Leading Authority in Treatment of Narcissism and Emotional Abuse

Spouse Who Doesn't Want Change

How to Deal With a Spouse Who Doesn’t Want Change

How to deal with a spouse who doesn’t want change and how can you get your spouse to change? The answer is simple – you can’t. You can’t make anyone change. But so many people spend considerable time and effort trying to get another person to change. In our work with couples, we have found that people often fall into 2 categories when it comes to their relationship. There’s the over-functioner – the one who does everything and anything to fix the relationship. They try to convince, cajole, pressure and manipulate the other person to change.

Then there’s the under-functioner, the one who thinks things aren’t that bad, thinks you’re blowing things out of proportion, and doesn’t make any effort to address the problematic issues. The more you over-function, the more your partner is likely to under-function and it becomes a downward spiral. Find out what you can do instead to bring about healthy change in your relationship.

How to Deal With a Spouse Who Doesn’t Want Change

Do you find yourself incredibly frustrated as you try to convince another person of the importance of change? Do you find yourself trying to talk them into it, convincing them, arguing, just doing everything you can to try to get them to see the light? The over-functioning under-functioning downward spiral is something many couples find themselves caught up in. In this article, we will explore this destructive pattern and provide guidance on how to deal with a spouse who doesn’t want to change.

Understanding the Over-Functioning Under-Functioning Spiral

  1. The Self-Reinforcing Pattern: The over-functioning under-functioning spiral is a self-reinforcing pattern of behavior. The more one person tries to convince, talk into, manipulate, or control their partner, the more the other person resists, defends themselves, makes excuses, and becomes more childlike in their behavior. This pattern deepens the divide in the relationship, creating a cycle that can be difficult to break.
  2. No Change, Only Resentment: It’s essential to understand that this spiral does not bring about positive change. Instead, it breeds resentment, frustration, argumentation, and power struggles. Any attempt to control another person is met with resistance and does not foster cooperation, collaboration, or empathy.
  3. Stopping the Spiral: The key to dealing with a spouse who resists change is to stop the over-functioning under-functioning downward spiral. This can be achieved through intervention and accountability. Instead of trying to control your partner, focus on creating opportunities for change.

Three Patterns to Consider

  1. Recognize the Reinforcing Spiral: Acknowledge that the over-functioning under-functioning spiral only perpetuates the problem. When one person becomes overly responsible while the other underperforms, it creates an unhealthy dynamic.
  2. Understand the Futility of Control: Realize that trying to control your spouse’s behavior will not lead to positive change. It only leads to negative emotions, resistance, and further entrenchment in their current behavior.
  3. Embrace Accountability and Intervention: Instead of trying to control, be crystal clear about your boundaries, values, and consequences. Communicate what you will do if your partner continues their behavior. Consistency is key in teaching people how to treat you.


Dealing with a spouse who doesn’t want to change can be challenging, but the over-functioning under-functioning spiral is not the solution. Instead of trying to convince or control your partner, focus on stopping the destructive pattern and promoting accountability and intervention. By consistently enforcing boundaries and consequences, you can create opportunities for positive change in your relationship.

If you find it challenging to navigate this situation, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. There are resources available to support you and your partner in making healthier choices for your relationship. Remember, the goal is a functional and fulfilling connection with your spouse, and that’s worth working towards.

To learn how we can help, reach out to us at (206) 219-0145 or info@marriagerecoverycenter.com to speak with a Client Care Specialist

Also read: How to Avoid Conflict with 3 Empathy Techniques

About Dr. Hawkins:

The internet is inundated with hyperbole and misinformation about narcissism, leaving many people confused and hopeless. Get the facts on narcissism and emotional abuse from someone who has been researching, writing about and treating narcissism and emotional abuse for over a decade.

Dr. Hawkins is a best-selling author and clinical psychologist with over three decades of experience helping people break unhealthy patterns and build healthier relationships.

He is the founder and director of the Marriage Recovery Center and the Emotional Abuse Institute which offers education, training and counseling for people who want to break free of, and heal from, emotional abuse. Whether the perpetrator of the abuse is your spouse, partner, parent, boss, friend or family member, we offer practical advice for anyone trapped in a toxic, destructive relationship.

In addition to narcissism & emotional abuse, you’ll learn about the lesser known forms of abuse, including covert abuse, reactive abuse, spiritual abuse, secondary abuse, relationship trauma and much more.


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