What to do when you wish your partner would change
Again and again, in our counseling practice, couples come to us who want their partner to change: to be healthier, more productive, more social and outgoing, more financially savvy, less demanding, sexier, more spiritual, and so on. If you are really honest with yourself, there are probably some ways you too wish your partner would change to fit your ideal image of a mate.
Being in a relationship is a very unique part of our lives. Here is this other human being who has a tremendous impact on us, and yet we don’t have control over their thoughts, feelings, actions, or appearance. When you wish your partner was different, it’s easy to feel frustrated, disappointed, discouraged, out of control, and dissatisfied. You’ve probably had moments dreaming of someone else and how much easier or more fulfilling (you think) it would be.
Sounding familiar yet?
The truth is, whenever we enter into a union with another human being, there are going to be qualities and differences we may not fully enjoy. Likewise, you have traits your partner may not find especially appealing. The answer isn’t simply to find someone else. Instead, these 7 things can make all the difference…
1. Change yourself.
The world is our mirror, and we create so much of what we see. It is truly remarkable how people begin to relate to us differently and how life shows up for us more abundantly when we simply change ourselves. We regularly see clients individually whose partners aren’t willing to attend counseling. In the process of their own transformation, they marvel at how their partners and relationships change.
For example, if you want your beloved to be more romantic in your relationship, create more romance. If you want to have more fun, be more fun. If you want more freedom, find ways for your beloved to trust you and feel as safe as possible. If you want better communication, learn the tools and put them into practice. If you want less conflict, transform all the ways you are contributing to it. If you want more love and acceptance, discover how loving and accepting yourself creates an opening for your partner to do the same.
2. Acknowledge the challenges of being in a relationship with you.
It’s easy to focus our attention on the things our partner is doing “wrong,” how we wish they were different and would do more of ________________. However, it is vital to keep perspective by humbling ourselves to the many ways our beloved experiences the challenges we bring as well. We are two wonderfully imperfect human beings, and expecting our beloved (or ourselves) to be perfect is setting ourselves up for a lifetime of disappointment.
3. Focus on the behavior, not the person, and make clear and specific requests.
When we want our beloved to change, it’s easy to become critical of who they are. This strategy never serves anyone and leads to more distance, and your partner feeling ashamed, defensive, rejected, stubborn, or deflated. Instead, we encourage you to focus on the behavior (“when you spend hours every night on your computer…”), rather than the person (“you are insensitive and inconsiderate”).
Also, so many people spend the majority of their time complaining about what they don’t want, rather than making really clear requests that set your beloved up for success. When you make a request, again, focus on a behavior change, rather than on changing your beloved’s essence. For example: “My request is to spend one uninterrupted hour every night enjoying one another with our full presence.”
4. Give feedback in a way your partner can hear you.
Rather than giving your beloved feedback in the hopes of changing them, we encourage you to offer feedback with a spirit of positivity, understanding, curiosity, true support, and loving teamwork.
5. Get curious about what your partner is feeling and needing.
Step outside of yourself, your story, and your experience, and enter into empathy. What do you imagine your beloved may be feeling about this aspect of themselves? When you try controlling or changing them, how is it for them? What do they need most right now?
6. Focus on and appreciate your beloved’s strengths.
What we seek, we find, and what we focus on expands. If we put on our fault-finding glasses when evaluating our beloved, we will find faults. Likewise, if we put on the strengths-finding glasses, we will discover their gifts. The more you focus on the things you want to change about your partner, the more energy and power you are giving to these attributes. The more you recognize and affirm your beloved’s strengths, you create the opening for them to grow.
7. Control what you can, and let go of what you can’t.
The truth is, you can’t control your beloved. You can control yourself and how you respond, communicate, express affection, give generously, offer empathy and acceptance, take care of yourself, breathe deeply, and so on. How your beloved responds and acts in your relationship is not within your control. Accepting this truth is the only way to your relationship happiness.
If wanting to change your beloved is a pattern of yours, you know well the results: a wall of tension between you and increasing frustration and resentment for you both. In the past, you may have tried blaming, shaming, guilt, coercion, overpowering, criticism, and manipulation to get what you want, and this will never create a thriving relationship or lead to your true joy. Next time your beloved isn’t living up to your dreams and ideals, we lovingly support you in trying these 7 strategies instead!
Lastly, if you want support in creating the abundance of changes you do have control over and the ones that make the biggest difference in you experiencing the relationship and partner of your dreams, we are here for you and offer our Thriving Relationship Coaching and Counseling all over the world (in person or by phone or Skype).
Have a magnificent day, celebrating, accepting, supporting, and loving your whole selves!
Infinite Love and Joy,
Christine and Bret
If a thriving relationship is possible, why not choose it?! Schedule a couples or marriage counseling session today!