Dr. Marie Land LLC | Psychologist Washington DC | Relationship Therapist Dupont Circle

You may be in the small pool of individuals who find someone who is essentially perfect. If so, let’s face it – that’s quite a nice combo of love and lust you’re experiencing because, well, no one is perfect. What starts out as acceptance of every behavior can sometimes turn into feeling like you have a microscope focused on every little irritating move he makes from morning until night. You may even acknowledge to yourself that your heightened awareness of things you want to change about him is just due to your mood at the moment, or some other fleeting feeling. Other times, there are things that just seem like they are non-negotiable. You like/love him. But he’s got to change. So can you really change him?

Before you try to change someone, ask yourself the question: Why is this so important to me? Once you really get in touch with your answer, consider the following qualities in your partner. Are they someone who changes and evolves in life in general? Or do they hang out with the same people, watch the same TV, and work at the same unsatisfying job…year after year?  Do they try to understand why you want them to change and why this thing is bothering you? If so, that’s good. That means they probably have some empathy and if they can make an easy compromise or adjustment to make your life a little better, no big deal. What’s their level of defensiveness? Do they fire back easily with something that is wrong with you (the fact that you’re asking them to change) or move quickly into focusing on a behavior that THEY want to change about YOU (this is a poor indication of someone who would change for another person)?  People (women and men) do change. If you find that there are really big things that need to change (those associated with the basic values of what is “right” or “wrong” to you both) in the relationship, it’s going to be pretty difficult to change that about your partner on your own (without a good couples therapist). If there are many little things that you’re trying to change, think about this next idea. 


You may use some logic like the following: “If he REALLY loved/liked me he would just do this thing for me. I would totally do it for him. Aren’t I worth it?”

You’ve created some formula in your mind that makes sense. A + B = C. He will stop being friends with his ex on Facebook (A) and will introduce me to his best friend (B) to prove he really likes me (C). The meaning you attribute to A and B (whatever they are) is not necessarily the same meaning he attributes to them. In fact, there’s a pretty good chance that he does not attribute the same meaning. The formulas we have in our minds that determine what we think is “normal” seem so believably logical. They are just truth!

Trying to take your partner’s perspective (imagining being in their shoes) is a great practice if you’re in a relationship. It helps create empathy and understanding much of the time. When it comes to changing behavior though, trying to see from his perspective may actually do nothing for your ability to see what he is experiencing. It may just be a great opportunity to imagine what you would do, and be more annoyed that they aren’t doing the same thing.

If you’re finding yourself annoyed by your guy’s inability to change some behavior find out his formula. Does A + B = C? More importantly, focus on C (the meaning you attribute to the behavior). The first part of the formula only matters because of the meaning you attribute (or assign) to it. Are there other ways that you know that C is true? Is this really about A and B, or are you just preoccupied with A and B because the real problem is C?