Stephen, I’ve been making great progress on myself, but my wife doesn’t see it. Should I tell her about my changes?
This has to be one of the most common questions I get on Husband Help Haven.
Maybe you and your wife don’t live together anymore, so she rarely has an opportunity to see your changes.
Maybe you DO live together, but your wife is always gone, or avoids you.
Most of you already know that you need to give your wife space, but is there a way to tell her about the hard work you’ve been doing on yourself WITHOUT pushing her away?
I’ll give you the short answer right up front:
No. You should not tell her about your changes, and 9 times out of 10 you will push her away no matter how you tell her.
She MUST see the changes and believe them on her own. Telling her will have no effect on how real or desirable they seem to her.
Now, let’s back up and I’ll tell you why.
Here’s The #1 Thing Your Wife Is Looking For
Let’s start with the good news:
Your wife has probably already noticed your changes
Yep, she’s probably seen that new gym habit, or how pleasant you’ve been with the kids, or whatever it is you’re doing. She has noticed that you “seem” like you’re doing well.
Good news, right?
Now here’s the bad news.
She just doesn’t believe them
In fact, your wife has convinced herself that ALL of your changes are there for one reason only – to get her back.
She thinks that the only reason you’ve been going to the gym, or helping more around the house, or finally working through your depression, or going to counseling, or [insert self-improvement activity here], is because you think that you can earn back her love.
She thinks that the reward you want from your self-improvement is HER.
Since she wants out of the marriage, guess what?
She is going to do everything in her power to take away that reward.
Your wife is looking for any shred of proof that ALL of your changes are only there because you think they will get her back.
Here’s the danger of telling her about your changes:
See, this is the danger of telling your wife about your changes.
When you go to your wife and tell her about your changes, you are effectively telling her, “Look at all these cool things I’m doing, aren’t I doing a good job? Don’t you want to come back now?”
And do you know what that does? It makes it seem like you have an ulterior motive. And the truth is, on some level most of you do have an ulterior motive… Even though you really are making changes for YOU first, you are probably making them for your wife second.
What you have to do is prove over and over again that your changes will remain even if your wife is out of the picture. Telling your wife about your changes USUALLY does not line up with that goal.
What Should You Do Instead?
Keep doing what you’re doing.
Keep working on yourself.
Keep cementing your changes.
Trust is rebuilt with time and consistency. So be patient and be consistent and let your actions and attitude do the talking.
You MUST let your wife see your changes on her own. You MUST let her challenge them and push them and test them in her own way.
Let Your Wife Take Her Time Believing Your Changes
Instead of expecting your wife to change her tune after a couple weeks of diligent self-improvement, really make this a way of life. Make it so that you really are doing your changes for YOU, and therefore you can and will sustain them over the long haul.
It usually takes at least a month or two before a wife really starts recognizing her husband’s positive changes. And in the meantime, guess what she’s going to be doing?
She WILL Test Your Changes
She won’t believe them and she will try to prove that she is right about your true motives.
This means she will do everything in her power to take away the reward she THINKS is the only thing driving you – her, the marriage.
- She will tell you that nothing you do matters, that nothing will get her back, that it’s too late.
- She will get angry that you didn’t make these changes earlier, and she will tell you that making changes now is actually making her MORE sure of her decision to leave.
- She will tell you that your next wife will be very lucky, but that there’s no way she’s coming back.
How do you handle this stuff?
Say, “I’m sorry you feel that way,” and keep doing what you’re doing.
Be consistent so that the changes remain in place even when she is sure she’s taken away the reward.
What If You Don’t Live With Your Wife, And She Never Gets To See Your Actions?
Just like almost everyone else trying to save their marriage during separation, you are an opportunist.
Your job if you are living separately is to make the changes you want to make, and ensure that you are always prepared for every opportunity your wife gives you to show those changes to her.
Now, obviously, putting this into practice gets complicated and it will be different for every man. We can’t cover every single scenario here.
