Is Your Partner Going to Change?

Expecting change

It’s a common mantra to hear that you shouldn’t date someone expecting them to change. But human nature is to change, so it’s unreasonable to expect someone to stay static as well. There are some reasons we think we can change partners, as well as some reasonable changes to expect, which we talk about in this episode.

When do we expect change?

Sometimes situations arise that make us believe someone will change:

  1. When a relationship first begins, sometimes NRE can cause us to ignore red flags or think that some things will resolve with time.
  2. When areas of incompatibility arise, such as timeliness, cleanliness, money, sex, life goals, values, definitions of fidelity, etc.
  3. Annoyances and irritations (sometimes related to compatibility, but also some day-to-day annoyances can fall into this category).
  4. Boundary violations, both intentional and unintentional.
  5. Toxic or abusive behavior.

Change that we can (and it’s okay to) expect:

  1. Change in actions such as doing things around the house, asking for a check-in at a particular time, change in communication approach, etc.
  2. Compromise, or coming up with solutions as a team and working together to honor both your needs.
  3. Changes of opinion or outlook, which usually only works if you and your partner already share similar basic values.
  4. Helping a partner make changes that they want to make or are motivated themselves to make in a way that they want to be helped.
  5. When there is toxic/abusive/directly harmful addictive behavior.

What it’s NOT okay to ask for or expect:

  1. Change in personality traits.
  2. Change in how your partner dresses or presents themselves all the time.
  3. Your partner abandoning or changing their circle of friends.
  4. Change in their sexual or relationship orientation if it does not feel fluid to them already.
  5. Change in what they eat or how they take care of their body.
  6. On-demand change of your partner’s sex drive or emotional state.
  7. Change that YOU ultimately want, not your partner.

If I want my partner to change…

It’s important to figure out why you want your partner to change something. What’s triggering it? What does the situation remind you of? Do you need a boundary in place there?

If you must complain, do your best to do it without blame or shame. Blame puts the other person on the defensive immediately, and shaming someone into change isn’t effective or ethical.

Try to understand first before being understood. Ask open ended questions with compassion about your partner’s background, past baggage, way of thinking, etc. Offer and provide empathy and understanding, even if you don’t agree.

Use “soft start up” to engage in conversation about change, and look for areas of compromise.

Remember that it’s okay to break up. Sometimes it’s necessary and healthier for both of you.

How can I tell if my partner is actually changing?

Some cues to look for when your partner is implementing positive change that both they and you wanted are:

  • They respect your opinions even when you disagree without any mockery or belittling.
  • You can talk about complaints and make requests without fear of punitive backlash.
  • You’re free to express a wide range of emotions even when they’re related to your partner’s behavior.
  • They are willing to compromise and collaborate on solutions, and you see consistent effort towards making changes the two of you agreed on.

Some misleading signs that your partner may not in fact be exhibiting positive change are:

  • No bad behavior, but also no good behavior.
  • The volume is turned down, but harmful words and sentiments have stayed the same.
  • Ideas like “I can only change if you can change,” or “I can change only if you are here to help me change.”
  • Criticizing you for not recognizing their change.
  • They’re nicer but still disrespectful and coercive.

Give the full episode a listen to get all the detail that’s packed into this one! Let us know what you think.

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