7 Signs You're Trying To Change Your Partner
You're amazing, just the way you are. Bruno Mars told us that. But do you believe it about your partner? If you're guilty of these signs you're trying to change your partner, then probably not.
It's natural and healthy to want your partner to grow, to reach their potential, and to be all they can be. Growing and changing together, and working toward mutual (and private) goals is part of a healthy relationship. Insisting on change, forcing change, or manipulating your partner into change is another story. It's just not healthy to force someone to change, even if those changes would be the best thing to ever happen to them.
A person's potential is their own. Their career is their own. Their friends are their own. Their choices, you guessed it, their own. I used to see partners who tried to change their significant others all the time in my work with couples as both a Domestic Violence Victim Advocate and Planned Parenthood Certified Responsible Sexuality Educator. It was never healthy. And I'm not necessarily saying you're in an unhealthy relationship or you're some kind of abuser if you're trying to change your partner. I am saying that your partner is not a project and that you are not responsible for, nor in charge of, their choices. Even if you think you're doing something for their own good, such as pressuring them into school, what you're really doing is trying to remove their choice. That's never OK.
Check out these other ways you might be trying to change your partner and double check if you're supporting healthy change or forcing your partner into your image of how they should be.
1. You Try To Dress Them
Oh, I know, don't get mad at me. A lot of people dress their partners. But there's a big difference between helping someone who needs a little help and completely reinventing someone. Put another way, if you dress your partner because you have a fashions clueless partner who welcomes your input, no worries. If you dress your partner because you don't like the way they look and want them to dress how you want them to dress, then you're trying to change someone. In the context of a healthy relationship, this might not be that big of a deal. It can also be one of many behaviors that signal an imbalance of power and control; the calling card of an unhealthy relationship. Make sure your partner wants you to help with their wardrobe and back off if you sense resistance.
2. You Push Them Into School Or Work
There's a razor-thin line between encouraging someone to be their best selves and pressuring someone to be who you think they should be. If it really bothers you that your partner has an entry-level job or has no desire to go to college, you should ask yourself why this matters to you, instead of trying to force them into school or a new job. Because you might end up with what you want, but your partner might end up miserable. If your partner wants these things, then by all means, encourage away. But if you can't love your partner even if they never change jobs or get more education, then they're probably not the partner for you. Make sure you're supporting and encouraging and not forcing. If you're not sure of the best way to support your partner, ask!
3. You Constantly Disapprove Of Their Friends
If you hate your partner's friends, you don't have to be friends with them. If they disrespect you, or they get your partner into trouble, you have every right to complain. But you don't have the right to get rid of their friends, or get them new friends, just because you don't like them. It's controlling. It's a way of changing your partner, and it's a manipulation aimed at getting them to be more like what you want the to be like. You don't have to straight up demand that your partner get rid of their friends, either. Constantly dissing them gets that point across as well. If you can't stand the squad, just ignore them, and if the ways they annoy you aren't a big deal in the grand scheme of life, just let it go.
4. You Police Their Food Or Body
Again, fine line. But when you mention that you wish your partner would eat healthier to be healthier, that's OK. When you constantly criticize their eating habits, the way their clothes look, or the way their body has changed, that's a subtle way of trying to change them. You can have a frank conversation with your partner about healthy eating and weight loss, but you cannot force your partner to change their diet or their body. Using shame to get them to change on their own is not healthy. Or nice. Do something constructive instead by offering to cook healthy meals once in a while or inviting them hiking or dancing. Plus, you should love your partner no matter how many pounds they gain or lose, so make sure to keep the compliments coming!
5. You Make Jokes About Their Hobbies
Your partner loves playing video games. You hate video games and think they're childish. Unfortunately, as long as your partner is paying enough attention to you and their responsibilities, you can't take that away from them. Same with golf, manicures, pets, and music. Your partner likes what they like. If you're constantly putting those hobbies down, making fun of them, or complaining when they do them, what you're really doing is trying to change the into a person who doesn't do those things. Instead, find your own hobby for when video games are happening. Or find one you can play together. Also, you'd be surprised how fun it can be sometimes to watch your partner play video games.
6. You Play The Therapist
Trying to fix someone is a way of trying to change them. If you meet someone with serious problems and you feel like you can fix them, you're doing yourself and your partner a disservice. People have to want to fix themselves. They need to do their own healing and learning. You can, and should, support them (and sometimes help them) in this process, but it's their process. You can't make someone stop drinking, or see a counselor about their painful childhood, or get anxiety treatment, even if that's what's best for them. They have to want to do it and be motivated to do it themselves. Support your partner's attempts to find a good therapist or start a new treatment. Buy them journals to they can get their feelings out. Be the listening ear. But don't be the therapist.
7. You Make Their Choices
Sometimes in unhealthy relationships, one partner will get the hint that they're not OK as-is, and they'll revert to the other partner for their decision making. If you find that you make all the decisions, you should ask yourself if it's because you don't like the decisions your partner makes or the way your partner lives their life. In healthy relationships, both partners make decisions, even if that means sometimes one partner doesn't get their way. Constantly making all the decisions is a subtle but effective way of changing someone. Keep the decision making fair and let your partner make choices sometimes that you don't like. It's how relationships work.
If you don't love someone just the way they are, odds are, you still won't love them when they become who you think they should be. Before you push any agenda on your partner, make sure it's one they want and would have chosen for themselves.