Changing Your Partner Won’t Work – But This Will


Changing Your Partner In Your Relationships
Annoyed with your partner? There might not be a whole lot you can do about it.

A lot of people ask me "how can I change my partner?" My short answer is, "you can't." My longer answer is that you can't change them and you shouldn't try. This doesn't mean you should accept poor treatment or unkindness from your partner, but it does mean that if you are trying to change your partner's basic personality traits (or quirks), you are doomed to failure and it's likely that your relationship is headed down a bad path as well. 

Many of us get into committed relationships with the hope that we can change the things we don't like about our partner. We say things like, "once we are committed he will be more vocal about his feelings for me." Or "I know she won't care if I'm sloppy once we are married." Yet most people in long term relationships will tell you that not only does their partner not change, but often they get more set in their ways and less pliable to your demands.

So if you can't change what you don't like about another person, what can you do? First, you can consider changing how you look at what bothers you about your partner. If your partner often leaves a mess behind, do you assume that it's because they don't care about you? Unless they are doing it to intentionally annoy you, then most likely their sloppiness isn't really about you but rather about them. Can you either find a way to live with it or compromise in some way?

Second, you can find out if their behavior is in direct disagreement with your requests or just how they operate in life. How can you find out? You can ask, "I'm wondering if I stopped asking you to clean up would you do it on your own or is cleaning up not something you are ever interested in doing?" If they tell you they would gladly clean up if you just stopped asking, you have a choice to make: stop asking or keep up the passive aggressive games that the two of you are playing. Yes, it would be nice if your partner stopped first, but one of you has to lead the way.

Third, you must decide if you can live with your partner's behavior without constantly commenting or harping on it. If not, I would strongly recommend that you leave the relationship. Why choose to be in a partnership in which something about the other person makes you miserable? That is simply a recipe for a truly unhappy life for both of you. If you find that you don't want to leave the relationship then you must find a way to live with the things that you don't like about your partner.

If you are truly ready to leave the relationship if a change isn't made, then you need to approach your partner with your request. Ask it in a kind and loving manner without threats or hysterics. If your partner says yes, then accept that and don't keep reminding them. If they don't follow through, you can nicely ask them why. If they either say no to your request or inevitably don't do what you've asked, you can tell them that this is a non-negotiable situation, that you respect that they are unwilling to change and that you are leaving the relationship. Never do this as an idle threat — follow through on it. If you don't, your word will become meaningless in your relationship and you will only be contributing to long term ill will between the two of you.

Many of us come into relationships with the belief that we must like all aspects of our partner or else we must change them. Trying to change someone is a true lesson in futility and frustration. Learning to understand and accept things about your partner that you find less than ideal may actually bring the two of you closer. I'm not talking about accepting any type of emotional or physical abuse, I'm talking about accepting that your partner might not like to talk prior to their morning coffee or may leave their shoes laying out in the family room.

Long term, healthy relationships come from acceptance of the other, a lack of judgment, and kindness. If you find you can't give these to your partner, you either need to find a way to change yourself or to leave the relationship. Otherwise, you will live a rather miserable existence that isn't loving or productive for either you or your significant other. Life is far too short to live that way.

Lisa Kaplin is a psychologist and life coach. She has been married for 24 years. She stopped trying to change her husband about 2 years ago. They've never been happier. You can reach her at or

More on Relationships on YourTango: 

Article contributed by

Dr. Lisa Kaplin

YourTango Expert Partner

Dr. Lisa J. Kaplin is a life coach and psychologist you can reach her at:


Location: Chicago, IL
Credentials: CPC, ELI-MP, MS, PsyD
Other Articles/News by Dr. Lisa Kaplin:

Hate Your Kid's Idol? 3 Tips For Getting Real About Role Models


My 16-year-old daughter loves Beyoncé; she loves her music, her strong pro-woman message and her enviable dance moves. I won't deny, as a grown woman who likes upbeat music, I have some Beyoncé love myself. But my opinion changes when I think of her as my daughter's role model because I find some of Beyoncé lyrics, outfits, and ... Read more

Back Off, Parents! Are Your Fears Making Your Kid Afraid Of Life?


This week I sent one of my children off to college and my other two off to high school. If the news is any indication of the state of the world, I should probably be terrified to death. Should I have warned my children to watch out for rapists, murderers, machine-gun-toting high school terrorists, thieves, cheaters, drunk drivers, drug pushers, and the like? ... Read more

Ladies, Here's How To Get That Raise You Deserve


We're going to be honest. Gathering up the courage to ask your boss for a raise is probably as nerve racking as being chosen for the hunger games — Once you're in, you don't know if there's a way out. But it really shouldn't be that way. Women have faced unfair pay rates for years; we work hard for our money so why ... Read more

See More

Latest Expert Videos
Ask The Experts

Have a dating or relationship question?
Visit Ask YourTango and let our experts and community answer.

Most Popular