How To Get Your Partner To Change For The Better

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Every therapist has heard a cry of frustration and the words: “They don't change! Things get better for a time but soon enough, it’s the same old, same old.” 

The first question from that therapist is, "Why?" Is it motivation or ability, is it that they won’t or they can’t? If your significant other digs in their heels, is defensive or passive and unmotivated to get on the same page, stop trying to convince them you are right.

Instead, tackle their "won't" by letting go of the issue long enough to explore the root cause of their resistance to change.

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Here are five ways to encourage your partner to change for the better

1. Seek to understand

Be empathetic, genuine and curious in these early conversations to fully understand your significant other and their objections. Being in a hurry to secure an agreement isn’t helpful, so slow down and ask questions that flesh out the roots of the issue. Your desire to understand them is more valuable to the relationship than achieving a personal “win.”

Keep in mind that your connection is built on psychological openness and their safety to say what they need and want.

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2. Give them equity

Their resistance to the change you ask for may be sincere disagreement. It may also be an honest desire to hold on to their identity, a difference in values, or frustration and resentment. In any of these cases, stonewalling, anger, threats, and even logical arguments will produce short-lived results or an opposite effect. Let them know their point of view is equally important and that you are willing to keep talking until you are both satisfied with the resolution.

The better solutions are those that acknowledge your part in the problem, avoid finger-pointing and include solutions and accountability for two. 

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3. Get inspired together

Now that you have a better understanding of why your partner won’t change it helps if you both agree to give up personal preference in favor of the best practice, fairness and negotiation. In other words, you are seeking the higher ground of the relationship. This is the big picture that transcends winning and losing, pride and ego, resentment and frustration. You want to find this mountaintop and make your big decisions in this place so your relationship will endure for a lifetime.

This is where a conversation that inspires you to share the same page is a must. I call it relationship visioning. 

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4. Seeking your shared vision

Listing your hopes and dreams, sharing your wants and needs, and making room for each other’s “why” will keep you focused on the big picture of mutual happiness and relationship satisfaction. This eliminates the tug-of-war game that moves in opposite directions. So, make that list together, and make it as detailed as possible.

You want a vision that connects you to the life you want, honors your significant other, and keeps the relationship thriving. When that happens you won't resent the other’s needs, feel frustrated and resist their requests.

RELATED: The Critical Difference Between Unconditional Acceptance And Enabling Unhealthy Behavior

5. Keep the vision alive with a weekly check-in

I have agonized with enough couples to know that they are doing the best they can but face outside pressures that distract from the agreed goals.  Whether out of the blue or with everyday stress, a company merger, clients canceling, kids acting out, your mother’s diagnosis or a friend having an affair. They have the ability to derail you. This is where the weekly check-In will help.

These are 20-minute relationship checkups that keep your attention on each other’s progress. This is always the best practice for fostering cooperation so make it official by doing it (mostly) at the same time every week.

Imagine the effect of two people fully committed to regular check-ins that keep their relationship healthy and thriving. The weekly check-in is your secret weapon to the unity of purpose and making change last. 

The significant other you love and cherish can change and is wired to do so when they want to. An abundant body of research in neuroplasticity has confirmed that we are never too old to learn and we will adapt to new experiences and that includes the relationship journey.

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Reta Walker is a therapist who specializes in healing relationships. She offers one-on-one sessions, couples retreats, and courses to help couples get back on track.