Are you expecting your ex to change?

Rachael Scharrer, divorce and relationship expert, strategist and coach, reflects on how many people expect their ex-spouse to change in separation. She shares a lesson in real change and how to over-come your expectations.

Change. You are forever doing it. You are always expecting it. The reality is that only we can do it.

When people couple up, there may be something that they want to tweak about their new interest … is it their hair? Or the way they dress? Sometimes it isn’t a big change. However, as the relationship progresses, we often expect our spouse to change – to become a master mind-reader, intuitively understand our needs, to pre-empt our desires or want to something that we want differently.

The problem is that you can’t force change on someone else. You can try to encourage, demand and constantly remind them about stopping or changing their behaviour or attitude. They may say that they will change and that change may occur for a week or a month or a little more. However, this forced change will not be intrinsic or authentic. The desire to change, to stop a bad habit like smoking, needs to come from an internal driving force from the person having to make the change. … A strong will, internal motivation, a burning desire to commit, a genuine understanding that the change is for the better and persistence to keep trying and stay on course is when lasting change occur.

When I was married, I knew that I couldn’t expect my spouse to change. I tried to manipulate myself, contort my behaviours and words so that they were better received … unfortunately, the relationship was doomed no matter what I tried because the issues were not with what I was doing or saying. The challenges and issues laid within my spouse and it would never be possible for me to force change or adjustment upon them.

Throughout separation, I was continually disappointed. I don’t know why but I was always expecting my ex-spouse to change. I guess, I was hoping that he would ‘step-it-up’ for the benefit for himself and, if not himself, then for the children. My hopes and expectations were a fruitless and redundant. Why was I expecting change? Why was I continually disappointed and shocked each time he didn’t change? My ex-spouse didn’t change in the marriage, why would he change after separation? Yesterday, I was talking with a fellow divorcee on this specific topic: change. They said to me “I expected my ex-husband to change and I realised that I needed to change.”

I offered my input – “you didn’t need to change, you needed to find acceptance.” I could see it was a lightbulb moment. Acceptance was the resolution – the change in the fellow divorcee was acceptance.

When you reach acceptance, you will live a lighter life. You finally understand that you can’t change the past – no more scenarios of ‘should haves’ or ‘could haves’ playing on your mind. You acknowledge that they will be ‘true to form’ (even though it may be disappointing or you are not able to understand). With acceptance, you understand that your ex-spouse is who they are and that they will not react or act the same way as you would – that a missed opportunity is their loss and it may be to your benefit or gain. Acceptance allows you to look past the flaws and short-comings of your ex-spouse allowing you to see the wins, benefits and advantages for you like extra quality time with the children, making more memories or stronger connections with the children.

Understanding that everyone is different, that no one is perfect and you cannot force change upon someone else can bring you peace of mind. While it may be a loss for the person who doesn’t change and can’t see what they are missing out on. Your gain is appreciating the chance or opportunity presented to you to create a great life with your loved ones.

Knowing what to do and how to do it can be difficult, especially when you are emotionally-charged. For support, guidance and direction, arrange your personal and confidential Strategy Session today


This is general advice only and is not provided as legal advice. If you have a legal issue, you should contact a lawyer and/or accountant before making a decision about what to do or applying to the Court. cannot provide legal advice. If you have an emergency situation, please contact Emergency '000'. © Divorce Pty Ltd