Health & Well-Being

Would You Like Your Partner to Change?

That might not be in your partner’s, or your own, self-interests.

As the world isn’t perfect, we rarely find a partner who satisfies all of our criteria. They may have certain idiosyncrasies or habits that we’re less than fond of, and so we might prefer that they make a few changes. If we can just get our partners to behave the way we want them to, our relationship would be so much better. Or before we marry, we might think that we’ll live with their weird stuff for now, but things will be different after the wedding.

Now, some of the changes we want are rational and reasonable. Don’t smoke in the house, and absolutely don’t smoke in bed, or help out more with the children or household chores. Asking your partner to chip in with a little assistance around the home, or at the minimum, not contribute to the problem, is well within your rights.

But some requests are unreasonable, and possibly irrational. And some are simply an attempt to control or manipulate our partner. Keep in mind that we’re talking about habits and patterns that are personally owned by our partner, such as how they dress, the type of career path they choose, their hobbies, etc. We’re not talking about things that affect how we live our own lives, such as not helping around the house or yelling during an argument.

The truth is there are just some things that are beyond our control, and one of them is other people. Each of us cherishes our right to make our own choices. No one can force us to change and we have the right, within reasonable bounds, to choose our own paths.

But just as we have this right, we must also acknowledge that our partners have the same right. The only things that we can control with any degree of certainty really come down to our own personal thoughts, behaviors, and emotions. These are the things that we personally own, and it is entirely reasonable and rational to believe no one has the right to control them.

Nevertheless, that might not stop some from trying to control their partners. After all, things would be better for our marriage, and even for our partners, if they would just do things the right way, meaning our way.

Unfortunately, while we might believe we know what’s best, the truth is we probably don’t, and even if we did, there’s no guarantee our partners will see it that way. Nor should they, because they have their reasons for what they say or do. Each of us thinks and acts a certain way because we get benefits and rewards from doing so. When someone requires us to behave differently, they remove the opportunity for us to get those rewards, and that can leave us feeling frustrated and resentful.

This is not to say that we can’t influence our partners. But influence means that we present information so our partners can understand our issues and needs. They can then use that information to make their own decision as to whether or not they want to make any changes. Control, on the other hand, means that we tell our partners what to do or say and not give them an opportunity to make the decision on their own.

Trying to change things about our partner that they personally own is not only unreasonable; it can be harmful to the relationship. Typically, the spouse who wants the other to change continues to be disappointed, leaving them perpetually frustrated and angry. The ones who are pressured to be different will likely regard their marriage as stressful and might resent their partners for making them feel that way.

Besides, even if we could change our partner, it might not be in our best interests to do so. When we try to control another person, we are deciding we know the best way for that person to live. However, our way of thinking or acting might not be the best way for another person. Additionally, while we may believe we have our partner’s interests at heart when we want them to change, we really don’t. We are working from our own interests, and we want them to think and act in a certain way because it fills our own needs, not theirs.

Finally, if you try to get someone to behave according to your needs, you become responsible for the outcomes they experience. That’s a responsibility you should be happy to avoid, because when things don’t go according to plan, you also end up sharing their problems and getting the blame.

In many respects, we don’t have much choice but to accept that what we see in our partners is very often what we have to live with. If they have traits we don’t like, we can suggest changes, but then we must leave it up to them to make their own decision as to whether or not to follow our advice. If they decide not to, we are left with the choice of either accepting them with their faults and keeping them in our life, or breaking off our relationship. Turning them into something different is not really an option.

Acknowledging this fact is a good thing, since it may help you avoid disappointments and frustrations, and it takes pressure off of you to fix your partner’s life.. in other words, you can dedicate more time to fixing your own problems. After all, if we need to turn our partner into someone different, it’s likely that we have a few of our own issues to work out.

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