Ah, the age-old question: can you change a man?
Ladies have been asking this question since the dawn of, well, man. Without an answer to said question, they’ve taken to simply complaining about the problem:
Cavelady: Ugggg. I can’t stand the way Smert chews with his mouth open.
Southern Belle in 1800s: I do declayah! If Ridley looks under my hoop skirts just one more time, I’ll hit him with my parasol!
You today: Well, Scott says he doesn’t want to get married, but I’ll wait him out. Bet he’ll change his mind…
So there’s something you don’t like about your man, and it drives you crazy.
But you’re not dumb. You know that ditching this guy after all the time you’ve invested in him would be foolhardy. It’s a scary world out there in Dating Land.
And so you’re determined to change your man into someone better aligned with what you want.
Easy peasy, right?
Not so much. As Cavelady and Southern Belle would tell you, trying to change a man requires a ton of energy and doesn’t always net the results you’re looking for. But let’s explore this question: can you change a man — and more importantly — should you?
Let’s Get to the Real Question
The real question isn’t whether you should or can change your man but rather:
Why do you want to change him?
Here’s this guy who, once upon a time, seemed perfect for you. Now he’s annoying you with his very presence. And so you’re trying to figure out how to change your man to be more in line with what you want and need.
Let’s examine the underlying reasons you feel compelled to make him different from who he is.
Are you trying to make a Good Enough relationship work?
I’ve talked before about the Good Enough relationship. This happens when you settle for a guy or situation that’s less than ideal because you don’t want to be alone or you don’t believe you can do better. So maybe you’re in one of these relationships, but you’ve decided that you want to improve the situation by changing him. Kinda like painting the walls in your shabby apartment, or buying a throw rug to cover up the blood stain on the floor.
Since he’s the reason your relationship isn’t better than it is (or is he?) you figure a little fixing up would make you the relationship rehab version of HGTV’s Joanna Gaines.
You’ve heard the saying, you can only change yourself, not anyone else. If your relationship isn’t 100% what you’re looking for, consider your role in it rather than putting all your energy into trying to change your man.
No one wants to see themselves at fault. Ever. I get that, but it’s time for some serious introspection. Could it be that you also aren’t making the situation ideal? Or that maybe the two of you simply aren’t made for each other?
You can’t change that fact.
If there are things you can change to make the relationship better, ask yourself: is it worth me changing to try to save this relationship? It might be…and then again, it might not. Only you know the answer to that.
Are you in denial about who he really is?
Whether “who he is” means he’s a slob who will always leave his dirty underwear on the floor or that he treats you like dirt around his friends, it’s time to get real about these facts.
Sure, there are things we can change. But it’s all a matter of how willing we are to do so.
If the underwear on the floor truly bothers you and you’ve had constructive conversations about it (not nagging), he should want to make you happy and pick up his underwear. But really. Is that a dealbreaker? Does it keep you from enjoying years with an otherwise wonderful man?
Let it go.
But if you’re burying your head in the sand about more serious issues, especially as it relates to how he treats you, it’s time to get real. You can’t change a man who can’t respect you.
A man who doesn’t know how to treat a lady is not the guy for you. I don’t care how many years you’ve put in with this guy. Get out. You have the rest of your life to be happy with the right guy.
Did you ignore the details at the start?
Maybe you were so sick of looking for Mr. Right that you plugged your ears when you first started dating this guy and he told you that he wasn’t looking for anything serious/wanted 18 kids/was into polygamy. You figured you’d work it all out later, and now, guess what?
That thing you ignored because you hoped it would go away or change is now here, staring you in the face.
You’ve invested time, love, and energy into this guy, and now you’re pissed off because he wants something you don’t. Instead of worrying about how to change a man, you need to figure out why you let something so big slide under the rug.
Sorry to say it, but this is your fault, my dear because he laid it all out on the table and you chose to ignore it. Now you’re with a guy that you’re not aligned with, and will never be…unless you can be down with being Wife #4.
Do you simply want to control your relationship?
Some ladies — men too — simply like being in control. If this is you, you probably feel your best when things are going your way.
Am I right?
Unfortunately, this isn’t doing you or your mate any good. Scientists have found that trying to control others can lead to misery rather than the happiness you think it brings.
Think about it. When you try to get your man to do what you want and he refuses, you get upset. You argue. You’re left with a nasty feeling.
And did you manage to change your man? Nope.
Scientists are pretty smart, eh?
And there are different kinds of control. Where “self-control” is more about willpower and being able to stick to a goal, Raj Raghunathan, a professor of marketing at the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin and author of If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Happy?, says: “internal control is more about gaining control over your own thoughts and feelings. It turns out that the more in control we are of our internal state, the less external control we seek.”
So if you don’t have a handle on your own internal state, you might be trying to enforce control over your relationship and your boyfriend by getting him to change.
Good luck with that.
Put Yourself in His Shoes
I think we don’t do this enough in relationships: flip the script and imagine that he’s the one trying to change you. Maybe he hates your laugh, or how you talk to your BFF for six hours every Sunday. You don’t think these are major offenses, but imagine him trying to change those things about you.
