What To Do When Your Wife Is Not Willing To Work On Herself

Episode #750

Are you struggling with the challenge of personal growth while your partner seems resistant to change?

Wondering how to bridge the gap and inspire your spouse to join you on the journey of self-improvement?

In this episode of The Powerful Man Show, Doug and Mark delve into this common dilemma faced by many individuals committed to personal development. They’ll share practical advice, emphasizing the importance of open communication, curiosity, and creating a shared vision for the future.

Discover effective strategies to foster collaboration and mutual growth within your relationship, fostering a space where both partners can thrive on their individual journeys toward becoming the best versions of themselves.

In this episode, you’ll learn valuable insights on navigating a relationship where your partner seems hesitant to embrace positive change.

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Head over to our BONUS page for special access to some of the deeper tactics and techniques we’ve developed at The Powerful Man. 

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Doug Holt  00:17

Hey, guys. Welcome back to another episode of The Powerful Man Show. I am joined by none other than one of our master coaches. Mark’s Smith. Mark, thanks for being here, buddy.

Mark  00:26

Always, Doug. You know, it’s a pleasure.

Doug Holt  00:28

It is. And we got done co leading The Alpha Reset recently, and something that came up, Mark, that’s come up time and time again is, what do I do when my wife isn’t willing to do the work?

Mark  00:39

It’s incredible, isn’t it, that we have an extraordinary opportunity to work on ourselves. And guys who jump into the powerful man movement really take the bull by the horns and make a significant shift in their lives. And then often their wives feel like they’ve been left behind and they feel abandoned or they feel as if they aren’t along for the ride, and so they get critical or they get resentful.

Doug Holt  01:03

Yeah. You know, I always say to the guys, when a man joins the activation method, which is our proven eight week program, thousands of businessmen have been through there to successfully save their marriages. One of three things happens, right?

So one, a guy goes into the program and he rises. So his stock rises. I always use that analogy of his stock rising, and then his wife is so happy that she rises with him. Second thing that happens is the man rises and meets the woman because she’s already done the actually four things now that I think about this, Mark. The third thing is the man rises and goes, why am I in this relationship anymore? Right?

The fourth one is, the one I want to talk about today is where the man rises and the woman, like you said, feels left behind. But oftentimes what happens is that kind of crab in the bucket theory, right? You put a bunch of crabs in the bucket, and one, as it starts to crawl out and escape, all the other crabs come and they pull it down. And we see this time and time again where the men have done the work. They’ve realized maybe some inactivity or some things that they could be doing better in their relationship, and the woman continues to nag or pull them down.

Mark  02:11

Yeah. The analogy of the crab in the bucket is a really, really good one because that’s exactly what the guys describe, and we call them shit tests. Right? So she’s giving him shit tests and saying, why aren’t you? So now you think you know everything. You’ve got all the tools and get critical with the guys. So it’s something that causes pain because the guys feel like, I’ve been doing all this work. I know I’ve screwed up in the past. I’ve written you a letter to draw the state clean. I’ve really done my best and I’m showing up my business. I’m crushing it. And the only challenge is that you don’t seem to want to come along with me. And that causes a lot of frustration.

Doug Holt  02:57

A lot of frustration. And today I was talking to a man who’s been through our program and he said, look, Doug, I’ve been doing everything right. My wife tells me how amazing, the changes I’ve made, yet she’s not willing to do the work. And what that RESULTS in for them is she’s still playing what I call the teenage card. Right? So an example is he simply said she wanted a dog. They hadn’t been back at their house. They’re in a rental property. And so what she decided to do is go out, buy a dog anyway, have her daughter carry it into the rental house that they had, stuff it under her shirt and hide it from dad.

Mark  03:31

Oh, wow.

Doug Holt  03:32

And how many wrongs are going on there? Right? And what she’s frustrated and infuriated at. So he’s having a calm conversation with her. He’s in his power, yet she can’t maintain there. She hasn’t learned the skills yet of proper communication. We’re all going to call, and this is not going to put an affront to her because I didn’t know this either, but I’m going to call it proper adult communication, where you can have a conflict, still stay grounded and still show love to the other person.

Mark  03:59

So in that scenario, she’s coming from her teenage rebellion, kind of immature self, potentially her immature feminine. So the reactions that she’s learned when she was younger just keep coming out. Because what can also happen, Doug, is that there’s this disconnect because he’s in his power and he starts growing as a masculine authority figure. His stock has risen, as you said. And so what it feels like to her is there’s a power imbalance. And so she comes out with her rebellious, her manipulative teenager, like she did with her father.

