Life Style

Changing your spouse, an illusion?

“When I met my husband, he was handsome, athletic. He was my hero. But when we started a family, his passion for sports became a problem for me, says Élise. I had imagined him as a present and attentive father but, instead of playing with the children, he continued to play sports and even took up competition again… It’s a bit like in The Woman in Love, the sketch of Florence Foresti, she adds, smiling. We end up hating what we liked about the other. “

After the magic of the encounter and the “loving crystallization” dear to Stendhal (1), where the other seemed to us to be equipped with all the qualities, it happens that a form of disappointment creeps in. : our spouse is not as we dreamed it. We liked his ability to listen and now we find him mute. We were touched by his shyness and we only see a lack of confidence.

→ MAINTENANCE. Jacques Arènes, explorer of links

Nourished by the myth of the perfect union and by this missing part which completes us, as in the story of Plato (2), we seek to model the other according to this ideal. Even if our motivations are often more complex.

“We are not only trying to change it to make it a dream partner but also to reassure us, analysis Jacques Arènes, psychoanalyst and psychotherapist. When a person says: “I would like my partner to assert himself more socially”, what worries him is having to take on this role himself. There is a kind of anxiety about being in bad company and not feeling protected. In the same way, he continues, those who like to control everything will feel anxious with a somewhat wait-and-see or contemplative spouse. However, he will also have chosen it unconsciously for this reason because a less passive person would not have supported this need for control. Our criticisms are very often ambivalent. “

Change the other so as not to change yourself

It also happens that we want to change in the other flaws that we see in ourselves, as in a negative mirror. “The spouse is not allowed to have the same weaknesses. It’s too hard to bear and devaluing, especially if you lack self-esteem, observes Catherine Serrurier, couple therapist. It then seems easier to change it than to change it yourself. “

Conversely, we can also wish that our spouse evolves because we have changed. So, Élise, “Good living “And loving” to party »She had to give up a way of life “A little carefree After the birth of her three children, while her husband expected her to continue “To go on weekends, without the little ones, to play around “. At the beginning of the life of a couple, we are satisfied with certain situations, “But when you start a family, the expectations are not the same, reminds Jacques Arènes. This joyful and creative dimension that we loved in him or her young is then considered inconsistent when the children are there. “

With or without offspring, women would be more often asking for changes in their partner, according to Aurore Malet Karas, doctor in neuroscience and sexologist. “Most women work on themselves, read psychic books, consult and take charge, she notes. Culturally, they also invest more in the couple and expect more. “The men, them, rather want that the women do not change too much after the birth of the children, according to the specialist.

Can we change the other?

Perhaps they are more realistic… Because, isn’t it an illusion to want to change the other? “You can’t change someone’s personality, answers Jacques Arènes. But, between wanting to transform the character and changing certain behaviors, there is a whole gradation. Asking your partner to change their way of being is not the same as asking them to help with household chores. “

The goal must be realistic and “Depend first on yourself », Suggests Bénédicte de Dinechin, marriage counselor. “If we want the spouse to stop smoking, for example, it is not up to us. The only thing that can be done is to take the time to gather information and stimulate discussion while remaining calm and avoiding blame. “ Telling your spouse that you would like him to change can pass for “An attempt at control” who risks “To hold him up and to train him on the contrary a resistance ”, Aurore Malet Karas notes.

The life of a couple is a movement

Emmanuel had the bitter experience of it. This 51-year-old Parisian wanted his partner to be aware of his aggressiveness, but as soon as he tried “To be a bit of a psychologist She said to him: “You want to psychoanalyze me. “ The discussion “Turned into an argument”.“She wanted me to forgive her for her excesses and said to me: ‘I’m a little aggressive, a little violent, that’s how it is”, implied, if you love me, you must accept me as I am. I offered her couple therapy, which she first refused and then accepted. But it was I who finally gave it up and we went our separate ways. “

→ TESTIMONIAL. They wanted to develop their spouse

In addition to unacceptable behaviors, there are those that can be managed by wondering about their expectations and trying, why not, to change themselves, assures Bénédicte de Dinechin. “I remember a couple where the wife was very stuck on punctuality and the man was always late, which exasperated him. But after working together, she realized that a bit of the unexpected was not unpleasant. Finally, her husband became more punctual since his wife was no longer the only one in charge of this role. “

The life of a couple is a movement, adds Jacques Arènes. “We build together something that did not exist and we transform in contact with the other to find solutions. ” So nothing is set in stone. Married life, even says Jean-Claude Kaufmann (read interview), “Is a process of identity change to become someone else”.


The effects of confinement on the couple

After the first confinement, one in ten couples considered to distance themselves, according to an Ifop poll for, an online consultation site for sex therapists, published by The Parisian May 5, 2020. The deterioration of relations was observed more in young couples often “More fragile”.

12% of those polled affirmed that, if the confinement had to be redone, they would not choose to live it in the company of their partner. 60% of those questioned declared that confinement had not had an impact on their married life. And 30% that he had brought the spouses together.


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