Instead of forcing your partner to change, change how you think about your relationship.
When it comes to relationships, many of us think we are experts in identifying the ways our partners are wrong, how they are letting us down, or how we think they should change for the better.
It’s time to stop this one-directional thinking.
I often find myself in therapy sessions with my clients, adult men and women of all ages, who say, "If only my husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend/partner would ____, then everything would be great in our relationship."
You can fill in the blank with anything, it doesn’t matter the issue. This way of thinking causes more harm than you may realize.
First of all, individuals cannot change unless they believe that there is a real need to change. Then, if they see the need for change, they can only do so if they truly want to change.
Furthermore, no matter how self-aware they become, and how much they want to be different, they can only do so if they work hard at it, and receive support (not pressure) in doing so.
We need to re-think this limited approach which puts the onus of change on our significant others, rather than on ourselves.
Wishing our partner would be different in some specific way not only encourages us to ignore many of the positive aspects of the relationship, and of our partner, but it also inaccurately simplifies the way a relationship works.
Relationships depend on two people and include each person’s strengths, weaknesses, fears, boundaries, expectations, experiences, etc. Every action one person takes leads to a reaction by the other person.
Relationships are a dance, so that when one person takes a step, the other person has no choice but to take a step as well in order to keep their balance.
For example, I often work with individuals who are contemplating divorce. I see many individuals and couples that are stuck wanting their partner to change, but not being able to attain that change, and not being able to change something within themselves as well.
When an individual does make changes in their expectations of their partner, or alters their interpretations of their partner’s behavior, they are happier with their partner, their relationship, and with themselves. Consequently, their partner is often happier as well.
Pressuring your partner to be different only leads to conflict, resentment, and at times, the demise of a relationship.
Maybe your expectations of the relationship are different from each other. Maybe each of your needs for closeness compared to your needs for independence are different. The source of contention isn’t really what is at the center of the struggle.
Rather, it’s two people who each want to be loved, appreciated, respected, and accepted just as they are. When partners try to change each other, these basic relationship needs get buried by the couple’s need to each be "right", and they become opponents rather than teammates.
In order to change this, try appreciating the positives. Don’t tell yourself what your partner is doing wrong, but instead, ask yourself what is happening that is right.
Similarly, don’t wait for your partner to fulfill every need that you have. Fulfill it yourself. Consider your partner’s perspective. Just because it is different from yours does not mean it is invalid.
Of course, if you truly cannot be with someone because you feel it goes against who you are, then by all means, stand up, walk away, and don’t look back. You need to be true to yourself.
Living your best life means making choices that are painful at times in order to be your authentic self, and to live an emotionally stable life.
However, if your partner’s quirks and imperfections are tolerable, and your own needs are not being overlooked or your rights infringed upon, then perhaps it’s time for you to consider changing your perspective, rather than changing your partner.
Happiness depends on how we choose to see the world, ourselves, our partners, and our relationships. Put all that energy you’ve been using trying to convince your significant other to change, and instead, focus on being the best you that you can be.