Doug Holt  04:37

It’s exactly what it is. And it’s because she hasn’t taken the time to dig deep and work on herself. And that’s, I think, the complaint a lot of guys have. One is you have, like you said, the wives sometimes openly complain to the men, like, hey, I feel like I’m being left behind. What is there for me? And as you know, we have already developed a course curriculum called the powerful woman that coincides with the other program, the activation method, which will be released next year.

However, sometimes the woman just doesn’t want to do the work, or they use this excuse. I just don’t know what to do. Yeah. And so many men have that excuse. And there’s a lot of men actually watching you and I right now, or they’re watching on YouTube or listening that have been on the fence. We had a guy come in to The Activation Method who’d been listening to our podcasts and been into our ecosystem for over a year before joining. And within two weeks, he was able to change his marriage around. And as they all say, I wish I would have just done this sooner.

So what do you think it is that’s going on within the wife at this point when she’s saying, hey, I just don’t know what to do, or she’s using an excuse of why she’s not going to do work or work on herself for the relationship?

Mark  05:49

I think it’s fear. That’s exactly what came up earlier on. I was dealing with a pack of guys in The Brotherhood that I work with, and one of the guys was saying that his wife is in significant fear mode from the perspective of, she knows there’s a lot of work to do. She knows she’s had trauma in the past and she’s been hurt. And guess what? It’s a huge mountain that she’s looking at, which says it’s an ordeal. It’s scary. And either she doesn’t want to do the work, or if she’s willing to do the work, she doesn’t know where to start. So it’s usually one of those two.

Doug Holt  06:23

Yeah. When I think back of this, as you say that, I also think about myself and so many of the other men who are on the fence about the program. And when I think of the fear that comes up or can come up for men, it’s, who am I on the other side of this? The unknown. Like, what happens if I find out I’m not as good of a lover or good as father, a good of a man that I think, in my mind’s eye, that I am, then who am I?

Mark  06:50

Yeah. Well, I used an analogy with the guys earlier on that I was speaking to around. What could happen is that she gets to the point where she realizes the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of changing. And at that point, she might be willing to do something about it and come along for the ride.

Doug Holt  07:08

Yeah, I could definitely see that. So let’s give the guys some advice. So the guys have the scene set. They know. They’re like, okay, my wife, she’s not doing the work where they’re still fighting. I’ve changed. I’m continually doing the work. And listen, guys, if you’re not doing the work, then you have nothing to complain about. Right?

Clean up your own side of the street first. That’s exactly what I said to this gentleman. I said, if you’re showing up as the wolf, wise, open, loving and fierce, 100% for 30 consecutive days with no faltering. And I told him when I did this, at first I faltered. Right? Time and time again, I go, crap. I can’t blame my wife after all…

Mark  07:47

We’ve all been there, Doug.

Doug Holt  07:48

Or what would happen for me, Mark, is when I showed up really powerfully, I never made it to the 30 days because my wife actually started changing, too.

Mark  07:55


Doug Holt  07:56

Right? So those are two things. One is leading and two is just not blaming. So, for a guy that’s doing this and said, you know what, mark? I’ve done 30 days. I’ve been in my power. I’ve been the wolf. I’ve been the lighthouse. The analogies we use typically at TPM, what are some things that he can do to help usher his wife to either, A, be more interested in doing the work, or B, if she’s interested, help guide her safely towards a path of getting the help that she wants.

Mark  08:24

Great question. No pressure.

Doug Holt  08:27

And go.

Mark  08:30

So, the experience that I’ve had is, firstly, that I was really, really willing to, what I call pop the balloon. And with my wife, Bonnie, she went through a bit of a transition overnight, actually. She had a major epiphany and realization of the fact that she needed to change. And I’d popped the balloon because I challenged her. And I said to her, it’s not me. I’m not willing to take on the responsibility of the accusations you’re throwing at me. I’m here. My side of the street is clean.

So you need to look at you. You need to be willing to step into your power. I can see how great and magnificent a woman you are, and you’ve got to break some eggs to make an omelette. And to her credit, she did. She went and did it, and she still does an inordinate amount of work to really show up and to keep showing up, because it’s become for her something which is really, you said on the other side, we don’t know what we’re going to be.

