A few days ago, as I was searching for new pictures to pin on the cork board above my home office desk, I found myself looking through old photos of my husband and me. There were pictures of us feeding ducks at the park, walking around a county fair, and attending a horror movie fest downtown. We were all smiles as we cuddled together or walked down the street arm-in-arm. They were such sweet pictures and I found myself thinking, as I looked at them, “I’m not that girl anymore.”
I’ve changed so much since my husband and I were first married. He’s changed, too. I don’t think that the people who knew us six years ago would recognize us today, and that’s a good thing. My husband and I, we changed each other, but that’s what marriage is supposed to do. It’s supposed to encourage you to become the best possible version of yourself. I don’t know why people say not to try to change each other. I think that’s really shoddy advice. You should try to change your spouse, you should want to change them. At least, you should want to change them in a way that helps them become a stronger, healthier, more confident version of the person you already love.
That’s what partners, teammates, and lovers do. They work and they improve. Think of it like teammates on a sports team, they don’t try to change each other necessarily but they do encourage, train, and practice together repeatedly to become the best possible versions of themselves.
That’s what marriage is like too.
My husband never forced me to change. He wouldn’t do such a thing. I never forced him to change either. It’s just something that happened, slowly, over the years we’ve been together.
When I met my husband I was trying to figure this whole “life” thing out. I was in my mid/late-20s, but I still wasn’t “adulting” like I should be. I spent far too long in a relationship I didn’t really want to be in, I was working in a career I didn’t love and that wasn’t going anywhere, and I hadn’t graduated from college even though I’d been going off and on since finishing high school. I was just aimless and I didn’t really believe in myself. I felt like the awkward ugly duckling that was just swimming in circles over and over again trying to figure out how to get out of the pond.
When I was struggling with days where I felt overweight and ugly, he was there to tell me I was beautiful.
When I was struggling with days where I felt lost and confused, he was there to remind me that God had a purpose.
When I was feeling defeated (again) over school, he was there to tell me that I was capable of finishing and achieving my dreams.
When I was nervous about applying for new career opportunities, he would tell me all of the beautiful strengths he saw in me and that he believed in me.
He said it over, and over, and over again until I started to believe him.
Every morning now as I wake up and I get ready for the career I love, but never thought I’d have, I find myself curious about the woman staring back at me.
I think to myself, “Who are you? Where did you come from?”
I still look the same (plus or minus a few inches of hair and about 10 pounds), but I know that I’m not that same girl anymore. That man I married? He changed me. He loved a confused young woman who lacked in self-confidence and, through his encouragement and partnership, helped her become an empowered woman that believes she can conquer the world. He didn’t do it by demanding change, or by telling me I was flawed and what to fix, or by being a savior who took control. He did it by saying, “I love you and I believe in you.”
That’s all it took.
“I love you and I believe in you.”
We did it together…and alone.
Some of it, I did on my own. I mean, I finished school, I sent my resume, I completed interviews, I work a career, and I started a blog. Some of it we did together. For example, we moved to a new city, we developed a budget and savings plan, and we decided to pursue adoption. Some of it he’s done on his own as he’s changed too. He’s taken control of his life, he sets boundaries now with people that don’t encourage him to be his best and happiest, he launched his own business, and he is stronger in his beliefs and convictions.
So, we’re not the same people anymore, but we’re better people for it.
Don’t listen when people tell you not to change your spouse.
You shouldn’t force them to change, but you should encourage it. You should encourage their personal growth, champion their dreams, support their visions and aspirations. Through your marriage, and because of you, they should grow in self-love and confidence, strengthen in their resolve to set boundaries and control their own destiny, and learn to own this life of theirs…of yours…together.
So, I’m not that woman anymore. He’s not that man. Those people have changed…evolved…grown…and we are both much better people because of it.