The need to change your partner

People enter into relationships having expectations and hopes, they want their partner to already know what they want and need, as if they could read their thoughts, they want to feel loved and to love, they make future plans, often without discussing with their partner their vision, assuming they want the same thing or hoping that "they will leave off bad habits".

Some people are so attached to these plans, to their ideal vision, to the image they have formed about their partner, an image formed in such a way as to please them, to match their needs and aspirations, that they refuse to see the reality as it is and they sink into daydreams and self-delusion. Especially in the beginning, what they don't like about their partner or their flaws are minimized or denied, the lack of compatibility is seen as something unimportant, thinking that they will be able to compensate it if they make compromises and comply with their wishes, and then, quarrels, heartache, the refusal to communicate, attempts to manipulate, emotional blackmail and "revenge" become part of everyday normality.

When we don’t show ourselves in front of others as we are (this is primarily because we can’t accept ourselves completely, we don’t take 100% responsibility for our being and our life or because we are afraid that we will be rejected) or when we have the feeling that we can’t be ourselves with our partner, when the relationship is based on a mask-to-mask interaction, where each one struggles to be in a certain way to please their partner, when we have to make sacrifices and compromises so that the relationship doesn’t fall apart, we will never really feel happy and appreciated for who we are, but we will feel that we must work hard in order not to lose what we have achieved with a lot of effort so far.

What was supposed to be the foundation of the relationship, compatibility, becomes something insignificant, more important being the attempt to change our partner so that he/she corresponds best to our ideal, to our needs. Not accepting one’s partner for what they are, as they are, becomes one of the most common problems encountered in couple relationships.

For example, a woman may want a strong, domineering, daring, initiative-driven man, but she is in a relationship with a man who is not at all like that, but rather approves of her in everything she does, he is submissive and passive. Of course, there are aspects that she likes about him, but she can’t overcome the fact that he is not as she wishes and he doesn’t do those things that she wants. With time she begins to build up frustration, but because she has already grown accustomed to the relationship and she has invested a lot so far, she doesn’t want to give up, hoping he will change. The reproaches, the nagging and the quarrels are becoming more and more frequent. He doesn’t feel accepted, he is permanently emasculated by the unhappy woman who tells him "why can't you be more of a man?", "Why can't you do this or that?", in any case, things through which she manifests her anger, frustration, her hard feelings. She doesn't understand why he can't even make an effort and try to be different. He feels that whatever he does, he can't please her. And so it’s the case, but not because one or both of them are "bad" or worthless people, but simply because they are not right together. Both of them can feel the desire to hurt each other, in one way or another, as a revenge for all that they endured. Instead of taking their share of responsibility for what the relationship looks like, becoming aware of the reasons why they are in that relationship and the fact that the lack of compatibility led to compromises and sacrifices on both sides, which further fed their frustrations and resentments, they blame each other and they consider that their partner is responsible for their unhappiness, the partner who is always criticized.

What people sometimes don't want to understand or accept is the fact that "revenge", harsh words, withdrawal of affection, manipulation or reproaches don’t really work in these situations. If you have already told your partner countless times what is bothering you about them, if you have tried in any way to get what you want, but nothing has changed, most likely neither will it change in the future. Trying to change your partner, to transform them to your liking so that they suit your needs, to feel angry and "unloved" when this doesn’t happen, is not a constructive and beneficial way of living for none of you, it doesn’t expresses love, but rather selfishness.

To give you an extremely simple example, imagine that your partner keeps telling you that they are bothered by your hair color, that it would be a thousand times better for you (?!) if you had brown hair instead of red hair, and that if you don’t change the color of your hair it means that you don’t care about them and you don’t love them. On the other hand, you don’t consider this to be a problem, you really like the way your hair looks, you don’t want to change anything and you really feel this gesture of them as an aggression. You think that it’s absurd they reproach you such things, that they criticize you for this, and you can’t understand what’s the connection between the color of your hair and the love you have for them. You get upset because you can't understand how they might believe that if you don't change your hair color, if you don't do this for them, you don't love them. Now replace this example with whatever they reproach you or whatever you reproach to your partner - because that's how it feels. You ask them to give up something they are at peace with, to change something that they don’t think to be a problem, to simply become another person just because they aren’t good enough for you and you can’t accept them as they are.

Our partners shouldn’t be treated as children who need to be "educated", "modeled" and punished. In a healthy relationship, the partners should be equal, behave like adults, accept themselves as they are, be compatible from the beginning. And if things change over the course of time and they find out that they are no longer ok together, they should have the wisdom to accept this and "free" each other, giving themselves the chance for a new start.

A functional relationship is built on truth and on taking responsibility for your own reality, and acceptance, understanding and empathy are necessary ingredients for any positive and evolutionary interaction.

But often, people feel that if they are in a relationship, their partner is obliged to do all kinds of things for them, to take responsibility in their place, to give up on themselves, to live and to breathe only and only for them. And if their (unrealistic) expectations aren’t met, the love they claim to have is transformed into resentment, and the love words into offensive and harsh words.

As I’ve said in my book “Your inner strength. Take control over your life”, the pain caused by "love" is a direct consequence of the difference between reality and illusion - self-deception. The bigger the distance between the two, the greater the pain.

There are so many women (and men alike) who build an ideal image of how the man next to them should be like and they literally fight the “real” him - using all means: tears, manipulation, emotional blackmail, conditioning, sacrifices, compromises and so on- in order to transform him into that ideal image (projection) which is far from reality.

He is what he is, not what you would want him to be. There's no point in trying to change him because, even if he changes for a short period, he'll do it against his will and sooner or later, he'll return to his original form. Or maybe he'll grow resentment towards you and so, the relationship will turn into a warzone, or he might find someone else who accepts him without reproaches and conditions.

Choose a life partner that you like and who you can take exactly as he/she is and stop hurting yourself: stop deceiving yourself and stop believing that you can change him or show him "the right way." You have no right, and it's useless to invest your energy in shaping someone according to your ideals.

You don't have to suffer or be unhappy in your relationship; you have to look for that person who is right for you. Surely there's someone out there that fits you perfectly and who you can love, respect and cherish for what he/she is and exactly how he/she is.

Dr. Ursula Sandner

 

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