to?”

The same is true if you’re trying to reach a child, or a recalcitrant wife. We naturally want to be part of the solution, but we must learn to love the solution more than we love being a part of it.


This means, at times we simply have to wait for God to bring about another solution. That’s not easy to do—even excruciating at times—so here are four truths that will give us hope while we wait:

  • Remember that God loves this person more than you do. He isn’t blind to what’s going on. You don’t have to convince Him that something needs to be done. He’s already on it.
  • Remember that God knows this person better than you do. If you can’t get through to them, God doesn’t throw up His hands in despair and say, “Well, I guess I’m out of options.” Have faith that God can/will engineer another avenue of revelation.
  • Remember that God created glaciers. In Sacred Influence, I interview a wife who loved her husband well for over two decades before he became a believer. I’ve talked to parents (a very famous one, in fact) whose children terrified them with their actions until, years later, they finally submitted to God and became active workers in God’s Kingdom. Any approach you take toward change has to be something you can do for the long-haul. God created glaciers, perhaps to show us the beauty of movement that is all but impossible to see while it’s happening.
  • Remember that as long as you are fixated on being the only solution, you become blind to the fact that there are things that need to be fixed about you as well. Focus on those things. You might even be part of the problem. Maybe you’re only five percent of the problem. But focus on your five percent.

These aren’t easy things to remember. It’s painful to intercede for someone and sense God replying, “You’ve done what you can. It’s time for you to leave this in my hands.” These four truths, however, should help us at least move in that direction. We must acknowledge God as God and accept that His solution may not involve us.


Gary Thomas, GaryThomas.com

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  1. What you’ve said is so true. It’s as though you were just narrating the things I’m doing but I’ve learnt. Letting go and letting God.
    Deep insite there.

  2. What would you say to the wife who has loved her husband through nearly a decade of infidelity and who is still unwilling to change?

    1. Nicole, I don’t believe that a woman has to put up with ten years’ of infidelity. If he hasn’t dealt with this in 10, it’ll probably go on past 15. It’s time for you to address this in a serious way with a pastor and counselor–with a view toward setting up consequences.

    2. Being in love with someone who is unfaithful is damaging to both you and to your family. Loving a person and being in love are two different things. God wants us always to love the other, meaning want for his good. Sometimes wanting the good of the other hurts us. Sometimes God needs us to get out of the way and let that other person experience the consequences of his own behavior. The consequences of infidelity is broken marriage vows. What is the logical consequence of broken marriage vows that are broken again and again? I am sorry for your pain, Nicole.

    3. Nicole, after begging, pleading, praying and fasting my way through 15 years of marriage to a man who neglected, rejected and was unfaithful to me, I finally narrowed it down to this (not sure of the source): 1) Change the changeable (this is likely YOU!); 2) Accept the unchangeable (this is about preferences and expectations, *not* accepting sinful behavior; 3) Remove yourself from the unacceptable (ongoing unrepentant sinful behavior). And only the Holy Spirit can confirm each step along this route, along with the counsel of godly people. REPENTANCE is key! Even God (who *loves* us unconditionally) will not be in *relationship* with us unless we are REPENTANT. I just paused to pray for you, Dear One! You are loved perfectly by Jesus, who is Faithful and True — your knight on a white horse! Rev 19:11

    4. I want to say: I’m sorry and you don’t deserve to be treated this way. It was on my heart to say SOMETHING… I don’t know if this is you or a friend, but whoever it is … they need a hug and to know that daughters of the King aren’t supposed to be treated this way…

  3. Thank you! I so needed to read this today. Please pray for my grown kids that I have surrender to the Lord, but fight the urge to be their conscience from time to time. Letting the Holy Spirit do His job is a daily voice.