But as soon as she got a glimpse of how happy she could be, once she’d let go of some of the stressors and the projections she was putting onto me, she wanted more. Right? So it’s important. What you said is the usher, you use that word, how can we usher? How can we lead her? How can we introduce her to those things? And I think that’s really important, because if we try and force, cajole, push, she’s going to resist. Right? That’s what the human brain does. As soon as you’d say change, that’s what happens.

So it is around, firstly, creating and establishing the right to do so and the safety in the relationship, and then inviting her forward and introducing her to some options. And there’s a guy who I’m just thinking of now, Joe, his wife has started working on herself, and she was really stuck. So definitely, when it’s handled right, can show great dividends.

Doug Holt  10:21

It certainly can. Joe’s a great guy. So here’s way that I would approach it, the way that I do that works for me, that I teach the guys, is to be inquisitive and fun. Right? So be light about it. And sometimes it can happen. Like, you’re talking about, Bonnie. When you’re in conflict, you’re setting a firm boundary. Like, wait a minute. What? This complaints aren’t me. But for some of the guys, they don’t have the skill sets of a master ninja like yourself to be able to navigate those.

And so of the things that I like to think about is go into it inquisitively and fun. So I’m going to role play with you, Mark, real. Like, you’re Aaron, my wife, as an example. And this is what I told the guy that I was working with today, is ask your wife, like, hey, on a scale of one to five, how happier are you with your life? Right? So that’s one question. Okay?

On a scale of one to five, how fulfilled are you in this marriage? On a scale of one to five, how fulfilled are you in general? And then when you get these numbers, sit there, guys, because this can be extremely triggering, because if my wife says, in this marriage, I feel like a one, it’s easy for the guy to be like, well, I brought you the flowers.

Mark  11:26

Taking you on dates, went to cabo.

Doug Holt  11:28

Yeah, all of these things. So you have to disassociate for a lot of men. And maybe think of this woman, my wife, in this case, as a friend, that I’m not the cause of her being a one, a two, or whatever it is. And once you get the number, what I like to do, or I suggest guys do, is say, oh, wow, okay, that’s interesting. So if you’re a two in this relationship, I’m assuming you want to be a five. And she’s going to agree with that, right? Who doesn’t?

Then what would be something that you can do and I could do to bring it up from a two to a three and sit there and inquisition.  And then when she says, well, you need to, whatever it is, that’s really her stuff, guys, so let that go. But if she does share something that she could do better, then you can open the door of, like, hey, what are some creative ways that we can find to help you do that? Right?

And that’s where you can help because she’s opened the door a little bit to change. And once you have that, you have a little bit of permission to at least put your foot in the door and try to keep it open. And that’s something that I’ve done successfully with my wife, but also I’ve seen other guys do.

Mark  12:33

Yeah, I love that. I love that going into inquiry and being curious about who she is and what her needs and wants and desires are and also bringing her into your vision as well, to say, this is what I see for our relationship. These are some of the things that we’ve experienced in the past, and I’d love to experience some of those things again. Can you think of ways that we can get back there or find a better way than we’ve got currently?

I think that also that there’s a way to approach a woman that is non-confrontational. So the way our energy when we’re asking those questions is not boardroom, hey, what are the five ways? It’s about being relaxed, set up a relaxed environment to be able to just commune with her and just connect. Because once you’ve got that way of being in your relationship, she is going to open up more anyway.

Doug Holt  13:25

That’s a great point. And it’s exactly what I said to this guy is, I said, look, if she thinks you’re leading her at all, she’s going to smell that a mile away, and it’s not going to happen. So you have to be the CFO, the chief fund officer, and be in a state of inquisition. So to this guy’s credit, he’s like, I need five days to get there. I was like….

Mark  13:43


Doug Holt  13:44

Go to the gym. Do what you got to do. Let out your frustrations. Take your time. It’s better to wait a week or two weeks to have the conversation and set the stage perfectly than to rush into it. And to your point, I’ve been that guy where you sit down in the boardroom, very official. I’ve got all my talking points over here. I’m ready to state my case, your honor. But really, if you go in with genuine curiosity and fun, that naturally brings the light energy.

And really, now you’re putting your wife in a dream state, right? She’s dreaming about what she wants, and from that dream, you can do it. A perfect example. Well, I think it’s a good example is I did a version of this with my wife, and what ended up coming up for her is she wanted to be more in her femininity from a spiritual sense, which I didn’t expect to hear. And so, gee, what could that be?

