Heterosexual women love changing their partners. I know that’s stereotypical and the only study to support my theory dates back to 2013. A survey found two-thirds of women attempt to change their partner’s appearance.
A lot of messages I receive are from women hoping to tweak their boyfriends. Sometimes the men are terrible at dressing, they don’t spend enough on dates or they make the most awkward jokes in front of friends.
There’s something impressive or admirable about a woman who manages to change their partner. Like when a guy goes from sleeping around and living like a teenager at 25 – and then suddenly he’s writing love notes and offering to do the food shop. Maybe the thrill of upgrading a man stems from the notion that only the right women can make them better.
When George Clooney went from a bachelor into a husband and father – Amal was praised for the transformation. Some said her beauty and intellect separated her from his exes – the ones who ‘failed’ to make him commit.
In my late teens, I was going to clubs and exchanging numbers with uni guys and ones who lived with at least three other flatmates. They were out partying every weekend, but I wanted to believe I could convince them to skip a night of drinks for watching a movie or eating Pizza Express – probably what my teenage self thought elegant.
I wanted them to go out for the thrill of fancying me and not for sex. My friends and I would talk a lot about the failure of guys – how they weren’t serious or how we didn’t like their friends. Innocently, we assumed we could craft commitment spells.
While it’s tough to convert a bachelor into a relationship guy, it’s not implausible to change a partner. My boyfriend barely cooked when we first met. I suggested we do home dinner dates – with Covid still awkwardly in the air – and this led to him frequently making meals. Okay, he’ll say that’s not what happened, but I’m convinced it led to his inner chef.
Before dating me, I know he wouldn’t have gone to an art gallery, enjoyed a date learning about tea or spent a week exploring Roman history in Split. But the problem is, women can mistake fundamental parts of someone’s identity as minor tweaks.
Like expecting a guy to change his style or just cut down on drinking. Unless you’re replacing a wardrobe with designer pieces – which I certainly would be open to – asking someone to alter what they like and feel good in is rarely going to succeed.
Every man and person come with some flaws – it’s a case of finding those perfectly imperfect traits that don’t give you the ick.
When women ask me about trying to change their partner’s, they tend to justify their complaints without thinking about what’s behind the behaviour. Or they disregard the issue and just spend the rest of their time secretly seething and bringing it up with friends.
I believe there are three steps to take when trying to change someone:
1, Have a straight conversation
This is when you’re dating someone whose behaviour impacts your relationship values. A guy who doesn’t bother to communicate for days on end, flirts with other women, or seems to have little time for you.
In this conversation, you clearly state your boundaries and explain why their behaviour is not okay. You either reach a conclusion with them making the effort to change or you look at moving on. If you state your boundaries and then continue to put up with behaviour that goes against them, your boundaries don’t hold power.
2. Be the change you wish to see
Gottman highlights that couples who stay together take responsibility for their role in an issue. They look at adapting their behaviour rather than focusing on what they want their partner to be doing.
If you’re in a situation where you feel your partner is responsible for an entire issue, try to see things from their perspective. Disclaimer – this is not applicable when the behaviour feels abusive.
3. Recognise your expectations could be a dealbreaker
Wanting someone to change doesn’t mean they’re wrong. It could be a sign you’re not compatible or you’re expecting too much from your partner — who may not be able to meet your needs.
Think about where your need for change stems from. Is it an issue that goes against your values, are you expecting your partner to an unrealistic idea of somewhat perfect?
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