In order to answer this correctly you need to draw a line in the sand, between what you can and cannot influence. Behaviour and habits can improve, personality is less likely to change much over time. So if you think your partner needs to change some behaviours, that is possible. If you think they need to change their personality, then you have a big problem. Let me explain further.
As a psychologist, I am often having discussions with my clients to help them work out what is reasonable to expect from their partners. For example, he needs to pick his towel up from the floor of the bathroom when he has finished with it, because that is the considerate thing to do.
Just because he has a ‘disorganised’ personality is no excuse. However, if you tell him there is only one way to stack the dishwasher, then you may not be accepting his different ways of doing things. There is a big difference between these two examples. The towel is about behaviour, the dishwasher is about personality.
The three part relationship theory that will change the way you think about life. Post continues.
Most people in a relationship have something they don’t like about their partner. You cannot turn your partner into Mr or Mrs Perfect. Imperfections can make someone special, and sexy! Learning to accept some flaws will ensure that the relationship remains one filled with love, compassion, understanding and joy rather than the coldness of perfection. This requires each person to ‘pick their
battles’ – why pick on something about them that really is no big deal in the long- run? It just damages the relationship.
If every time you take your partner to your parents house he sits there disengaged and preoccupied, its not a good excuse for him to say ‘I’m just an introvert’ or ‘They never talk about anything I’m interested in.’ This is more about behaviour rather than personality. He could improve his interpersonal skills in order to make the most of these occasions.
Accept your personality differences. The best relationships involve both partners complementing each other well and use each others’ strengths as a team. One person takes charge in the situations that suit their strengths (e.g. the finances, negotiating deals), and the other partner takes charge in situations that utilise their strengths (e.g. dealing with family politics). You can accept your partner by being grateful for them and the things they do. Righteousness is a relationship killer. Flexibility is the key to a fulfilling and lasting relationship. When you stop labelling things as right or wrong, then you begin to understand that what is right for you may not be right for your partner.
Be aware of your expectations – when you start to get annoyed with your partner, take a step back and analyse the thought. Is this actually something your partner needs to change for you, or could you change your expectations and meet the unfulfilled need yourself? Is it a true ‘red flag’ or are you just picking on them?
Think also about what motivates people to change – encouragement and support are always better than demands. If you demand behaviour change, you rely on them conforming to you, and you rely on your happiness being a motivator for them to change. But if they rebel from your demands the situation worsens and you spiral into a power game of trying to change each other. And when you are focused on them changing, you are not taking responsibility for your part in the problem.
In other words, its easier to accept each other when you have a truly equal, respectful and loving relationship, where the ‘US’ more often outweighs the two ‘ME’s.
This is what creates a strong relationship – both people are willing at times to sacrifice what they want for what is best for the relationship in the long-term.
For more information about how you can handle these situations, take a look at Peter Charleston’s new book Closer, available now in all bookstores.
Peter devotes one chapter to acceptance, which is one of his 7 principles of connectedness, highlighted in Closer, Echo, $29.99.