And she got so excited, Mark, and she told me exactly what that looks like for her. And we’re progressing forward in that direction for her because I want her to grow. And, in fact, if my wife wants to grow with me so she can be a better wife to me, well, heck yeah, I want to support that.

Mark  14:55

Who doesn’t want that?

Doug Holt  14:56

Exactly. I think a lot of men find themselves in that situation. It’s not that their wife is cold or hard. Most of the time, we run into those od occasions with the men we work with, but generally speaking, they just don’t know the path to take.

Mark  15:12

Yeah, I think there’s a lot there. I think that what you said with regard to the fact that she got into a dream state, I think that’s really important from the perspective of. So we spoke earlier on about the child, right, or the teenager, the rebellious teenager. If you can get her into that place where she dreams of something that she really, truly desires, and you can help her paint that picture.

So one of the things that I’ve done with Bonnie, as you well know, is that we’ve travelled 38 US states, and that started with a dream. Right? It started with a conversation like, what would be great for you? And I didn’t realize that she really wanted to travel as much as I did. And I was really excited about the fact that she did.

So that’s the other aspect, is that finding things that you can do in common find things that you appreciate together and for and with each other. So going back to the topic, from the perspective of getting her to work on herself. If we can link her working on herself to achieving a dream that she’s expressed, then you’ve got a way forward.

Doug Holt  16:20

Absolutely. And in coaching terms, we’re creating a gap. We’re creating a gap from where we are today in our relationship for her and where she wants to go. And then the bridge, so to speak, to use my marketing language, the bridge here has got to be whatever system it is to work on her. Something I learned early on in marriage that proved to be more true than I thought it would be, is it’s important also to have a common language, a language that you and your partner understand.

And so this is where I think it’s beneficial for men, especially men, going through the program to share some of the vernacular, if you will, the language that we use as The Powerful Man, like what it means to be a wolf, and why that’s important to the family, why it’s important to her, so that she understands what the vernacular is. So when you do have conflict or you do have communication, you both can rise together.

Mark  17:12

Yeah, I love that. Yeah. Language is extremely important. And I hear a lot of guys saying things, well, what I don’t want is. And then I’ll ask them, frame that in the positive, what do you want? That also is something to be aware of in the relationship generally, in order to create more willingness for her to want to grow and change is to use positive language about either your experience or about your experience of her.

To say, I really love how you are, whatever, fill in the gap, or what I’m really experiencing that I’m thoroughly enjoying about my growth is so rather than go, this is really hard, or I’m struggling here, or I’m struggling to get you to come with me, what’s up? What’s wrong with you is notice and appreciate the changes that she is making, or her willingness and keep on focusing on those little nuggets.

Doug Holt  18:06

I love that. I mean, that is so spot on, Mark. And I’ll add on one thing for the guys is share what it is that you love doing and then add what we call an open loop question at the end. So an example could be, I really love the fact that I’m learning that men and women just communicate differently. And what I’m learning is when you say X, I’m thinking it’s Y, and I just need to put those things together in a way. You guys can do that. Guys, open loop. What do you think? Do you think men and women communicate differently?

Mark  18:37


Doug Holt  18:38

And now you’re inviting her into your world and into the conversation. So it’s inclusion versus exclusion.

Mark  18:43

Yeah. The other part, what I often say to guys is before you invite her into your world, go into hers.

Doug Holt  18:49


Mark  18:50

So go in and experience her world and ask her questions about her state and her experience and then invite her in so that you’ve earned the right by spending some time in her world so she feels as if you’ve understood her a bit better and then create those open loop questions and inclusion.

Doug Holt  19:06

I love it. So we have a cheat sheet, if you will, on how to plan the perfect date night. So guys, if you want that, just email VIP, very important person,  at thepowerfulman.com, and tell me you want the date night cheat sheet. And the reason I bring that up is there are 52, I believe, icebreaker questions. And even though they’re icebreaker questions for a date night, they can be themed questions that allow you to get into her world more.

For some guys, you’ve been out of her world for so long, you got married in your 20s or 30s and now you’re in your late 40s and you expect her to be the same woman. That’s just not the case.

Mark  19:39

She’s not the same woman.

Doug Holt  19:41

Not at all. So you want to find out who she is today and she may be different tomorrow. And that’s feminine energy and that’s what makes it so beautiful.

