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Trying to Change Your Lover? Here's Twelve Mistakes You Could Make

Updated on June 23, 2022
Dr Billy Kidd profile image

Dr. Billy Kidd researched romantic relationships for 15 years. He held focus groups in various cities across the nation.

Do you want your lover to change his or her behavior? Maybe change something that grates on your nerves?

Why wouldn’t you? Psychologists warn, however, that there are several mistakes people make when they try to get their lovers to transform their love styles—the way they act in a romantic relationship. Psychologists say that:

● The biggest mistake people make is to think that their lover will change just because they are crazy in love with him or her. The problem with that kind of thinking is that it links together two unrelated behaviors: a) falling for someone and b) changing for someone.

The first behavior—falling in love—that’s easy. It just happens. On the other hand, changing an ingrained love style--how one handles relationships--takes a realistic goal, a good plan, and a lot of hard work. And just because you two are in love doesn’t mean he or she is going to rewire their brain for you—regardless of what they say—not unless they've been meaning to make that change already.

The second most common mistake a people make is thinking that their partner is much more important to them than their last lover. And so they think their lover will do anything to please them. Sure, he or she may say that the last relationship was a disaster because he or she was with the wrong partner. And your lover may tell you now that he or she is with the right partner everything is OK. But that doesn’t mean a person is willing to change for you.

If your lover is still blaming their last partner for his or her relationship problems, then he or she hasn’t learned much from the mistakes that were made in the past. So your lover really hasn’t changed his or her love style—the way love relationships are handled—from the last one to this one. And that’s probably why you’re having problems with your lover now.

One of the most painful mistakes people make is thinking that they have great assertiveness skills—so eventually their partners will see things their ways. The problem with this kind of thinking is that whether your partner is right or wrong doesn’t really matter. Some people even admit they are wrong but keep doing things the same way they have always done them. That’s because these love-style behaviors support their identities—which may not have matured much beyond adolescence.

Even if your assertiveness skills work well with others, your partner may have poor listening skills. Or he or she may simply have tuned you out. So your partner may not be able to comprehend what you’re getting at when you explain what your needs are in your relationship.

Another mistake is not understanding that our partners accept themselves just the way they are. They also believe their love style—the way they do relationships—it working OK. After all, they hooked you with it. So your partner may not understand that when relationships mature people have to act differently.

Your partner simply may not see that the behaviors that were acceptable in the beginning of the relationship are not functional a year or two down the road when things get serious. In fact, your lover's comeback line might be that he or she has always been serious about your relationship. And so, your need for your partner to grow and change could arouse suspicions—him or her thinking that maybe your dream of the future does not include them.

One of the worst mistakes people make is slaving like a martyr—picking up the slack for their partners—while thinking that it will get them to change. The problem here is that buying your lover designer clothes and covering vacation costs won’t give you much more control over your relationship than you have right now. The issue is that the more you do, the more your lover will expect from you. Your lover could actually get stuck in an adolescent approach to the world, thinking you are helping him or her because he or she is just too cool—even at age fifty.

Probably the toughest mistake to work through is thinking that your partner loves you the way you love him or her. In all reality, that’s the stuff of movies and urban myths. The fact is that psychologists have shown that no two people love each other in exactly the same fashion. That’s because our love styles arise from how we are raised as children. They also are fashioned by our life experiences, our inherited traits, and pure happenstance. So even when we feel we are a perfect match for each other we’ll have different feelings about certain things compared to how our partners feel.

The most beguiling mistake a person can make is believing their partner will share their feelings with them in the future—when they get to know you—even though they do not share them now. Yes, you may believe that sharing feelings is something that it takes a partner time to work up to because, well—"he’s a guy," or "she's just confused."

You also may think you can help your partner to stop avoiding you when they are under stress and won’t talk about what’s wrong. But these are personality traits, not guy things or women things. So if, today, your partner's love style is to leave you hanging when it comes to what he or she is thinking and feeling, there’s not much chance that anything you do is going to change that behavior.

If you are currently in a relationships crisis, it’s probably hard to think objectively about these mistaken ideas that people have about changing their lover’s behaviors.

It’s also rough to shake yourself out of pretending that everything is OK if your partner isn’t creating a crisis at the present time. That’s understandable. We’re only human. As children, we learn all sorts of rationalizations for staying in dysfunctional relationships. Yet, you can leave that whole mindset behind if you want to--by not blaming your partner. Blaming only reinforces your anger and resentment. That keeps you stuck in the past. To move out of the past—and beyond the blame game—you need to take responsibility for your actions. You can do that by reinventing your love style.

To reinvent your love style, and get more excitement and meaning from your relationships:

Look at your relationships from a different perspective. To do that, imagine that the problems you are having are not about your lover. Rather, think of them as an expression of your need for more excitement and satisfaction in your love life.

You always have the choice of experiencing your relationship either as frustrating and depressing or as challenging and empowering. That may sound simplistic, but look around you. Lots of people can’t imagine being stuck on the idea of trying to change their partners. That’s because they accept the fact that relationship conflicts are double-edged:

Conflict is an expression: a) of the tension in a relationship that arises out of its need to grow, and b) the forces of familiarity, habit, and fear that hold a relationship in place.To realize that this tension exists in a relationship presents new opportunities for both partners.

● Realize that healthy relationships are evolving relationships. They are not stagnant unless both partners are stagnant. If your man sees change as a threat, then his head is stuck in the past and his love style has not moved beyond the types of entanglements that caused his last relationship to crash and burn. Yet, if he’s still hung up on all that, you really can’t blame him. That’s all he knows how to do and you cannot change that. But you can change yourself—when you see your love life as a challenge that is filled with opportunities—rather than as a tragedy filled with disappointments.

You Can View Your Relationship Differently and Change Yourself If You Do The Following:

Imagine your relationship problems as a challenges rather than as threats. This is not hard to do. Start by thinking of your relationships as learning experiences. From that perspective, your current situation doesn’t look like a battle between you and your partner. Rather, you can see it as a win-win situation where both of you will eventually learn something from what you’re going through together. That, of course, is the easy part:

The hard part is taking action on your dreams and desires. But you have actually started on that journey already. If you’ve gotten this far looking into the ideas portrayed here, then you’ve already done more than what a many people will ever do.

That is because—rather than seeking an understanding of their own mistaken beliefs—all too many people keep trying to change their lover’s behavior right up until the bitter end. And after the relationship breaks apart, they go on to the next partner, all the while blaming the last one. They do that without making any changes in how they respond to their lovers, who they keep trying to change to accommodate their own needs. People do this rather than change themselves. That is why they miss this important truth: the only person you can change is yourself!


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