You always hear that love means not wanting to change someone. But anybody who's been in a relationship knows that's not realistic. As long as you're not pressuring them to give up a core part of who they are, asking for a change from your partner is completely acceptable and often necessary. However, some ways of doing so are more effective than others.
This occurred to me a few weeks ago, when my partner agreed for the first time to start being more on top of plans. I was tired of him saying he'd do something and then not doing it or taking a longer time than he'd promised, and finally, I told him how much it stressed me out to wait and wonder whether he'd follow through. While I may have addressed specific instances when I wished he'd been more reliable before, I'd never brought up the larger issue because I assumed that's just how he was, and past partners hadn't been willing to make changes like that. But once he knew it was an issue, he stepped up.
Whether or not you get a change from your partner, I realized, really does depend on how you ask. So, here are some ways to ask effectively.
Provide An Incentive
If you're asking your partner to do something for you, like chip in more around the house or help you out with a project, says Daniels, let them know you'll appreciate it by offering a reward, like a back rub or a dinner out on you. Or, just explain how the change you want them to make will improve the relationship for both of you.
If your issue is them not putting in as much effort as you are, switch roles so that they gain an appreciation for how much you do, Daniels suggests. For example, do each other's household chores for one day so that they can see how much effort you put in already. If it turns out you really are doing more, they'll become more conscious of that.
You may not realizing it, but you could actually be part of your partner's problem, says relationship expert April Masini. If you clean up after them or wait from them, for example, you send the message that they can get away with being sloppy or chronically late. Instead, go into the movie theater alone if they don't arrive on time, or hire a maid and ask them to pay. They'll start to realize their actions have consequences.
Confront your partner about the issue you're having during a serious, sensitive conversation, says SawYouatSinai.com Senior Matchmaker and Dating Coach Lori Salkin. Don't bring it up nonchalantly or joke about it, or the message may not get through to them. And constantly making jabs like "you just called your mom, so I know your phone's working" will only make them annoyed with you and put them on the defense.
Acknowledge It's Not Easy
Before you tell them to respond to your texts in a more timely manner, let them know you understand they're busy. If you want them to be a better listener, tell you know they've got a lot on their minds. Neglecting that they're dealing with challenges of their own can make them feel misunderstood, says Salkin. If you come off sympathetic and appreciative, they're more likely to listen.
Use "I" Statements
Rather than making them feel like they've done something wrong based on some objective moral standard, emphasize that what they've done has hurt you. Letting someone know what effect their behavior has on you gives them a motivation to change, says psychotherapist Francyne Foxman, LMFT. For example, if they understand that not doing what they say they'll do leaves you stressing over whether you'll have to do it yourself, they'll start to sympathize.
Use Positive Reinforcement
Make sure to thank your partner when they do make the changes you want, says Salkin, and acknowledge the times they have lived up to or exceeded your expectations thus far. That way, they have an incentive to accommodate your requests in the future.
If you keep asking for a change and your partner refuses to make it, that could be grounds to reconsider the relationship. But before you assume they can't change and skip to thoughts about breaking up, give them the chance to make it up to you. You may be surprised by the results if you ask nicely.