Mark  19:49

Yeah, I love that. And being willing to enjoy and participate in the feminine energy is something we get to just do because they’re not going to change. They’re not going to start being logical and sequential and masculine. So we hope not [Crosstalk] — exactly. You don’t want that. Really enjoy the feminine and something that is uncomfortable initially because it’s the wild feminine can turn into passion. Right? So it might be initially uncomfortable, but what I say is the only way around is through. So be willing to go through the difficult conversations to get to the wild passion on the other side.

Doug Holt  20:29

I love it. Mark, let’s wrap up here and just give the guys a few short, practical things that they can do, leaving this episode just ideas of, hey, this is something you can implement today. Why don’t you kick it off with one?

Mark  20:43

Okay, well, I mean, I think we’ve covered a lot of them open loop questions. That cheat sheet you mentioned is really great. I think using a cheat sheet, make sure that you’re not techniquing her and sort of question number three, be natural. Invite her into your world having visited hers. Really, also, your body language is important. Really show up, present, decompressed, grounded. When you’re having that conversation with her and be emotional. I’ve had huge gains in my relationship with my wife by letting her in, letting her see how important it is to me that we’re on the same page. Women often use that language.

And lastly, use the language that she is using. You spoke about the vernacular, so if she says, I’m feeling disconnected, I can see you’re disconnected. If she says, we’re never on the same page, I agree. We’re never on the same page. You lose nothing by agreeing with a woman. It doesn’t mean you’ve lost.

Doug Holt  21:38

Yes. No, it’s 100% true. I’ll add on a couple to that. One that I’ve seen guys use really successfully is if they’re in a stage where they’re nervous talking to their wife about it because they don’t want to feel their wife has felt in the past that they’ve been pushing them. You can always gently bring up the fact you could use either of our stories. Hey, I heard somebody talking about how their wife started doing the work and now they came together more. Well, how does that sound to you? And start opening the conversation and setting the stage for the vision. Because odds are she’s thought about it quite a bit. She just may not have shared it with you.

Another thing you can do, which has been proven to be really effective for guys, is really if your wife is interested in doing the work again, taking her out, doing a vision map, you do a great job with the vision tree and looking at what do you want to live for your life. Don’t just make it about her. A lot of guys fall into this thing where they’ll go, how can we make you better? Right? How can I fix you? Right?

So make it about your family’s dreams, your dreams, her dreams, goals, and then you can gently slide in ways not manipulative, but you’re really trying to help her in ways that she can improve upon herself in order to get what she wants, which hopefully is a fruitful marriage.

Mark  22:56

Yeah, I love that. And the whole aspect of bringing in all of the stuff that’s on our landscape. Right? So when I did that with bunny, it was to do with the animals and travel, and it was children and investments and savings and giving back and following our passions and hobbies. So it became a really full tree, as you know.

Doug Holt  22:23


Mark  22:24

And that really worked with her. I think the other piece that’s really worth considering is that when you’re with her and you’re going through this process that it’s continued, right? It becomes a conversation into the future to drop her a message, hey, I saw this picture, or here’s a meme, or here’s something that could be great for our vision, and take her pictures or bring her a magazine, stuff like that, to keep the conversation alive.

Doug Holt  23:52

You bring up a really good point because I’ve worked with a guy before who came across as controlling, right? His wife said, hey, I want to do some work. And then he went out, interviewed coaches. He went out, got brochures. Here’s one, here’s this, here’s this. And it became overwhelming to her. And that shows up of, hey, I want to change you. You’re not perfect, whole and complete just the way you are. Therefore, we have to fix you.

And guys, it’s really important that when you enter this conversation, you’re not entering a conversation of changing your wife. You’re entering the conversation of improvement for both of you and for what you both want and desire.

Mark  24:31

Yeah, I think you used the word very well earlier on about that dream state. So it’s creating a collaborative dream for the both of you and inviting her in. And yeah, once you’ve created the willingness, it should be easy.

Doug Holt  24:43

It should be. Absolutely. Mark, thanks as always for being here. Gentlemen, as we always say, in the moment of insight, take massive action. If you’re interested in getting that cheat sheet, just like I said, for the date night, email vip@thepowerfulman.com. Just write that you want the date night cheat sheet and somebody will get that to you. Until next time, we’ll see you on the powerful man show.