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:
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.