We’ve all been there; our partner doesn’t always act the way we want them to. The longer we are with our partner, the more aware we become of all of their annoying characteristics and habits. At some point, most people ask the question, “How can I change my partner?”
If you’ve spent any time at all thinking about this topic, you already know that the experts say it’s impossible and your own efforts have proven the same. Indeed, our attempts to change others are usually in vain. As the well-known couples’ therapist from the United States, Dan Wile, says, “When you choose a partner, you automatically also choose a set of unsolvable problems.”
How about trying this strategy: accept your partner the way they are, and not how you think they should be. You cannot change them.
You may not be able to change your partner, but there are ways to change a person’s behaviour. Each relationship has its own patterns and develops a unique dynamic. The behaviour of one partner provokes a reaction from the other. So, the most effective way for you to influence your partner’s behaviour is to change your own. Yes! You create an opportunity for your partner to change by changing yourself first.
Pressure, accusations, nagging, or consistently making demands won’t bring about the desired, long-term changes. Instead, these tactics can cause the other person to retaliate, resulting in no one making any changes.
For example: Sandra gets home from grocery shopping. As Phillip is putting things away in the fridge, he whispers to himself just loud enough for Sandra to hear, “Does this store only carry overpriced, organic products?” Sandra immediately gets defensive and answers, “Well then maybe YOU should do the shopping next time, you scrooge!” You can probably imagine how the rest of the conversation plays out. How likely is it that Phillip’s comments will actually change Sandra’s behaviour? Perhaps, if he started the conversation by explaining to her his concerns about spending too much money on groceries, or perhaps asking her why she thinks it’s important to buy organic, then she might be willing to change her shopping habits or at least help Phillip understand her reasons for shopping where she does.
Moving to the next level in your relationship:
How can you change your own behaviour and give your partner an opportunity to react differently? Are there certain things you do that could provoke the negative behaviours in your partners? Are there things your partner does that bring out negative behaviours in you?
It’s normal to develop habits and struggles in the way we communicate. Toucan Together’s Conflict Module helps you identify your conflict style and positive strategies for managing arguments in healthier ways. Start by taking our research-based ‘Pulse’ quiz to find out where you’re at in your relationship and get personalised recommendations. GET STARTED | LOG IN