Accept Your Partner, Don't Idealize Them

Pygmalion fell in love with his own creation, the beautiful statue of Galatea. In the same way, you might also fall in love with an idea and not who you really have by your side.
Accept Your Partner, Don't Idealize Them

Last update: 21 May, 2021

When you construct fantasies around your partner, they stop being themselves and become an idealized reflection of your dreams and desires. In fact, they become like the statue of Galatea, embodying your own projection of them, not reality. That’s because you’re refusing to accept your partner the way they are, and they’ve become nothing more than a supplier of your own personal needs. It’s at this point that you need to recognize the difference between being in love and being trapped in your relationship.

In this article, you’ll discover how much you’re actually accepting your partner the way they are. Or how much you’re ignoring things and just pretending they’re who you want them to be.

A loving couple, each one accepting their partner.

Why can’t you be the way I want you to be?

Lovers often fall into the trap of trying to change each other. It’s a trap that’s difficult to get out of. Even more so when you’re convinced you’re really in love.

If you’re a super-organized and methodical person, you might make your partner seem far more disorganized than they really are. The same thing can happen when one partner is a bit of a flirt and very open and outgoing while the other tends to be obsessive, jealous, and insecure. Or one partner’s affectionate, while the other tends to not show their emotions.

Consequently, when you consider the differences between the two of you, you might think “Why can’t you be a bit more like me just to make me happy? Why can’t you change a little bit? If only you were a bit more…. things would be fantastic”.

Getting stuck in a loop

These kinds of issues usually mean you’re stuck in a loop, refusing to accept your partner the way they are. Rather than appreciating the differences between the two of you, you just criticize each other. Explanations and justifications won’t be of any use because they’ll also be grounded within your different personalities. In fact, you’re both trapped in your relationship and unable to change.

There’s always a relational game at play in any relationship. However, in this kind of situation, it’s a destructive game. To change things, you need to change the rules or at least modify them to allow new growth.

The very nature of a relationship means that your basic personality characteristics, how you relate to others, and your beliefs and personal values become highlighted in relation to those of your partner.

A couple arguing.

Accept your partner and don’t expect them to change to suit you

Wanting your partner to change to fit in with your own desires and expectations is never a good idea. It won’t work:

  • For you, because your partner will never be able to conform to such an idealized profile.
  • For your partner, because they’ll feel devalued as well as not being recognized for who they really are. Furthermore, they’ll become emotionally exhausted due to continually trying to be someone that they’re not.

Then, when you ultimately separate, you’ll find yourself saying things like “I spent years trying to change them, but I couldn’t. I could either accept things as they were or leave”.

Although you can try to change your partner (as long as your ultimate goal is healthy for the relationship) you need to work out the route you’re going to take. In fact, how you’re going to reach a point of reasonable agreement between the two of you and certainly not an idealistic one.

Long term relationship problems

Sometimes, when a couple has been together for years, one partner might suddenly demand change in the other. Indeed, they might claim the other doesn’t behave as they used to. In these situations, they need to work out why behavior that used to be so beneficial for the relationship has disappeared over the years.

One partner might demand that the other behave in a way that’s totally alien to them. In fact, they want them to become someone they never really were in the first place. However, the partner’s completely unable to be that person as they don’t even have that kind of personality. In this kind of situation, one partner ends up feeling totally undervalued by the other.

What they both need to do is remember that they’ve both probably changed a great deal over the years. They changed their likes, dislikes, beliefs, and values. Therefore, neither of them is the same person that the other chose all those years ago.

A couple arguing, each one not accepting their partner.

Accept your partner

Everything we’ve said so far doesn’t mean you have to stop suggesting any changes in your relationship. However, you must pretending that your partner can be someone else and has to make radical, unrealistic changes. You must also take into account that some changes are easier to make than others.

In fact, you simply have to remember that they are who they are and you can’t expect them to radically change just because you want them to. You can ask, but not demand, certain changes in their attitude. You could try to change the dynamics of your relationship and both of you could also try to change certain idiosyncrasies.

The feelings of frustration and failure in these kinds of situations are due to the fact that your love was built on idealization. You just don’t see your partner as they really are. In addition, the more you expect your partner to be ideal (how you want them to be), the more likely you are to eventually clash when you find out what they’re really like. This destroys your link with them. It also leads to belittling, undermining, and hostile feelings.

This is when feelings of disenchantment start. Disenchantment means de-idealization. The greater your idealization was in the first place, the greater your ultimate disappointment will be. In order to put a stop to all this, you need to make a new agreement with your partner. In fact, you both need to work to improve your relationship. This might be better done with the help of a therapist so that they can act as a mediator.

An exercise to improve your relationship

An exercise that generally yields good results is for each partner to write down two columns on a blank sheet of paper. In one column, you write down what you like/love about the other. In the other column, write what you dislike/hate.

Then, in turn, you both read out what you’ve written, starting with what you like least and ending with what you like most about each other. At this point, neither of you can interrupt the other. Then, you swap lists. Finally, you both have to choose something from the other’s list (the irritating section) that you feel you can change about yourself. In this way, you both have something to achieve. After ten days, you each say whether you’ve noticed any change in each other.

It’s all part of understanding each other. Of accepting that you’re both different people, with your own virtues and flaws. This way, you’re able to suggest changes with the goal of achieving happiness as a couple. However, you must always give these suggestions respectfully and in the spirit of reconciliation.

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