How To Know If You're Low-Key Trying To Change Your Partner — And It's Going To Go Badly

Sometimes our own hopes and dreams are pushed onto partners in ways that are just unfair.

Woman seeing what she wanted to see with her partner but it wasn't reality vivanity, Karunyapas, Gustavo Fring | Canva 

After my divorce, I quickly entered a new relationship with a free-spirited man. There were trips to the Himalayas to trek the highest peaks in the world, but I couldn’t go. I had a young child.

In all honesty, I didn’t want to go. And yet, I was in love with the idea of it all — and the freedom he chased.

The unparalleled beauty of the world, the feeling of vastness and expansiveness, the feeling of being connected to something bigger than my narrow life. I would lose myself in the giant panoramic photographs of iconic mountains on the walls of his studio apartment, as I would also lose myself in him.


After we broke up, I realized it wasn't him I'd been chasing. It was what he symbolized: The great escape. 

I wanted to escape into a part of myself I had lost a long time before I ever met him, even before I became a mother. Part of me was a little wild and sought his freedom; the freedom no amount of money, the perfect job, nor an ideal lover can provide.

I railed against myself, against him, and made the relationship a symbolic yearning for an unachievable freedom. 

In your life, the reasons you are trying to change your partner may be different. Maybe you want to control them, maybe you're afraid to lose them or afraid of being vulnerable. Regardless, there are a few clear red flags that this is the motivation behind some of your behavior, which I will share in the list below, along with examples from my own failed attempt to change a man I cared about very much. 


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Three signs you're trying to turn your partner into someone they’ll never be

1. You don't know who to blame for disappointments 

Whenever we fought, I alternated between blaming myself and blaming him. When he was off climbing the next iconic mountain, my pendulum of blame would oscillate even more

His inconsistent efforts to be present were my fault. I had a kid; I was tied down. I would never be wild or free enough to be with him, even without a child.

At the same time, I kept holding on to the hope he would magically turn into the partner I desperately needed and wanted him to be: Someone sober. Someone who wanted to be involved. Someone who stuck around.


Each time he left for months or disappeared for days without even a call or text, I counted the flaws in myself and wished he was different than the person he was. I wished I was different, too. I mourned the part of me who would never be. I threw things at the wall when he disappointed us by not showing up or showing up high, yet again.

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2. You're afraid of asking for what you truly need 

After a long, drawn out year of gradually breaking up, I finally ended it.

I gave up feeling bad all of the time. I gave up trying to change him from the wandering soul he was.


I had to feel the sadness. I had to face the reality of my life in this moment. I had to feel partnerless and loveless while raising a child and feeling desperately alone. There were days I couldn’t bear it. The solitude. The loneliness. I hated it, all of it. I hated him for not being the one I wanted him to be and would never be.

It took me a long time to shift from the space of longing for a different reality — and thereby not actually living in the present moment — or accepting reality as it was.

I occupied a space of longing for something or someone different. I believed this false reality would eventually appear. Living in this space of constant longing was part of my escape plan. It was a way of avoiding, and escaping the uncomfortable emotions I didn't, and couldn't accept.

I fully bought into the false reality, the story I told myself about how I could never have what I needed. The story told me what I wanted was always going to be out of reach, and I was somehow partly, if not mostly, to blame.


He was so obviously not suited to be the kind of partner I needed in my situation, so I made the great escape from having to take responsibility for not taking the scary risk to go out on a limb and ask for what I really wanted and needed.

RELATED: People Are Only Capable Of True Change If They Make This Choice

3. You can feel your partner's pain at not being able to please you 

I didn’t want to face the fact he was not capable of what I needed, not because of a fatal flaw, but because of his past trauma and where he was in his own journey of personal development.

My great escape meant I could forego the fear and risk of pursuing something I wanted with a satisfying and fulfilling ferocity versus being filled with heartache and pain every day. What if I took the risk to ask for more, to seek out more, and still did not get it? What if I tried and tried and it would never actually happen for me?


Being in a space of constant disappointment while swinging between escapism and reality felt like a hopeful place. It felt like there was somehow potential. I would see glimmers of hope and feel renewed for my efforts of waiting. He could potentially turn into the partner I need ... I’ll wait! ... I’ll be patient! ... I'll ignore the clear facts.

The fact was, it did not matter what I did or who I was, I could never change this person into someone else. 

In actuality, I could feel his pain of constantly disappointing us and feeling like he could never be the man I needed. By refusing to accept who he was and moving on, I was also sending him the message he was not okay to be himself. This was clearly painful for him.


I was trying to find a lost part of myself with someone who was not the best fit for me, and I rejected reality in the process. This is what happens when you are trying to change your partner into someone they can never be.

You end up fighting against yourself trying to change who you are, or who they are, in order to try to change the reality of the relationship. You keep trying to fit them into what you need and want instead of being who you are right now and accepting what you actually need in a relationship and partner. Not everyone will be a good fit — despite the love, attraction, or desire.

So, be open to your reality as it is, and find the freedom in being yourself.

RELATED: How To Get Your Partner To Change For The Better


Stephanie Lazzara is an NYC-based ICF-certified holistic life, health, and relationship coach. She helps her clients build healthier habits for better relationships.