We as a society hold two popular views about relationship partners forcing change on each other. One view is that people do not change, and we should learn to accept one another as we are. But another very deep-rooted, albeit privately held, view is that we can change each other in a relationship.

I think this sense that we can change each other and do so easily – that we can “train” our partner to be whom we want him or her to be – is what allows people to get into relationships with people who don’t initially meet their expectations.

I deal with this issue with clients all the time. A client will lament to me about some character trait of his or her partner’s that is currently hurting him or her. I will point out that the trait was there all along, it was a known when the relationship started. Why was this partner chosen? The inevitable reply is: “I thought once he/she was in love with me, things would change.”

Having said this, I do want to say a word about change. In general, when people want change in the relationship and in their partner, what they are really saying is this:
“There are ways in which you behave or relate to me that don’t work for me and may not work for anyone. If you make different choices in these situations, we would both be happier.”

Requests for change in most cases are legitimate, well-intentioned and valid. If you keep asking your partner to change something, you are probably right, and he or she does need to make the change. However, people are notoriously slow to change, and personal change is excruciatingly painful for most people. That is why change in your partner at your request is possible, but extraordinary.

Here is the lowdown on changing each other in a relationship:

* If you don’t like traits or behaviors in your partner when you are dating him or her, and these are not a problem for him or her, he or she will not change. If you can’t live with these traits or behaviors, get out of the relationship. Eradicating those traits you can’t live with will cost you far more emotionally than finding someone better suited for you.

If you are only dating and you already want change, leave instead.

* If you are already in a long-term relationship and both of you have a strong investment in staying together – and yet you are clear that your partner needs to make changes – you can push for change. However, know that you will have to risk the relationship in a very real way in order to influence change. More importantly, you need to know that your partner will likely walk rather than change.

If you are committed to each other and you want change, be willing to risk losing the relationship to get the change.

* If you are married, and both of you have much invested in keeping the relationship intact, you may be able to get the change you want. But it will cost you dearly in time and effort to create an emotional environment conducive to your partner’s change.

If you are married and want change, be prepared to pay a dear cost in time and effort for any change gained.

You deserve to be happy, and you deserve to be in a good relationship. If your happiness depends in part on changing your partner, know that change is possible, but only if you are in a deeply committed relationship or marriage. Also know that changing your partner will cost you dearly, and if you want the change, be prepared to pay the cost.

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A note to you from Love and Relationship Coach Rinatta Paries:
Want to work on changing your partner? This is one of my specialties. In my private coaching practice I help people work on changing their partner and their relationship. Visit http://www.WhatItTakes.com , tell me about your situation and I will let you know if and how I can help you.