How does that make you feel?
Like crap, I bet.
So empathize. Realize that no one likes their flaws pointed out. If you’re doing it to him, imagine he’s doing it to you. I bet that will make you bite your lip, curb those criticisms, and stop trying to change your man.
A Man Should Want to Change for You
So I’ve left you confused, I can tell.
Do men change?
It’s entirely possible, but they need to want to change for the improvement of the relationship.
As couples bond, they should go out of their way to please the other, especially at the beginning. Yes, over time, that desire to please dwindles, and you can get frustrated when your needs aren’t getting met. If he loves you, he will work to change the bigger issues if he can.
You can bring up what’s bothering you without trying to strong-arm him into changing. Let him decide if the situation is serious enough for him to put in the effort to be different.
It’s all in the approach you take. Screaming at him or constantly nagging him isn’t the way to get positive results. But if you can sit down and explain why this thing hurts or bothers you, and he doesn’t get defensive, you can work together to find a solution. It will likely take many conversations, so keep the dialogue open.
A successful relationship is built on working together, not apart. If there’s a way to work through a serious issue, you’ll find it. Together. Not by trying to change your man with your Vulcan mind meld.
Realize, however, that some things he will never be able to change. If he was scarred as a child watching his parents constantly bicker, he may never, ever want to get married, to you or anyone else.
He may love you. He may love you more than he’s loved any woman ever. But if he is unable to change his stance on marriage, you have to decide: can you be with him in a loving and committed relationship without being married? Or is it better for you to move on to find someone who would happily marry you?
A Better Solution? Change Your Attitude
Rather than moaning and groaning about how you can’t change a man, try working on your own attitude. You have to accept whether “the thing” is something you can live with.
Consider the thing (or things) you wish you could change about your man. How serious are they in the big scope of things?
Realize that his annoying habits aren’t deliberate. He can’t help that he snores, and you used to love that he watches professional badminton tournaments in his underwear. Embrace the quirk. If you really love him, you’ll let the minor things go. Reframe them as endearing qualities you can laugh about.
When you start grumbling to yourself about the things that bother you, remove those complaints from your mind and instead focus on what you’re grateful for.
You love that he brings you coffee in bed every morning just the way you like it.
You like how affectionate he is.
You are happy your parents love your boyfriend so much.
Being grateful for the wonderful things about your boyfriend can do more than just make you feel better about your relationship. Studies show that keeping a gratitude journal can reduce the stress hormone cortisol by 23%. Being grateful can also boost the immune system, help you sleep better, and reduce the effects of an aging brain.
So be grateful! There are nothing but good things that can happen if you are.
When to Walk Away
On the other hand, larger issues like him saying he never wants to get married or have kids…these are issues that can be dealbreakers. You need to address them, but be aware that you may not be able to change his attitude on them.
Just don’t alter your opinion on subjects like this just to keep him. You want kids (or don’t). You want to get married (or don’t). Don’t try to convince yourself otherwise just because you want to stay with this guy. You deserve to get what you want, even if it’s not with him.
You can’t change a man and how he feels or acts on certain topics:
- His feelings about commitment
- Any addictions he may have
- Abusive behavior
- How he deals with money
- His core values
- Feelings about an ex
If these are coming up for you again and again, realize that these are things you can’t fix. They’re pretty much set in stone.
The guy that’s right for you won’t require changing. Sure, he may have some bad habits or traits that make you roll your eyes, but that’s just part of being in a relationship.
Conclusion: Can You Change a Man? You Shouldn’t Have To
I have met so many women who think that a man’s shortcomings reflect on them. If their boyfriend doesn’t want to get married, it’s because they’re not being wife material. If he keeps doing something that she hates, it’s because she’s not putting her foot down hard enough to make him stop.
Girl, let me say: it is not your fault.
We are all flawed. We all do things that make people crazy. Some of those things are just annoyances and nothing earth-shattering. I know my girlfriend Jess gets annoyed with a lot of what I do. But she still loves me, and we are happy together.
I want you to consider yourself like a puzzle piece. You’re trying to fit yourself to a man whose puzzle piece is misaligned with yours. You’ve got a curve while he has a sharp corner. Trying to change your man is like trying to jam those two puzzle pieces together.
You don’t fit.
He’s not for you. You can’t change a man.
Say it with me: you can’t change a man. You can change your own attitude, and that is all.
If you spend a lot of time thinking, my man would be absolutely perfect for me if only X, Y, and Z, then I want you to hear something:
There should be no if in that sentence.
You deserve to say, my man is absolutely perfect for me. There should be no stipulation on that perfection. No giant issues that keep you from being 1,000% happy in your relationship with him.
If that’s not the case, this isn’t The One. I know you’ve invested a lot of time in this man, but think of how it would feel if you were in a relationship where you didn’t spend so much energy wishing you could fix or change him.
There’s a man like that out there for you. You just have to be open to finding him.
Have you ever tried to change a guy? How did that pan out? Share in the comments below.
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