What you need to know:
- For a long time, the common consensus has been that you cannot change a man.
- Your partner is different from you and also different from other men, including those you have dated previously, those you currently admire and fantasise about, or even your own father.
- Express in a mature manner why you feel the way you do and why you wish that certain aspects of his character should change.
Common wisdom says you cannot change a man. Indeed, most women who attempt to change their men end up with brutal ‘character development’, the new street euphemism for a bitter heartbreak. But is there even a remote chance that you can change your man? Let us take a look.
Is it possible? For a long time, the common consensus has been that you cannot change a man. But Michele Davis, the author of Getting Through to the Man You Love says that it is possible to change a man for the better. “It is possible and it can work. Some strategies, work better than others,” she says. The chances of your efforts producing success will be greater if your strategies don’t leave your partner feeling nagged, coerced, or as if he has lost control over his life, his independence, and his individuality.
What do you want to change? Be specific about what you want to change. “Your partner is different from you and also different from other men, including those you have dated previously, those you currently admire and fantasise about, or even your own father. He has his own way of looking at things, different views and opinions, different reasoning programme, and an identity he cherishes,” says Gladeana McMahon, the author of Coping with Life’s Traumas.
Regards versus discipline
Dr. Ronald Riggio, the author of The Practice of Leadership, says that one of the tricks to set your partner towards change is to suspend the feeling that your partner is in a horrible state and needs immediate disciplining. “You may need to put your opinion and conviction aside, and value him, his individuality, independence, and position in the relationship,” he says. “Through these positive regards, he will get the sense and urge to feel better about himself, and improve.” This is echoed by Rita Watson, the author of Infidelity and Marriage. She says that by rewarding his positive minor improvements and seeing him in a positive light, you give him the impetus to accelerate his improvements.
Do not assume your partner knows what you want. Voice your concerns, hopes, admirations, and genuine feelings. Express in a mature manner why you feel the way you do and why you wish that certain aspects of his character should change. Get your timing right. For example, if you want him to improve on his sexual skills, you should not raise your concerns during dinner or lunchtime. At the same time, you should not talk about your dissatisfaction during intimacy or right after a sexual encounter. This will demoralise him and could injure his sexual confidence to the point of having regular erectile dysfunction issues.
Be cognisant of the possibility that you also need panel-beating. “You are not perfect, and the likelihood that he will make suggestions on areas you need to improve on is high,” says Dr. Suzanne Degges, the author of Toxic Friendships. “Be equally willing to try out his suggestions, and improve where necessary.” If you ignore his suggestions, your attempts to change him will be interpreted as an attempt to control him, or become overbearing in his life.
The willingness to improve
“There must be a clear desire towards change. For example, he must start by showing an understanding that some of his emotional or physical behaviors are inappropriate,” says psychologist Patrick Musau. Also, he should stop blaming his bad habits on you, his friends, or alcohol, and instead take responsibility. “Once he takes responsibility for the bad traits that have been putting you off, he must show commitment to the course of change by reciprocating your efforts with continuous behavioural improvements,” he says.