If this is you, I’d recommend reading this article:
Resource: 4 Strategies for a Low/No Contact Separation
However, even if you have very little contact with your wife, it doesn’t take much for her to start slowly wondering about your changes.
When Is Telling Her About Your Changes The Right Thing To Do?
My default answer in this article has been do NOT tell your wife about your changes. Let her see them for herself.
But, are there any exceptions?
Here are three times where telling her about something you’re doing for yourself can be the right decision:
And a quick side note – ultimately, trust your gut. It is YOUR marriage on the line here. Everything in this article is a guideline based on what I’ve seen work – and really, really NOT work – for other men.
1. When you don’t expect recognition
The topic of your changes comes up naturally. You’re not saying it because you hope to get a reaction out of her. You’re only saying anything about your changes because in the moment, it makes sense to talk about it.
You don’t have to AVOID talking about the self-improvement work you’re doing. You just can’t parade it around in front of your wife.
2. When you have to defend yourself
Your wife calls you out on your new gym habit. Or she challenges your new attitude with the kids.
Do you say nothing, or are you allowed to talk about what you’re doing?
You are 100% within your rights to defend the work you’re doing on yourself. “I’m not doing this for your secret approval, I’m doing it because it’s the right thing for me to do.”
Your attitude is: she can believe your changes or not, that’s not as important as you DOING the work regardless. Your attitude and words should reflect that.
3. When you reiterate that you want her to be happy no matter what
“I’m only doing this stuff because I’ve accepted that I truly want you free to be happy, and letting go of you has forced me to focus on myself.”
“I’m tired of not liking the man I see in the mirror, so I’m doing something about it, but I know it probably won’t save our marriage.”
Or hey, if you MUST have the ulterior motives, you can’t NOT do what you do with the motivation of saving the marriage, you can at least be honest about those motives.
“Yeah, I know you don’t believe what I’m doing, but I can’t not put in the work for this marriage and I’ve realized part of that means becoming a better man.” It’s not ideal, but at least with this transparency you disarm her accusation before it happens.
Remember, You Can’t Control Her…
She Has To Let Herself See You
Here at the end, we bring it back to what we always bring it back to. It’s a matter of focus.
- You MUST focus your effort on what you can control: you.
- You must NOT focus your effort on what’s out of your control: your wife.
So, should you tell your wife about your changes?
COMPLETELY LET GO OF ALL BELIEF THAT YOUR CHANGES WILL WIN HER BACK.
Now you’re ready to answer the question.
Do you still want to tell her about your changes? Or would you rather let her see them genuinely for herself?
Have you already told your wife?
To all you separated guys reading this, let me ask you this:
- Have you told your wife about your changes?
- If so, what happened next? Did she believe you?
Put your answers in the comments below and let your experience help the rest of us.
I told my wode that im not same man I was 2 months ago and that I wanted her and my son to benefit from these changes. Her answer was thats good but I should temove her from the equation. This after w months of counselling and lots if soul searching, going right back to my childhood. Maybe I told her too much.
Not yet, was planning to tell her but now I don’t think so.
Your ideas seem correct but i pray I can apply them as I love this lady!
Did not do the small things that I should have been doing over the years!
Passion, Love, adventure, acknowledgement vocally to her of all her great fantastic traits!
My wife left me with a parting gift – gonorrhea.
Blamed me for her infedelity.
She is happily shagging one of her ‘orbiters’ who was asking
her out on dates while she was wearing her wedding rings.
The changes i have made is an awakening to hypergamy or the true nature
of the female imperative.
God bless all men who are going through this hell but you must all study and
learn the truth.
Wake yourself up and set yourself free.
I’m so sorry, that is brutal. I hope the next chapter is better than this one.
