You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. A tiger never changes its stripes. There is a reason why there are so many clichés about the inability to change.
When you were first dating, your partner could do no wrong. They wooed and romanced you so well that you barely noticed their quirky little habits. But now, after years of marriage, what was once a cute quirk has now turned into an irritating quirk.
You may want them to change but remember this: encouraging someone to be their best self is an admirable quality of a supportive partner, but forcibly trying to change your spouse can do more damage than good – for both of you.
It’s natural for couples to change and grow, but this is something that should happen naturally, not something you should exhaustively pursue.
Even research shows that changing partners doesn’t change relationship dynamics per se.
So let’s look at some of the reasons why you should never try to change your partner.
Common areas people try and change
Don’t change your partner – it’s a phrase we’ve all heard, yet some won’t heed this sage advice. It is never wise to go into a relationship thinking you can change your partner. Positive changes come over time, not by force. Here are some of the most common things people try to change in relationships.
Religion and politics: You’re a lefty, he’s a righty. You’re a Christian, she’s an atheist. When you are passionate about different beliefs, it can create turmoil in your relationship, especially if you are trying to change your partner’s beliefs.
Homebase: If you have dreamed of moving to a different state or country and your partner refuses to leave their city because of family or work attachments, this is not something that is likely to change anytime soon.
Disagreements about family planning: You want kids, she doesn’t. You want 5 kids, she wants one. It’s very difficult when two partners have different feelings about having children.
You may go into a relationship hoping that your spouse will mature and change their mind over time but trying to change their views on starting a family is dangerous for both parties.
You dislike their friends or family: When couples first get together it’s natural for them to drift away from friends and family for a time, but don’t expect your spouse to drop their best friend or close family relationship just because you don’t like them.
Mental health issues: Emotional and mental issues may be helped with prescription medications or therapy, but they are not something you can personally change about your partner.
Damage incurred when trying to change partner
1. It’s disrespectful
The presence of respect in a relationship both partners feel safe. Respect indicates that your feelings will always be considered, that your happiness and welfare are important to your partner, and promotes a feeling of trust, appreciation, and empathy.
Putting yourself on a mission to change your spouse is highly disrespectful to them and to your relationship. There are many habits that are healthy to break such as smoking or overeating but trying to change your partner’s personality isn’t one of them.
When you disrespect your spouse, you break down their self-esteem, hurt their feelings, and demean their sense of self.
2. It creates emotional distance
Personal growth is fantastic. Everyone has things, be it bad habits, goals, or foibles, that they could work on.
Changing behaviors and responses for a partner is not always a bad thing. In fact, it is normal and thoughtful when it’s done for the right reason. For example, if it bothers your spouse that you get easily defensive or that you leave your dirty clothes on the floor, it would be kind and considerate to your spouse to change the way you handle these situations.
But if you find yourself constantly trying to change your partner then you are essentially telling them that what they have to offer you isn’t good enough. This can push them away and cause distance in the relationship.
Also watch: Arguing Causes Emotional Distance
3. You wouldn’t accept it
Let’s try some role-reversal. How would you feel if your partner was constantly telling you that you need to change? Would it strengthen your relationship if they told you they would be more attracted to you if you looked like X, that they wished you were more passionate about Y, or you should be more like Z? Likely not.
Nobody likes to be told what to do. When determining how you should treat your partner, always put yourself in their shoes. Think of how it would make you feel to be constantly picked apart.
Trying to change your spouse will leave them feeling unworthy and leave you emotionally exhausted.
Your spouse is not your pet project and you are not responsible for any changes they make in their lives. While your love and encouragement may help your partner reach their potential faster than they would on their own, their journey to a better self is ultimately their own.
Don’t change your partner. If you are in your relationship with the idea that you’ll only be happy when your partner fits the mold you have designed for them – you should not be in the relationship.
Either you like the person you’re with or you don’t. It’s as simple as that.
Don’t change your partner – Accept them
It’s natural for you to want the best for your partner. Growing together, changing and maturing, and striving to reach your potential are healthy goals for all couples. But, there is a vast difference between encouraging your spouse to be their best self and trying to completely change who they are.
Strive to treat your spouse with love and respect, enjoying them for who they are now, not who they could be someday.
For better or worse, you married your spouse and all the little foibles that come with them. Don’t change your partner – change your outlook!
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.
Rachael Pace is a noted relationship writer associated with Marriage.com. She provides inspiration, support, and empowerment in the form of motivational articles and essays. Rachael enjoys studying the evolution of loving partnerships and is passionate about writing on them. She believes that everyone should make room for love in their lives and encourages couples to work on overcoming their challenges together.