Change, although an inevitable component of life, is never easy. People can be more or less willing to adapt depending on many factors such as the type of change they need to undergo, perceived implications of that transformation, and their capacities for adjustment.
A relationship requires both partners to conform and grow together so they can respond adequately to the challenges and demands of life. If one of the partners is unwilling to change or compromise, it can lead to problems in the relationship.
A partner refusing to change can affect a relationship substantially. So, what to do and how to get your spouse to change?
How much can you ask your partner to change
Before we move on to strategies you can employ to negotiate with them if they don’t like change for any reason, it is important to ask yourself, “how much change is acceptable to ask for from a person?”
Changing someone in a relationship is a demanding and often impossible job unless the other person is willing to collaborate. So how to know when to stop asking a partner refusing to change and change partners?
You should consider seizing the reconstructive demands if your partner is unwilling to change, although aware of negative effects on you, themselves, your relationship and knows of future damage that is going to happen if they remain the same.
Another reason to stop trying to change someone in a relationship is the modifications their personality might suffer. When people feel change is going to cost them more than benefit them, they are reluctant to invest in it.
This is especially true if what you are asking to change is a matter of identity or integrity. Be careful what you wish for because even if they agree to transform or adjust, are you going to like who they become?
When you realize the limits of someone’s inability to adapt, there are other options for you.
When you can’t change your spouse, change yourself
Partner refusing to change doesn’t mean you are helpless. You still have the choice of focusing on yourself and your own change. Often, your own transformation produces the much-wanted modification of your partner’s behavior.
You can’t change someone who doesn’t like change or sees it as necessary. What you can do is change yourself or change your partner.
With a partner refusing to change, attempt to introduce innovation in your own behaviors and respond to situations differently.
It can trigger them to see and react in another, novel, way too.
Strategies to talk with spouse about changing things
1. Be clear and concise about your needs
To increase the chances of changing a partner refusing to change, you need to state clearly what you are looking for.
Phrase it in positive terms; ask for what you need more of, not what you need less of. For example, try saying, “I would like if you would take more initiative in planning romantic events for us” instead of “Can you stop being so passive?”
2. Be kind, avoid confrontation and judgment
Often it is how we say things that matter more than what is said. If you accuse them, belittle or judge them for their choices, naturally, they are going to be defensive. That is no path to mutual satisfaction.
Instead, try to understand where they are coming from. Understanding doesn’t mean condoning.
You can still need something from them although you see why they can’t provide that for you at the moment.
Otherwise, you might say things you do mean in a way that can produce a lot of hurt to your partner. This can push them further into resistance.
4. Be mindful of the pace and amount of change you ask for
Change is difficult because it demands effort and energy. Whenever we are doing something that is not customary, we need to be concentrating on it more and put work into it. Therefore, change needs to be gradual if it is to be stable and lasting.
Otherwise, too much in a short amount of time can induce resistance. Be mindful of how much you ask them to change and with what deadline.
If the demands are too high compared to their capacities of a partner refusing to change, they are going to fall short of it. That feeling of failure is going to reduce their motivation for future growth.
5. Listen to their side of things
What are they trying to gain by staying in the comfort zone (besides comfort)? Maybe you need to help them understand their comfort zones. A study found that people’s understanding of their comfort zones can help them live more fulfilling.
When trying to help them change, look for an option that includes, as much as possible, the gains they have of their choice to remain the same.
When you take the time to hear them out, you will hear the potential advantages. Incorporate those, and your partner is more likely to accept to try it your way.
6. Clarify the effects on you and the relationship
If you haven’t already done so, take time to explain how they are making you feel and how your emotional state reflects onto the relationship and vice versa.
Comprehending the negative consequences of their actions can make them more motivated to try and shake their habits.
7. Keep the focus of the talk on one topic
Both of you will go through many changes in a marriage. You might be googling, “my husband refuses to change” or “how to help my wife change” many times over the years.
However, if you want to increase the chances of success when addressing an issue, keep it to one topic.
It is connected to other things in a marriage; still, if you expand the conversation, you will lose focus. Each conversation about change is, to a certain extent, challenging. Keep the attention to the most pressing issue, so your efforts don’t go to waste.
8. Validate the efforts they are making
Positive reinforcement is a valuable resource when trying to help someone modify their behavior. People respond best to praise and are willing to do more of the thing they got the praise for.
