It can be very sad when one partner insists the other change to fit some pre-determined mold. If only one partner changes, the marriage will survive, is the declaration. How can this be? In wanting your partner to change to suit your tastes, are you not belittling your partner? Are you not hurting the person with whom you are going to spend your life? Is it even morally right to expect this?
The need to change is inherent. It comes from inside. When you watch your favorite film star or model who is slim and healthy looking, you want to change yourself to look like that. When you find there is an irritating habit you have which is causing a lot of conflict in your relationship, and if the relationship is important for you, then you will try to over come that habit.
You can motivate someone to change either through appreciation or encouragement. These two tools are very powerful and can be used judiciously. But criticizing a person, belittling him/her to change, will only lead to unhappiness and withering of that person’s psyche. Unless that is your need, you will not adopt this way.
The first thing that happens in a relationship is each person involved tries to change the other. It can be in love relationship or in marital relationship. I have a picture of how my partner has to be, so I will try and change him/her to fit that mental picture of mine. Here what happens is that I do not accept my partner for what or whom he/she is and want a totally different person. Then what attracted me to that person in the first place? There has to be some quality that attracted me, and if I am bent on changing him/her, won’t the uniqueness wear off? I will be left with a shell of my mental picture, not a vibrant person, (if he/she continues to stay with me!) I will not get him/her to change into a hundred percent person of my expectation, and he/she would have lost the originality in undergoing the change. Then either I get frustrated and want to leave or he/she is frustrated and wants to leave!
Not a very pretty picture!
You can bring about some change in a person’s attitude, habits or perceptions by the way you respond. If this person feels you are important, he/she will change, whether knowingly or unknowingly. And the change will not be resented. If there is humor in the relationship, you both could end up teasing each other over old habits. You can express assertively what or which part of a behavior or attitude irks you, state what you wish to see changed and hope the message is received. Now you need to wait and see if the message has be processed. Hopefully the necessary changes will occur.
You can also role model the change, your partner could follow suit. But if your partner refuses to change, then you can either ignore the behavior when it occurs or accept that this behavior will not change. When you ignore, you are not giving attention, and that can cause changes. Because, who does not like attention?
If the habit is annoying, but not really interfering with your daily living, then maybe you need to learn to overlook it. Certain habits do annoy. You can have a discussion, offer remedial action and reassure your help when required. And any small change needs to be appreciated and encouraged. This will further motivate the person to go for bigger change.
You marry a girl according to your choice. She has to be tall, slim and good looking. She needs to be working in a IT company, earning very well. But if she does not know cooking, you get disappointed. You then keep at her saying a girl needs to know cooking. You criticize her every effort and also start picking on her other qualities. You are filling your home with negativity and then you wonder why your marriage is floundering. You will claim it is because of her.
A housewife keeps nagging her husband to help her in household chores. He comes in very late and leaves early. He does not expect his wife to wake up early and cook lunch for him. He wants her to take her time with the household chores and he leaves. But she is disappointed and has a long face when he walks in, late in the evening. Again the house is filled with negativity.
Yes, spouses are supposed to help each other. Spouses are supposed to know basic cooking. But you can find workable options. On a weekend, your husband can help you with some household chore, or you and your wife can together rustle up some elaborate dish. You could present your wife with cookery books, and together you can explore the doable dishes listed there.
Criticizing and finding fault will get you nowhere. Also insisting the marriage is in trouble because of one partner only shows immaturity. You cannot expect one partner to keep doing all that is needed. You too need to do your bit. One of the keys to a successful marriage is to accept each other and look for working options. Each needs to self analyze and see where changes need to be done. The changes must happen spontaneously. Till you became involved in a relationship, your habits/attitude or opinion suited you. Now the relationship requires that you learn to bring in changes where required.
The changes could be in areas of finance, personal or social. You can learn to be less of a spendthrift, look for changes in habits and attitude that cause conflict and learn better interpersonal skills. When you wish to improve your relationship, when you are committed to it, then the want to change will be automatic. And both partners need to be open to personal change, not just expect other to change. The attitude to change needs to be more internal than external.