Billy Joel had it wrong when he sang, “Don’t go changing to try to please me.” It’s nice to be loved for being just the way you are, but not everything we do works forever. Beliefs are influenced by life events. Behavior should evolve as well, especially when we join our lives with someone else.

Think of all the people you know who are exactly as they were in high school. Now ask yourself if you think that’s a good thing. Chances are it’s not. Who wants a forty year old who thinks and acts like a senior in high school? Knowing what to change and making the effort to change it can bring years of happiness for very little effort.

What to Change

Figuring out what to change is easy. Listen to what your mate says. Pay attention to what your partner negatively reacts to, and you will have your answer. Do you hear things like, “Can you pick up your dirty underwear from the floor?”, “Are you going out with the boys again?”, or “Are you going to wear that?” Those types of questions tell us what our spouse needs. The first question addresses the need to have more help around the house. The second is about together time, and the third is about being attractive to your partner.

You can begin to address this need by responding to the specific action, or you can go beyond that by attending to the specific need and doing other things that respond to that need. So for the underwear example, you can start by picking it up and go beyond by offering to help around the house in other ways too.

This may seem like a little thing, but when you brush off things that seem minor to you, they can add up to huge issues that may send the message that you don’t care enough about your spouse to bother with changing. These little things have a way of creating a big distance in your relationship. What tends to happen is that the request is gently made the first time. When it is ignored, the request may change to criticism, then finally to anger. The little thing becomes a big thing, and love is lost. If you want happiness at home, you have to know when to make a change.

What not to change

When your partner is always critical, never seems to be happy, and asks you to change parts of yourself that are essential parts of your being, that is stepping over the line. Requests that are disrespectful or make you feel degraded are also unhealthy for you to make. I am talking about things like asking you to convert to his religion when you have a strong faith or asking you to engage in sex practices that make you uncomfortable.

Your partner may say, “If you loved me, you would…” but that is using love as a tool for manipulation. If you have to change your core self to be loved, you weren’t loved for who you were to begin with. That’s very different from expressing caring for someone by changing “annoying” habits.

So, do go changing! Ask for what you want. Listen to what your partner wants and be willing to do make changes that will preserve and enhance your relationship.

Author's Bio: 

Laura is a therapist in Charlottesville, VA who specializes in holistic therapies. She is the author of "The Other Child: Children of Affairs" and "Growing Up Crazy."