When you see them putting in the effort, make sure to recognize it. Feeling appreciated is helpful for another reason.
They will feel better about themselves and you, so when you broach a negative subject, it will go over easier as there is going to be less resentment.
9. Don’t bring up past mistakes
Besides staying on point with one topic, try to leave the past where it belongs. Yes, they have probably made many mistakes that hurt you. There is no denying that, but the time to bring it up is not when you are asking for change.
Although it might guilt your partner into doing what you want, it won’t create a lasting change, and they will do it unwillingly.
Any hurts that you are not ready to forgive deserve a conversation of their own. Create a space for it as well, outside of the conversation that is supposed to produce different results.
10. Think of what to offer in return
When asking for something, it is more likely to get it if you offer something in return. Ask your partner if there is something you can do for them that seems equivalent to what you are requesting.
Not only will it make them feel like it’s a fair “trade,” but you might also become more patient and willing to give them time as a result of your own change.
11. Consider therapy
Not every action we make is fully conscious. We can do something and think we know why until we reflect more and realize a whole list of additional reasons. Therapy can help clarify the benefits and downsides of the different choices we make.
When we know why we are doing something, we can try to find a new way that costs less and helps us keep the gains. It also prepares the stage, so change to happen and stick.
How to let go when your partner refuses to change
If your partner is refusing to change, you need to ask, “what is so important that they refuse to change despite knowing the negative effects.”
Most often, the answer lies in the implications of said change – in their opinion, what is going to be different when the change occurs? What is going to be sacrificed?
Think of it this way – a partner refusing to change is protecting something of importance and value to them. In the same way, you need something to be different because some personal value, need, or belief is not validated or fulfilled.
It might not have much sense to them either why they choose to stay the same, but it is still a choice they are making due to, more or less hidden, advantages of that choice.
When you are aware of those, you can estimate better how likely it is for them to ever become ready to change. This estimate is more accurate if you consider their opinion on it as well.
When you have that estimate, you can ask yourself, are you willing to wait, how long, and can you accept a partner refusing to change.
If you can’t accept the situation for what it is, and they can’t or won’t change to improve it, you need to consider alternatives.
Also watch: How to let go of someone you love.
Questions to ask yourself when a partner is refusing to change
When trying to evaluate what to do next when a partner refuses to change, you can turn to some insightful questions. They can help you look at things from a different perspective before you choose the best decision for you.
Is what I am asking for a behavioral change or personality change? Is their sense of personal identity in any way at stake here?
Is their refusal a matter of capacity or willingness?
Will things be different if I give them some time? How much time can I give? What factors could foster their change?
How would the ideal scenario of their transformation look like?
What is a transformation I would consider “good enough”?
Make sure to run some of the questions by your partner, they can provide more insight, and that can help you with your decision.
If the needed change would make either of you feel like you don’t know who you are anymore, it’s not a good option. It means you will make a compromise in the area of your identity.
If your partner is refusing change and you can’t accept the situation as is, know that sometimes ending the relationship is the only way you can both be happy.
Keep in mind – if either of you makes a too large compromise, it can affect how they see themselves, you, and your relationship. They won’t be happy, and both partners need to be fulfilled for the relationship to flourish.
Partner refusing to change can bring many headaches and trouble to a relationship. There is no easy answer as to what to do. However, pressuring them is not the key, as you need both to be happy for the union to function.
Things you can do to cope depend on what you are comfortable with.
You can try to explain your side of things, the effects lack of change is making on you and the relationship, reduce the expectations, validate the efforts they are making to foster further change. If that doesn’t help, there are still alternatives for you.
Partner refusing to change invites you to consider what you can change. When you modify yours, it can impact adjustments in their behavior. Also, you can try couple’s counseling to understand the root of the problem and deal with that.
If nothing else works and you can’t accept the state of things, you can consider changing partners. Only you can decide what is right for you and how much you can endure and accept.
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
Sylvia Smith loves to share insights on how couples can revitalize their love lives in and out of the bedroom. As a writer at Marriage.com, she is a big believer in living consciously and encourages couples to adopt this principle in their lives too. Sylvia believes that every couple can transform their relationship into a happier, healthier one by taking purposeful and wholehearted action.