You are wondering how to change your partner.
There’s something about them that you don’t like.
Say, they aren’t affectionate enough.
You tried to change them but it only caused resentment.
Here’s a completely different approach that works but you won’t like it.
Let me illustrate with my two favorite stories.
Check out the companion video if you don’t want to read:
Story 1: Stephen Covey’s son
It’s from the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey.
One of Stephen’s sons struggled in school.
He had low grades and wasn’t good at sports.
People would laugh at him.
The parents tried to psych him up:
Come on son, you can do it.
And affirmed small victories.
But nothing helped.
Finally, Stephen realized that the problem was not with the boy but with their attitude toward him.
They saw him as inadequate.
Then, through deep thought and exercise of faith, they started to see his uniqueness.
We decided to relax and get out of his way and let his own personality emerge.
We saw our natural role as being to affirm, enjoy, and value him.
They found themselves appreciating him instead of comparing or judging him.
They saw him as fundamentally adequate and capable of coping with life.
The boy felt their acceptance and appreciation and began to blossom quickly.
He was elected to several student body leadership positions, developed into an all-state athlete, and started bringing home straight A report cards.
Story 2: My parents
I also have a personal story to explain that trying to change others is futile.
You can also watch a video about my parents instead of reading and then come back to the article.
Trying to change my parents only caused resentment.
I was guilty of wanting to change my parents.
They are reserved, stoic, unemotional people.
I love them to death but this isn’t easy for me to accept.
For example, I love family holidays.
It’s great when families get together to celebrate their unity.
But my folks don’t celebrate holidays.
I also want to have deep conversations with my parents but it’s not easy to open them up.
I felt I knew better and should change them to improve family relationships.
So I tried forcefully to go out with them, talk to them more, travel with them more.
These were all good things, but expecting them to change as a result was a bad idea.
They never responded, and my energy was wasted.
And it also created resentment both in me and them.
A life Coach Sharon Stokes said:
Think about how much freeing it would be and how much energy you would save if you didn’t allow yourself to be so wrapped up in other people’s behavior.
What did I do instead?
I focused on accepting and appreciating my parents.
William Shakespeare wrote:
There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.
It’s a matter of perspective.
And Stephen Covey wrote:
If you think the problem is out there, that very thought is the problem.
With my parents, I reframed their coldness like this:
If I don’t like my parents, the problem is me.
The first step was to stop judging them.
For example, I offered my mother to go to a café around last Christmas.
I hoped to have a long, loving conversation.
Instead, she gave me her Christmas present, asked a few questions, and left.
We spent just 20 minutes together.
I felt extremely judgmental but I kept my mouth shut.
The second step was to find something to appreciate in their “unwanted” behavior.
Here’s what I made myself to realize:
They don’t talk much because they are result-oriented and disciplined.
This helped them become successful financially.
In fact, they provided for our family in the times that were difficult for my home country, Russia.
In fact, they did what probably one in 100 families did.
And when I think of that, I’m so proud of my parents.
Plus, they taught discipline to me.
Which means I benefited tremendously from what I now label as bad behavior.
This realization turned around how I felt about my parents.
Instead of judging and trying to change them, I now appreciate them.
A life coach James Elliot said:
Carl Jung says, perception is projection. What drives you nuts about other people has to do with all your unresolved stuff. Trying to change a family is one of the hardest things to do.
4-step method to change how you feel about your partner
That said, these two stories taught me one important lesson:
The idea is not to change your partner but change how you feel about the situation.
Now let me show you 4 actual steps you can take to do that.
Step 1: Examine your perception
We always get more of what we focus on.
If we focus on the perceived problem, we reinforce the “problem” in our partner.
And we both feel bad.
But if we focus on what’s good about our partner, we feel better about them and make them feel better.
To do that, look at the questions you are asking yourself.
Stephen realized he was asking himself:
How can I change my son to be more adequate and make me feel better?
And he changed that question to:
How can I appreciate my son and affirm him so that he feels my love and support to develop at his own pace?
That said, you might be asking:
Why is my partner this way and why can’t they change?
This question keeps you focused on what’s wrong with your partner.
Whereas a better question is:
What’s unique about my partner and how can I appreciate them more?
How do I help them feel confident by affirming them?
How do I help them develop their strengths?
Step 2: Accept your partner’s uniqueness
The next step is to embrace the differences between you and your partner.
You want them to be like you or what you think is socially acceptable.
But the truth is there are no differences.
Everyone sees the universe in their way—through the lens of their upbringing, beliefs, or fears.
Fighting this fact by trying to change your partner is fruitless.
Acceptance is the only way to go.
In fact, our uniqueness is what makes life interesting.
Appreciate your partner for their uniqueness.
This will make both of you happy and connect you on a deeper level.
Step 3: Affirm your partner
Now that you’ve started to appreciate your partner, affirming should come naturally to you.
You feel grateful for your partner and want to acknowledge them.
Now make it a habit to show appreciation of their uniqueness every day.
This kind of acceptance heals wounds and builds confidence.
Your warmth, love, and support help them blossom.
Make sure you do it every day because it’s easy to forget about it in our busy lives.
Step 4: Let go
The final step is releasing any tension left in you after you wanted to change your partner.
Here’s how you do it:
- Whenever you wish to change your partner resurfaces, breathe in deeply.
- Acknowledge this wish for a few seconds.
- And then let it pass on its way out of your mind.
By the way, regular meditation will increase your ability to let go of these kinds of thoughts.
Example of using this method with my son
Here’s how I used this 4-step method with my son Denis.
I’ve been teaching snowboarding to my son since he was 5.
He made good progress since then.
But he also got too comfortable with his so-called “goofy” riding stance (leading with the right leg).
Now he’s afraid of trying the “regular” riding stance (leading with the left leg).
I wasn’t happy about it because he needs both stances to be a well-rounded snowboarder.
And I would try to make him learn this other stance.
I even told him once that I would take him on the next trip with me only if he would practice the other stance.
My first step out of this critical mindset was realizing the problem was with my lens.
The second step was accepting Denis’ uniqueness.
He’ll learn the other stance at his own pace.
And if he doesn’t, it’s not a big deal—he already has so much fun riding in the goofy stance.
My third step was to affirm him for this joy that he has riding.
And finally, whenever my wish for him to ride in both stances resurfaces, I simply let it go.
I acknowledge it for a few seconds and then let it pass on its way out of my mind.
How to change your partner with coaching
If you need help changing your attitude to your partner, check out my relationship coaching services.
Here’s a link for you to contact me.