Dr. Suzanne B. Phillips

Licensed Psychologist, Psychoanalyst, Diplomate in Group Psychology, Certified Group Therapist, Author, Radio Host and Media Consultant Covering a Wide Range of Psychological Topics

Post: Does Improving Your Relationship Really Mean Changing Your Partner?

If you ask people what they think would improve their relationship, they often have a clear formulation of what their partner could or should do to make things better.

Most people really don’t want a new partner. What they want is their old partner –WITH NEW CHANGES
 Changing Something About Your Partner

Apparently the view across the table often seems clearer and in need of more adjustment than the view of self:

  • Why can’t he see the mess and be neater?
  • Why doesn’t she make plans with other couples to improve our social life?
  • Why can’t she make more money?
  • Why can’t he be more affectionate?

 Is the change that you want in your partner one that he/she knows about, cares about or would benefit from?

It is worth considering that in many cases,

“It isn’t that they can’t see the solution. It is that they can’t see the problem.” (G. K. Chesterton)

Taking Ownership of The Change

If the change is clearly more important and relevant to you, it is more likely to happen if you take ownership of it. How?

  • Re-define it as a change you want not as change in your partner, i.e – less mess, more socializing, more money, more affection.
  • No relationship can stay in the same place with the same patterns if even one partner takes a new and different step.
  • You have far more control over changing self than changing someone else.

 Taking Steps Toward Change

  • You may describe the situation that you want to change to your partner and instead of asking him/her to change suggest what you plan to do.
  • Alter the plan if you begin to get positive suggestions or see some collaboration and if not proceed with something that makes the change happen.
  • Examples- You re-arrange a room to make it look less cluttered, you become more affectionate, you describe the alternate ways you will be trying to save or make more money, you sit down together with your list of friends and describe your plan to make some dates with other couples to improve your social life.

Why Should You Do the Changing?

You want it and it matters to you in a way that it might not matter to your partner.

 Why doesn’t it matter to your partner?

  • People are different. Men and women are different.
  • One interesting study qualifies this in an interesting way to suggest that overall men and women actually often want changes in the same directions on a host of behaviors including support, affection, actual help, companionship, sex etc. – but to different degrees!
  • The study found that for men and women, they both wanted companionship – she wanted more. They both wanted sex – he wanted more.

 Why Can’t Your Partner Do it for You Because He/She Loves You?

  • Maybe they will.
  • Maybe your momentum will mirror, model or invite them.
  • When the atmosphere is positive, there is often a stake in keeping the change going.
  • If they don’t-try not to equate it with lack of love.

We have a tendency to get stuck in a “singularity of definition” about our partner, which means we start to see them in only one dimension, often the dimension we are fixed on changing.

Our partner becomes, “The guy who leaves the kitchen a mess.” “The woman who can’t handle money.”

The Power of Perspective

When you consider the multiple dimensions of your partner – all they are and all the other things they do – sometimes the change matters a little less.

It is worth considering what you love about your partner.

It is worth taking ownership of what you need to change and affirm your partner as you go.

Something will change – positivity is contagious.

“ We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.” ( Anais Nin)


Listen in to ” It is Never Too Late to Change” with Tom Matt on Psych Up Live 2/16/17 and after as podcast