Srperated for 11 months now and I have worked so hard to change my self and my wife can see these changes, but she still does not trust me, she referred to the one time I left before, that when I came back I was worse, I agreed with that and sent her an email to say so and to point out the changes I have made etc, and told her not to respond just let me know she read email, she did and said thank you, I battle on in my quest to save my marriage and go home to my family, thankyou so much for your articles they are much appreciated, man hug seb
Seb, this is a PERFECT example of how to tell her about your changes. I really like that. Because by telling her not to respond, you already tell her, LOOK this isn’t for you! You were right about the things you said about me, and I heard you and want you to know I heard you, but I know that you still don’t trust me. Sounds like you successfully communicated your changes in a genuine, transparent way. I hope future readers see this and learn from it. Man hug right back at ya.
yes i told her…. (before reading this some months back)
Its uncanny how accurate the response was to me telling her about the Changes ive made during the past months (and soon a year).
Response was ” you will be the perfect husband for your new woman”
Response to was ” why did you not do this Before”
Response was : anger/resentment/Crying and yelling..
well i will continue on this path with the Changes since they not only do positiv things for me and my kids that live with me since my wife moved out but i can tell massive Changes in the interaction with others around my like my father and mother and brother and on work as well!!
Hope you will take to heart my hard won lesson :-)
100% correct Stephen. Yes, I’ve made small efforts to show changes (“Hey I’m doing meditation”). Or trying to show up all dressed nice when she comes to pick up kids. It pushes her back even more. She can see right through it. “You’re not gonna win me back. Do it for yourself”. Every subtle effort is a major pushback. Maybe Creepy in her eyes. SO I completely agree. Completely surrendered; Keeping no Contact; and Just workin on myself; I feel more at peace and not worried if my marriage works or not…but actually excited about the changes in me, and that attitude is spreading to everyone around me. And this new person will somehow be noticed by my wife.
Your insight is always spot on…keep it up. Gratitude.
After I told her that I have changed, she said, “I haven’t seen the change I’m looking for.” When I asked what are the changes you are looking for, she said, “You shouldn’t have to ask. That just proves that you haven’t been listening to me.”
I’ve been separated from my wife for nearly a year now. 5 nonths ago I told my wife about all I’ve been doing – class, therapy, counseling with a priest, etc. This was all before I started reading your material. 2 months ago she initiated legal separation. Needless to say she doesn’t believe me or trust me.
Your material is spot on, and for you Christian men out there lines up perfectly with a book I’ve been reading called The Peace Promise by John Kuypers.
Looking forward to working on being the man I should have been all these years.
Thank you for sharing Bill. I’ll have to check out The Peace Promise.
From experience I must say listen to Stephen’s suggestions. His logic may seem simple, but he really does know what he is talking about. Let your wife see the changes you make and digest them over time. I know from experience that things seem to be moving at a snail’s pace, but if you really want things to work out you must give everything time to develop and for her to accept your changes.
Earlier this year I discovered my wife was having both an emotional and physical affair. We separated and were within days of divorce. I read a bunch of self-help material, including Stephen’s writings. While separated I worked on myself with the goal of self-improvement, regardless of the outcome of the separation (but we all have the same ulterior motive of wanting our wife back, right?).
I took his writings to heart and made them a part my daily life. Encounters with my wife were very difficult for the first few weeks and months of separation. While she saw the changes I was making (ie. losing weight, working out, dressing better, etc.), she would openly accuse me of being a fraud and phony for my actions — even saying I looked “stupid” or “gay” wearing something new or old; accusing me of trying to manipulate her with whimsical actions. It took a few months of doing exactly what Stephen says in this blog of letting it roll off your back and reaffirm to her the general stance of “I am doing this to make myself a better person, regardless of whether we work things out or not.”
Eventually my wife started to accept my changes and actually believe things could be better. I want to say that this was not easy, but it can happen if you are consistent and accepting of your own faults and contributions that led to the separation and/or affair. Most likely the love is still there underneath all of the other stuff that has piled up that just needs to be pushed aside.