  4. Wow! This is exactly what I needed to hear! I guess God’s trying to tell me something.?

  5. Hi Gary,

    I have read many of your books. They are excellent. After 4 ½ years of dating, I got married to a man who turned out to be somebody I never knew. I married a fictitious person. The day we married, his mask came off…his acting ended. I should have had the marriage annulled 3 weeks after our wedding, but didn’t. I found out he cheated on me, along with 1000 other lies. We went to a counselor a few times, and he told my husband that one more lie would be the nail in the coffin and that he needed to guard his heart. Long story short, he continued to lie to me and still is. He is a pathological liar. Our divorce will be final next week after just 17 months of marriage. I love my husband and don’t want this divorce. I have prayed and prayed for guidance from God. I keep thinking he will change…will stop with the deceit, but he hasn’t yet. He claims to love me and want to work things out and that he isn’t with anyone else, even though he left me 7 weeks ago and I have no idea where he is living. Do you think there is hope in this situation?

  6. Wow! I needed this. My husband left me 4 years ago and it has been very very difficult. But I’m at a point where I’m thankful that God allowed the Divorce. I had a great deal of maturing to do, (not done yet either), selfishness in my life, needing to Trust, Know and Love God, to get help for my anger, need to control and my need to forgive. He’s taught me so much about His power and Sovereignty through the tremendous pain and grief I’ve been through! Watching my ex hurt my children and I had stretched me in ways I never want to experience again. If it does though, I know I’ll run to my Abba Father first instead of friends or family! I’m lonely, but not alone. I’m learning things I would’ve never learned having been who I was. I’m on a new path, as a new creation, praying for many who have prodigal children spouses or friends

  7. This is EXACTLY what I’m going through right now! I needed this so badly and God supplied it for me! Thank you for sharing!!!

  8. How would you deal with a husband with a drinking problem for more than 15 years. I already know telling him it’s wrong doesn’t matter so I gave that up years ago. Now I don’t even bring it up, I pray for him that God will change him, but at this point I feel that he will die first.

  9. I’ve been Married 48 yrs this July. I’ve learned I can’t change no one‼️
    Each time I prayed for my husband to change God would take my finger & point it right to my heart‼️‼️ And so sweetly would say,you change only I can fix you‼️A wow moment that’s what I call them when God shows me something ?????????

  10. My husband won’t quit drinking. I am ready to leave. Or make him leave. I don’t want to see him hit bottom.

  11. This example could have been about me trying to deal with my son when he was 16 – 19…those 3 years were brutal because ” I just knew” he needed my help in order to be prepared for the real world. He left alright, but not the way I had imagined. He and I were both worried and afraid for the future and a little bitter about the arguments over the last 3 years. I stepped away, (put him on the alter and gave him to a loving Heavenly Father) allowed him to make his own choices, and quit saving him from the consequences…..My son is 22 now, he began making better choices for himself and reaps the rewards for his effort. I was fired as his parent….and hired as his consultant from time to time….it’s kind of nice!

  12. I have been dealing with an issue with my daughter for over 3 years now. She was involved in an emotionally abusive relationship for two full years. They broke up I don’t know how many times but she always took him back because he said he would change and never did. He calls her fat, she has no common sense, hollers at her for absolutely nothing and has caused so much tension in our family. He cost her closeness to her friends and other family members. She is a beautiful, intelligent young lady with a very compassionate heart. They broke up last May. However, he resurfaced in December and said he had changed but she found out he hadn’t and said once again that she was done with him. Well, he has shown up again and she is responding to him again. We had a prayer vigil for her in January and know that God revealed to her what she needed, but she has slipped back into this hold this guy has on her. I fear for her physical safety, but more for her emotional and mental well being at this point. I have been so desperately trying to let go and let God, it is so hard because I’ve dealt with this for so long. I am truly concerned about her spiritual wellness also, because she doesn’t go to church like she used to. Please pray for our family. I read this passage everyday at least 4 or 5 times a day. Thank you for your inspiring words.

