Here's What You Can Ask Your Partner To Change — And What You Can't

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It’s a cliche that when you love someone, you don’t want to change a single thing about them. But most people in relationships can tell you that’s not true. Plenty of people would like their partners to behave differently in some way, whether that’s by helping out more around the house, thinking before they speak, keeping their promises, or rethinking some of their beliefs. But how much can you ask for from your partner, and how much is trying to fundamentally change who they are?

“It would be impossible to accept a partner 100 percent as they are if you include every single behavior,” Astroglide’s Resident Sexologist Dr. Jess O’Reilly tells Bustle. “We need to make requests of others to ensure social bonding and order. It is important to speak up to voice your needs and preferences, and it’s important to hear what your partner has to say. Having said that, neither of you has to oblige every request — you simply need to start a dialogue to cultivate compatibility.”

On the other hand, people have natural inclinations that they can’t change, at least not without expending a lot of energy, therapist Karen R. Koenig, MEd, LCSW, tells Bustle. So, here’s how to strike the balance between sticking up for yourself when your partner’s bothering you and letting them be who they are.

It’s OK To Change Actions

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It shouldn’t be a big deal for you to ask your partner to, say, stop leaving wet towels on the floor, says O’Reilly. They should be able to understand why these habits bother you, and they’re not giving up much of who they are by making these small adjustments.

It’s Not OK To Change Personality Traits

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If, on the other hand, your problem with your partner is that they socialize too much, asking them to change this may be asking them to give up too much of who they are, says O’Reilly. Being social is a personality trait, not a behavior someone can adopt and drop at will.

It’s OK To Ask For Compromises

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Even if someone can’t give up fundamental parts of their personalities, they can adjust their behavior so that they express these traits while also giving you what you need. For example, maybe they can still go out with their friends several nights a week but save at least one night to be alone with you.

It’s OK To Change Opinions

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If you and your partner have totally different values, the relationship may be in trouble. But if you basically agree on the most important things, there’s nothing wrong with friendly debate. “You can help someone understand why he tends to be racist and learn not to be or why she’s tight with money and learn to be more comfortable spending it,” says Koenig. The important thing is to have these conversations respectfully and assume everyone’s coming from a good place.

It’s OK To Help Them Make Changes They Want

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It can be extremely helpful to have an ally when you’re looking to make a change. Even if it’s a big change, it’s OK to try to change your partner if they want that change, too. “You can help your partner be more tactful, loving, or neat,” says Koenig. Just make sure they’re on board, or your help could come off as criticism.

It’s Not OK To Push Them To Change

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If our partners are unwilling to change their attitudes, being pushy probably won’t help. In this situation, it’s up to us to decide whether we’re able to live with their behaviors or if we want to end the relationship. “The goal is to get them on board and motivated about changing or else you’ll just be nagging them,” says Koenig.

However, don’t jump to the conclusion that you should end your relationship because your partner’s doing something you don’t think you can change. At least try asking first. “I do a great deal of couples’ therapy and am always amazed at how partners will try to change for each other when asked with love and patience,” says Koenig.

If you’re respectful about asking for the change and make it clear how important these changes are to you, you may be surprised by how much they’re willing to accommodate you.