Even though I read about other peoples’ experiences and expertise on these things, I do believe that Husbandly Leadership is the most import thing to learn from Stephen and something to strive for in your daily life and routines as best as possible. I was separated for five months and have been reunited with my wife for three months. Things continue to get better weekly, but you must continue working on yourself and be that leader she needs.
I didn’t know about or understand this before, but I fully grasp the concept now. Your wife will become more forgiving of your faults and slip-ups over time, especially once she accepts you are trying to become a better man and leader.
I am sharing this not for Stephen’s financial benefit or anything. Rather, I am sharing this because my life is better because of some of the life lessons I have learned from here and want to reinforce that it isn’t over until the divorce papers are signed. Never stop trying to improve yourself, even after she comes back. This stuff actually works if you truly make it part of your life and give it enough time to slowly convince your wife she is the one (again).
Thank you for the kind words Joe, awesome story!
Hey guys, I told my wife about me changing in the beginning which was a mistake. Not only did she say that she didn’t care because I said I would change before and never did, but also said that she will not except my changes. I learned to just keep changing and working on myself without saying anything to her.
I wish I would have listened to this sooner and I wish I would have found it sooner and then listen to it sooner I told my wife I started playing guitar at a church and that I was offered the position 2 weeks before she left me but I’ve forgotten to tell her her reply was I’m sure that’ll be good for you we’re still getting a divorce and officially a month ago we signed V last paperwork for an uncontested divorce we have a kid but she didn’t put her on the paperwork since biologically she’s not mine but I’ve been there for 10 years so spiritually and any other way she’s mine but she’s being withheld from me I’m going to be looking at 6 months and two more days if there’s any advice I could offer it would be to guard your heart and your mouth we should never speak to a woman and anger ever ever never ever ever ever never for it is a sure way to drive her away if you literally think of a woman is a shaky scared deer cuz that’s what all of them are deep down when you were speaking to one or if you pretend the Lord himself is standing behind her then you probably won’t have a problem ever on your next lady like I’m going to do and I’m working on right now awesome advice in this article and podcast thanks a bunch I’m going to use it for the future
Lol, Stephen’s right on point. My story: I’ve been making some big changes in my life since my wife dropped her bomb last year. My perspective, my reactions, my attentiveness, and my ability to hear, listen to, and validate my wife’s feelings, emotions, and needs have developed in ways I would never have imagined. I have evolved in ways I didn’t know were possible. She’s even told me, “I don’t recognize the man I’m looking at. You’re completely different. I wish you could have done this years ago. But I don’t trust it will last”
I made these changes for myself. Partly to prepare for a possible reconciliation and partly to prepare for the next relationship in my life should reconciliation not be a possibility with my wife. In essence, the changes I made were organic, genuine, and real for me. But why doesn’t she fully trust them? I believe it’s because I occasionally told her what I was doing. I mentioned the different areas of pursuit and she interpreted it as a ploy to “win her back”. Was she right? Maybe on some level. Women are much better at sniffing these things out than we men are. Does it matter who’s right or wrong? Nope. The end result is a delayed reconciliation. We’re currently separated and living in the same home with our daughter but she’s spooked and hesitant and, therefore, I have some work to do.
I guess the reason I’m writing is even with the right intentions it’s so important to follow Stephen’s guidance and not talk about the changes we’re making. Keep the changes in your pocket, let her see the changes without us advertising them, and move forward with a perspective of, “If we stay together I know I will be happy because of the work I’ve done improving myself and if we don’t stay together I know I’ll be happy because of the work I’ve done improving myself.” Hat tip to Stephen–he’s the man…
Say nothing about the work you`ve been doing, she may not believe you or just take pleasure in telling you she doesn`t believe it. Let her see it, if she loves you she will give you a chance.
The only thing that might be worth saying would be….that you love and miss her like hell.
Before l read this l told my wife l could do better and was working on becoming a better man whether or not we reconciled our marriage. The response was “good for you”.
My current mindset is l am working to be a better man for me. Whether she sees or believes this or not is not in my control.