There is no shortage of relationship advice available. One of the most common pieces of advice is to accept your partner for who he or she is. While you might be able to make minor tweaks — like getting your significant other to dress formally instead of wearing sports attire when you go out to eat — trying to make major changes to your partner is not part of a healthy relationship. Here are a few things you’ll never be able to change about your significant other — no matter how hard you try.
It is nearly impossible to get someone to behave exactly the way you’d like. People are who they are, and although some personality traits are due to social conditioning, there is no way to turn your partner into a “perfect” version of how you think he or she should act. In fact, the propensity for change diminishes greatly once you turn 30, and we’ve known this for over 100 years.
Groundbreaking Harvard University psychologist William James’ text, The Principles of Psychology, published in 1890, found that your personality stabilizes in adulthood. Part of the text says, per New York Magazine’s Science of Us: “In most of us, by the age of thirty, the character has set like plaster, and will never soften again.” Additional research has shown that core personality traits have a strong genetic component attached to them and remain constant throughout our lives.
2. Your partner’s body
Unless your partner goes under the knife, what you see is pretty much what you get. If you didn’t like what you saw when you first started dating, you should have been honest with yourself and moved on. We all have preferences for what we find attractive, so it won’t help if you lie to yourself and try to make yourself believe you can look past features about your partner you don’t find attractive.
3. Your partner’s past
You might find out at some point in your relationship that your partner has a sordid past. You have a choice to either stay in the relationship and accept this part of your partner’s history or you can decide it’s too much for you to handle and you can leave. You can’t change the past; this is why it’s important for partners to be upfront about potential deal breakers early in the relationship.
4. Dreams and goals
If your partner has been working toward a big goal that is important to him or her, don’t interfere. It is unlikely your opinion will change a dream your significant other has been working toward for many years. It’s also selfish to try to change your partner’s mind about a long-held dream. Don’t try to convince your partner to choose another dream to fit your lifestyle. It’s important to offer support, no matter how crazy an idea seems. Instead of pushing your own agenda, stand by your partner and offer a word of encouragement. The fierce support of a loved one can make any dream a reality.
Gary Chapman, author of The 5 Love Languages, says offering encouraging words is one of the most effective ways you can help your partner. “The word encourage means “to inspire courage.” All of us have areas in which we feel insecure and lack courage, and that lack of courage often hinders us from accomplishing the positive things that we would like to do. The latent potential within your spouse may await your encouraging words,” writes Chapman in his Focus on the Family column.
5. Close friendships
Some people have close friends from childhood that they keep forever. These close bonds are important in order to have a healthy and fulfilling life. Everyone needs the love and support of good friends. Although romantic relationships are important, don’t attempt to replace your partner’s close friends. The support of quality friends can help you get through the unexpected curve balls that life throws at you. Remember that if you break up, your friends will be the ones to help you get through it.
6. How your partner relates to his or her family
Families, especially your partner’s parents, can be a touchy subject. If any sort of criticism of them comes into the conversation, it’s like walking into a mine field; an explosion can happen at any time. Karl Pillemer, Ph.D., the professor of human development at Cornell University, told The Huffington Post, “[P]eople’s feelings about their own families are deeply ingrained, and they are not likely to alter significantly after you tie the knot.” He adds that, “[y]ou can come to compromise, but if your spouse and your family don’t get along, pressing for change is not likely to work. Instead, I’d tell you to give your S.O. a free pass to avoid unnecessary get-togethers. Family togetherness is nice, but not at the expense of your relationship with your partner.”
Relationship researchers have long believed couples who take up similar hobbies or active pursuits together are much happier because these shared experiences bring novelty and excitement to the relationship. That being said, it’s important for partners to have separate hobbies and interests that add to their overall happiness. Asking a partner to change or stop their routine hobbies will only cause contempt and set the relationship on an unfavorable course.
8. Religious beliefs
Religious beliefs are something that are ingrained in you, and often these beliefs have been passed down in your family. While it’s not completely unheard of for a person to believe less in their religion — depending upon their age demographic — or even convert for their partner, if your significant other is deeply religious it can be problematic in an interfaith relationship, Samantha Rodman licensed psychologist and dating coach, tells The Huffington Post.
Rodman adds that most problems for couples, in regard to religion, don’t arise until later in the relationship or until they decide to have children.“People who were raised going to religious services frequently will often want to resume this practice when they have their own children, even if they didn’t attend services as a younger adult,” she said. “On the flip side, if your partner is an atheist and agnostic, it’s unlikely they’ll become devout believers just by virtue of being with someone with faith.” Just remember that religion is one of the many traits that makes your partner who he or she is, and it’s unfair to ever expect a change.
Accepting your partner
You can’t say you truly love someone if you try to change them and only accept the parts you like. We all have aspects of ourselves that remain in the dark that we wish no one to discover. However, true love is when you uncover those dark parts and despite the darkness and imperfections, your partner is still beautiful to you. Your partner’s life scars are a testament to what he or she has overcome. John Fischer puts it best: “The success of marriage comes not in finding the ‘right’ person, but in the ability of both partners to adjust to the real person they inevitably realize they married.”
Follow Sheiresa on Twitter @SheiresaNgo.