Don't Try to Change Your Partner

Some people think that if their partner had a different character or gave up certain habits, everything would be perfect. However, waiting for a loved one to change to be the way you want is a useless exercise. That said, it's the kind of behavior that many of us fall victim to.
Don't Try to Change Your Partner
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 21 December, 2022

Would you like your partner to change? Would you like them to be more attentive and reasonable, and less argumentative?  If so, you’re not the only one. In fact, this is the kind of desire that’s buried deep in many of us. Indeed, we often wish that our partners had fewer flaws, bad habits, and eccentricities. The kinds that irritate us on a daily basis.

We all have flaws and peculiarities. Nevertheless, many still long to find the perfect partner. Someone who satisfies all the criteria they consider makes up the ideal partner. Moreover, there’s no shortage of people who start a relationship, taking it for granted that they’ll be able to change those annoying nuances they don’t like in their partner.

They tell themselves that “If they love me, they’ll change for me”.  After all, love conquers all, or so they believe. However, time passes and their partner doesn’t change. In fact, their annoying qualities intensify, to the extent of making living together impossible.

No one can force anyone to change, nor should we ever demand that others change for us. We all have our own eccentricities and ways of behaving. Indeed, we’re all imperfect beings trying to accept the particularity of others in order to live together.

Change requests are a constant in a relationship. Sometimes, they can be logical and necessary for the well-being of the relationship, but more often than not they backfire.

Angry couple in the living room symbolizing the desire to change your partner
There’ll always be aspects that you can work on between the two of you to generate a change that’ll lead to the improvement of your relationship.

You can’t change your partner

When it comes to living together as a couple, you’ve probably found yourself making some changes to make the relationship work. In fact, both small and big sacrifices cement emotional bonds. For example, you might move away from your home to live with them. Or, you may make an effort to iron out certain aspects of your own character to achieve a more satisfying and happy relationship.

These changes are often necessary to provide nourishment for your relationship and make it stronger. However, some change requests aren’t reasonable. These are the kinds that are totally impossible demands, sometimes even harmful ones. That’s because, if someone wants their partner to completely change for them, they’re invalidating them as a person.

So where’s the limit? Where does the subtle border lie, the point where change can be either beneficial for both or detrimental to one? Let’s find out.

There are certain requests for change that, in reality, act as forms of control and manipulation toward a partner.

Aspects that you can never change in your loved one

Chance, destiny, or certain decisions mean that, at any given moment, you might find a partner. Someone who captivates you and to whom you open the door of your heart. Nevertheless, this person you’ve fallen so deeply in love with also not only has their own personality but also a whole barrage of peculiarities and eccentricities.

You can’t take any of those things away from them. Loving them means loving them in their entirety, with all their plus and minus points. You can’t demand what they can keep and what they must leave behind. You can’t change them. Here are some of the aspects of them that are completely immovable:

  • Their past. They’re made up of the results of their own stories, experiences, past relationships, happy moments, and traumas. None of that can be erased.
  • Personality. Whether they’re introverted, extroverted, highly sensitive, stubborn, ambitious, shy, sociable, or neurotic, you must accept them. If not, you don’t really love them.
  • Their values.
  • Their sense of humor.
  • The hobbies they have.
  • Their social circle, friendships, and roots.
  • Their goals and vital purposes.
  • Their opinions, beliefs, the way they dress, and their personal tastes.

If your partner has personality and behavioral traits that you don’t like, you only have two options. Accept them or leave the relationship.

scene symbolizing the need to change your partner
Many times, you might think that your relationship would be better if your partner was as you wanted them to be. However, this would mean that you’d be imposing your way of being on them.

When requesting a change is acceptable

If your partner behaves in a way you don’t like or that’s making your relationship difficult, you can ask them to make some changes. Having a hermetic and uncommunicative partner is one such example of this. In fact, research conducted by the University of Toronto, Dalhousie, and Rochester addressed this issue.

The researchers claimed that asking a partner to change is common, especially when there are conflicts and distressing situations in a relationship. They noticed that these changes only tend to happen when the person is able to regulate their emotions and reassess the situation. In other words, there are certain times when it’s acceptable and advisable to ask the other to alter their behavior. Here are a couple of examples:

  • You can request changes when a harmful dynamic appears that puts your relationship in check.
  • You could ask your partner to modify their behavior when it’s also harming them. For example, addictions, or psychological problems that they’re refusing to deal with.

That said, it’s important to bear in mind that when you make these requests, you should help, support, and guide them. If they don’t agree and think that they don’t have to do what you ask, it’s clear that there’s a problem. You only have two options. The first is to give up and accept the conflictive situation. The second is to leave the relationship.

You can’t turn your partner into what you want them to be

If your goal is to find the perfect person or, even more so, to turn your partner into someone they’re not, you have a problem. Trying to turn them into the person you want them to be isn’t an option. In fact, it’s a form of manipulation and interpersonal aggression. It must be avoided at all costs.

Now you know that you can’t change your partner. However, you can do something. You can ask for changes that are aimed at solving problems in your relationship. As a matter of fact, sometimes, change is a form of growth and, far from being a loss, is a gain at all levels. It’s worth bearing in mind.


All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Braithwaite, S., Holt-Lunstad, J (2017). Romantic relationships and mental health. Current Opinion in Psychology, 13, 120125
  • Caughlin, J. P., Vangelisti, A. L. (2006). Conflict in dating and romantic relationships. In Oetzel, J., Ting-Toomey, S. (Eds), The Sage handbook of conflict communication (pp. 129157).
  • Sisson NM, Wang GA, Le BM, Stellar JE, Impett EA. When We’re Asked to Change: The Role of Suppression and Reappraisal in Partner Change Outcomes. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. 2022;39(8):2388-2407. doi:10.1177/02654075221078881

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.