  13. My husband cheated on me 10 years ago with a few different women and then I just found out last October he did it again with a coworker. They are not “affairs” they are more like friends with benefits and they only last for a few weeks to a couple of months. He left his job of 9 years to get away from the women and the environment. He didn’t seek counselling or anything 10 years ago but read several books trying to help. We told no one and dealt with this on our own. This time he went to the Priest of a local church and received counselling there. The Priest also sent him to some counselling from a Christian therapist for 6 visits. My husband thinks he is more solid now and that he had let God out of his life for too long. He never makes excuses for what he has done and he takes all of the blame. We still have never told any family or friends because we don’t want outside influences to hurt us. I have received no counselling and we have done none together. I turn to the Bible for my support. We can’t afford counselling and the church paid for his counselling. This article really hit home for me but I don’t know how to trust yet again when I was just starting to trust him. I don’t know what to do with the pain. I put on a happy face for our 4 kids. Jesus and my children are the only reason I have made it through all of this. We have been married for almost 19 years and been together 22 years. I want to grow old with him but I am getting scared it won’t happen. I want my family to stay together.

    1. Sandy, these ARE affairs. The fact that they lasted just weeks or months doesn’t negate or even mitigate the sin. And the fact that it happened again means your husband is a serial adulterer, likely to keep doing this every so often. He’s not “taking responsibility” if it’s continuing–he’s just trying to pacify your anger until he does it again. I’d urge you to stop being silent, to go back to your priest, and to get some accountability set up. This might sound harsh–I don’t mean it to–but I believe it’s the truth. If you stay silent, if nothing more is done, in all likelihood these affairs will continue or new affairs will start. There’s a BIG difference between selfishness and adultery. This post doesn’t deal adequately with adultery. Consider Leslie Vernick’s book, “How to Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong.”

  14. Please get counseling for yourself. If you don’t, the anger and resentment that you stuff will come out in other ways against your husband and even against your children. Forgiving does not mean forgetting, otherwise we never learn. You will need help with the pain of betrayal and broken vows.
    Gamblers know they need to stay out of casinos. Alcoholics need to stay away from liquor. Those who are tempted by adultery need to stay away from socializing with men/women (unless their spouse is with them). It is an occasion of sin.
    Also 6 visits and no marriage counseling does not sound very promising…

  15. When I said they weren’t “affairs” I just meant he was not in a relationship with them. He wasn’t in love with them, he didn’t want to leave me for them, he never dated them. I should have clarified that. He had 10 minute quickies on his lunch break with coworkers. He has never socialized with women but he did have to work with them. He has never gone out with the guys and he doesn’t go to bars, he doesn’t go anywhere without me and never has..this all happened at work. The first time when I found out he quit his job of 9 years (mind you I was a stay at home mom so he was the sole provider) he didn’t work for almost 3 years because I needed him by my side. He has done everything I have asked him to do and he is also in pain. He loves me and our kids. We almost lost our home but he wanted to work on this with me. We built our relationship back but I guess not quite good enough. Trust me, I have not been silent and I am not some mousy victim, I never meant to portray myself in that way. I am a very strong woman who has demanded change and he DID change. His therapist said the infidelities happened because he is selfish and childlike because of his dark family past. That is what we didn’t work on the last time. Again, we would do more counseling but we do not have the money. I can’t go to the priest because I am not Catholic. I will fight for my beautiful family as long as I can. I know the Lord will guide me.

  16. I also wanted to add that I did go to a surviving infidelity support group for awhile but it just made me feel worse. The people there wanted to bash my husband and tell me to leave him. I stressed that I wanted to keep my family together and so does he. It really wasn’t a support group it was more of a spouse bashing group. I want to feel strength not negativity.

  17. My husband suffers from a compulsion to seek attention from other women. I feel like he’s cheating ion me in some way because he hides it and lies about it. It doesn’t matter how upset I get, it how many times he says he won’t do it again, he does. We have children which complicated just leaving. I don’t know how to maintain an intimate relationship with someone who lies and sneaks behind my back and wants connections with other women.

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