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You married your spouse because you adore him. But as time wears on, "we can begin to see our spouses as an extension of ourselves — an extension that parks in the wrong spots, picks the wrong shirts on date night, and always leaves a mess for us to clean up," says Alisa Ruby Bash, Malibu-based licensed marriage therapist.
And watching someone do something the wrong way can make us very uncomfortable, explains Jane Greer, Ph.D., relationship expert and author of What About Me? Stop Selfishness From Ruing Your Relationship, often leading us to try to fix them or correct their behavior. "Fixing a spouse is a euphemism for 'be reasonable and do it my way,'" she says. "It's about you wanting them to behave the way you think is best, rather than acknowledging and accepting that their way may work better for them."
Are you trying to fix your spouse? Here are three signs you could be:
1. You constantly criticize
From how he dresses to how he does the dishes, your spouse can't seem to do anything right. Bash can commiserate. "Controlling men like they were children, from telling them how to act, what to do, and what to say, can be hard to control sometimes," she admits. And sharing a living space exacerbates this problem, "until spouses often find themselves exploding or nagging," she says.
2. You can't accept who your spouse is now.
There's nothing wrong with seeing your spouse's potential and helping him to improve. But we also have to accept "who they are right now and most importantly, who they want to be," says Bash. "It is excellent to encourage our spouses to grow and to follow their dreams. But when one spouse is trying to push someone into becoming a person they are not ready or interested in becoming, the other spouse can begin to feel very unappreciated and rejected for who they are."
3. Your marriage resembles a reality makeover show.
You don't share your spouse's fashion sense or physique, so you "try to do a makeover on him by buying him new clothes, insist on controlling his diet and exercise, and demand he does his hair the way you like," describes Bash. And while you may be more attracted to the man you help make, "all of these things give the message that he is not attractive or good enough the way he is," she says.
If you fear you're trying to fix your spouse, it's time to stop. "You can't fix another person," says Greer. "It's always OK to address problematic behaviors and see if they share in your opinions, and if they are willing to make changes in dealing with this issue. However, that's not 'fixing' — that's relating to them and understanding their point of view. You want to problem-solve with your partner, not try to fix them like they are the problem."