Should You Try To Change Your Partner?


Should You Try To Change Your Partner?
Author Karen Karbo learns that you truly can't change your partner.

My second marriage was spectacular in its disastrousness: a ten-car pile-up of misjudgment, duplicity, and, in the end, terrible behavior verging on the felonious.

For literary purposes, I'm going to the ex-husband in question as CB, which stands for cuddle bum (cuddling being the only thing at which he truly excelled, aside from lying). As the breakup fades mercifully into the distance, the reasons why our union failed so dismally become increasingly clear.


What I know now, but didn't then, is this: it's not enough for a couple to share sizzling chemistry, or a passion for growing heirloom tomatoes, or simply the determination that this one is The One, dammit. Other values must match up—values that never seem to matter when you've just taken up residence in the love shack.

CB and I met while I was on a magazine assignment in Arizona, and he was vacationing with his parents. I was in my mid-thirties, newly divorced, living in Portland, Oregon, with my 3-year-old daughter. He was also newly divorced, or so he said (at the time he was only separated), and had a 9-year-old daughter.

He was a poor man's Kevin Costner, down to his darkblond hair, wide light eyes, and Southern California working-class roots. When we discovered we grew up five miles from each other, in adjoining sunny suburbs, I thought this made us from the same pond.

CB was attractive, without being classically handsome. He could be funny and warm and—this was my downfall—he reminded me of all the genial boys I knew growing up. They were suntanned, with white teeth and sun-bleached hair. They surfed, played water polo, Frisbee, and sometimes the guitar; they zipped around the eucalyptus-lined streets on their Sting-Ray bikes in their striped T-shirts, faded Levi's, and Vans.

For the most part, they would have nothing to do with me. Predictably, they loved their swingy-haired counterparts—easy-going, ambitionless girls who spent summers working on their tans. Girls who were fun.

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