Exploring 3 Dynamics Of Relationships

If you are in a relationship, have you ever thought that “I want to change my partner“? Thinking that “I should be trying to change my partner” or expecting your partner to change is more complex than you think. Moreover, asking your partner to change might not always be the right thing to do.

Key Points

  • A partner’s choice or inability to change doesn’t reflect on you or your worthiness.
  • Change is complicated, and it can feel confusing about whose responsibility it is in a relationship.
  • Try to pick partners you don’t have to change to love or feel loved by.

In my office and outside of my work as a therapist, I notice that people often wish their significant others would change. They even take on ownership of the result; for example, they believe their partner didn’t change because they didn’t communicate well enough or didn’t stay persistent enough.

Further adding to their frustration, we know that people can change. (Of course, people can, or I wouldn’t have a job as a therapist!). However, “change” is complicated and can feel confusing about whose responsibility it is in a relationship.

Related: Stop Trying to Fix Your Partner’s Feelings

The person you love:

  1. Won’t commit, but you want them to.
  2. Has annoying or bad habits you want them to change.
  3. Has mental health issues you want them to fix.

I hope these examples and considerations can save you pain, self-questioning, and time.

Trying to change my partner
Should I try to change my partner?

Can I Change My Partner?

1. The person you’re dating says, “I don’t want a relationship/commitment right now.” You do.

You may decide to hold on, trying to love them into loving you and committing to you. Many choose this option. They hope and believe it will work.

Romance movies and fantasy books often show that loving someone deeply and purely will be enough to change that person’s noncommitment stance into a commitment. In real life, I’m sure that can happen on occasion. Yet, from what I’ve witnessed, it’s not very common.

Consider this:

If you sincerely want a committed partner, it’s usually not a good idea to take on the challenge of someone who voiced, “I don’t want a relationship/commitment right now.” I understand it can feel tempting to try anyway. Certainly, the feeling of winning over someone can seem alluring.

However, there’s a big chance that the person meant what they said, and you’ll spend a lot of time, energy, and love not changing their mind. Also, along the way, your quest for a commitment may get confused with what you think “love” is. Healthy love is not that.

Related: 5 Things To Do When Your Boyfriend Keeps Breaking Promises

2. Your partner “always” does this annoying or hurtful habit. They’d be less annoying or hurtful if they’d stop it. So, you ask them to change.

What starts as quirky or tolerable can eventually grow to gnaw at your last nerve. Harmless habits like the caps off the toothpaste and the cupboards not shut can certainly annoy you when you prefer the caps on and cupboards shut.

And harmful practices like yelling or swearing that make you uncomfortable can be downright hurtful, upsetting, or even scary.

Here’s the thing: If any of those habits were present at the start, you signed on for this person as is—and they may have reasons for their actions you’re unaware of.

For example, what if your partner believes it’s genuinely better and easier to leave the cap off the paste? The food’s easier and quicker to grab without the obstacle of a closed door? Believe it or not, they could view your request as less reasonable than theirs.

On the other hand, their yelling or swearing may be far from harmless depending on context and intent (e.g., general venting-type in front of you versus yelling at you; the latter could land in the “verbal abuse” category).

Heartbreakingly, in either case, your partner may not be able to stop themselves, regardless of how much they love you.

Consider this:

Outside of the heated moment with your person, you might share how the habits affect you. For example,

  • “When I see the cupboards open, I get so bummed out!”
  • “When I hear you yelling, I feel sad and sometimes even scared.”
  • “When I watch you yell and swear, it makes me pull away when I want to feel close to you.”

Then, ask them if they might be willing to change their approach.

  • “Do you think you might be willing to try and put the cap on more often?”
  • “If you need to yell, is there anything we can do to help me feel more comfortable and safer?”
  • “Any ideas? I don’t want to pull away from you; I love you.”

If they say they want to do things differently and still don’t, they could have been giving you lip service or be stuck in old patterns, not knowing how to change.

But, on the other hand, suppose you witness them reading self-help books, going to a therapist, or inviting you to talk it through more or to help support them. In that case, they’re probably genuinely trying to change. As a general rule, though, unless they decide they want to change their ways, they typically won’t in any lasting way.

Please note this important reminder: If you are experiencing any form of abuse from your partner, your safety is vital. The change might need to come from you regarding seeking help and safety.

Trying to change my partner
People can change

3. Your loved one seems to be struggling with a mental health condition (e.g., depression, panic, eating disorder, substance abuse, or something else) and communicates, “I don’t believe I can heal or change.”

Mental health troubles can create an exception to the idea that change must come from within the person. For someone afflicted with a mental health condition, they may choose to try to change for you.

For instance, they may want a better relationship with you than their mental health condition allows. They may feel obligated not to “let you down.” They also may have lost hope for themselves. In any case, they may reluctantly agree to try healing or treatment for you more than for themself.

Consider this:

In those cases, it can be tempting to say something like, “You need to do it for you,” because you want them to own their choice. But please consider holding back that critique.

They may not be able to decide to change for themselves—yet. Instead, it can be most mutually beneficial for you to seize the moment of agreement, encouraging or even helping your person to start therapy or treatment.

Hopefully, they’ll shift to engaging in or maintaining the changes for themselves during their healing process. After 15 years in the mental health field, I have seen that happen innumerable times.

Related: Can Abusers Change? 11 Signs Your Abusive Partner Is Changing For Good

In Conclusion

Yes, you can express your needs and wants to a partner—asking them to change. However, if they don’t accommodate you, please don’t jump to “They didn’t love me enough” or “I’m not worth changing for.”

Their inability or unwillingness to change does not reflect your worth.

I want to remind you of a powerful quote from Maya Angelou: “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” Try to pick partners you don’t have to change to love or feel loved by.

Want to know more about whether expecting your partner to change is a good thing or not? Check this video out below!

Trying to change my partner

Written By Alli Spotts-De Lazzer
Originally Appeared On Psychology Today
trying to change my partner
people can change, inability to change, partner didn’t change

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