Have you ever thought that your partner would be perfect if they’d just change that one thing? Of course, you have – we all have at some point.
On the heels of that, however, we’ve probably also thought, “Wait – aren’t I supposed to love them as they are and unconditionally?” After all, even John Legend says you’re supposed to love all the, “perfect imperfections” in your partner.
But what happens when those imperfections aren’t so easy to accept, and something’s got to give? Is it fair to ask your partner to change? Isn’t it healthy?
The answer is more complicated than you might think.
Why Perfectly Imperfect Isn’t Always, Well, Perfect
We’re all flawed, there’s no way around that. Even saying someone is “perfect for you” is a misnomer.
The truth is that when it comes down to it, even the most well-matched couples would change a thing or two about one another if given the chance.
It’s really a matter of the types of change desired and what you are willing to accept. Some changes significant and m while necessary, others can be controlling and petty.
So, you need to ask yourself, “Is the change worth asking for, or is this something I need to learn to live with?”
Let’s consider some examples.
Janet isn’t a demonstrative person. She’s not one to say, “I love you” very often, doesn’t like to hug, or PDA. She grew up in a household where none of those things were practiced. She’s much more comfortable expressing love intimately and through her actions, rather than words and what she considers gratuitous touching.
Her husband John, on the other hand, is very affectionate. He wants her to change and become more like him.
Push for change or accept it?
While both partners deserve to have their needs met, Janet has a big learning curve if she’s going to do what John is asking. She expresses her love for her husband differently than he does for her.
The best option is for John and Janet to be understanding and accepting of each other’s preferred way to express love. Each of them, however, owes it to the other to ensure there’s no room for doubt about the love they feel.
This doesn’t mean that Janet shouldn’t show her love for John by working to practice more direct forms of expression though.
Rick and Carol have always been extremely social. Part of the way they socialize includes drinking. They meet friends for cocktails, go to parties, host dinners with lots of wine, and routinely tailgate for football games.
Lately, however, Carol’s been drinking less, and Rick seems to be drinking more. It’s become more than Carol feels is acceptable or healthy and she’s not only worried about him, but she’s also been embarrassed by his behavior on more than one occasion and doesn’t feel as close to him.
Rick claims this is the way he’s always been, and this is the way he intends to stay. He says she has no right to try and change him – she knew what she was getting when she married him.
Push for change or accept it?
This situation requires a push for change. The downside to Rick’s health and their relationship is too big to be accepted.
These two examples go to show that not all changes are created equal. Some changes are necessary, and others are more a matter of compromise and acceptance.
Should You Change For Someone?
This is a tricky question because there’s no short answer to it.
Those who want to hear,
- “No – never change for someone else,” or
- “Yes, change is what you do when you love someone,”
are really looking for absolutes. Situations are almost never that simple.
What many don’t understand is that change = growth.
You don’t grow, evolve, mature – whatever you want to call it – without changing. And it’s not just the individual that needs to grow (change), it’s relationships that need to as well.
This means there are a lot of moving parts.
The truth is, you should only change because you want to. BUT the desire you feel to make changes may be because you love and respect someone enough that you want to change for them.
So, change for you because you,
- Want to grow
- Want to be better
- Want to evolve along with your partner
- Want to keep your relationship healthy
- Want to show your partner you love them
Not because someone told you to.
Reasonable Changes And Where To Draw The Line
If only it were just that complicatedly simple, right?
There are often situations when couples are at odds because one partner wants the other to change in ways they feel are unreasonable.
But how do you know what’s reasonable and what’s not?
Unreasonable changes are those that,
- Are about control rather than for good of the individual or the relationship
- Attempt to undermine someone’s beliefs or faith
- Compromise their integrity or morality
- Negatively affect their self-esteem
- Change their personality
So, if a partner wants you to,
- Become dependent upon them
- Change or give up friends
- Alter your appearance in ways you’re not comfortable with
- Give up your goals – personal, professional, or any other
- Break ties with family
Or stop being who you are in ways that are really not about growth or health – these are unreasonable changes to expect or even ask for.
So, was Carol being unreasonable when she asked Rick to change his drinking habits? No.
What about if John insisted that to prevent divorce Janet become affectionate in public and demanded she be more demonstrative – would that be unreasonable? Yes. He’s stepping into controlling and unreasonable territory.
“What if I can’t tell the difference?”
This isn’t an uncommon situation. A partner has a great deal of influence on us, and emotions can muddy the waters. To help ensure the changes you make are for the right reasons, ask yourself this,
“If they weren’t part of my life, would I be happy with the long-term effects of the changes I’m making?”
If the answer is, yes, you’re growing through change. If your answer is, no, you need to ask yourself what your true motivation is for making the change.
Change can be scary for a lot of people. Of course, there are many changes that happen without us even noticing. As we age we change in many ways, some good and some not so good.
One of the benefits of having a partner, or even just close friends, is that under the right circumstances they can act like guides. A caring partner can direct us when we change the wrong direction or fail to see the need for change at all. And that is what love looks like.