For relationship success, look at yourself first.

  • Post author:

As a teenager, I was introduced to the expectations of relationships for the first time. It was a time of exploration and discovery, and I learned that certain things were expected to happen as time went on. Recall the language utilised by loved ones and friends that insinuated that anyone who entered your life had the potential to stay for the long haul. In the Western world, we are often presented with the notion that life follows a predictable trajectory, reinforced by societal norms, cultural expectations, familial pressures, and the pervasive influence of social media. Discovering our soulmate and spending eternity with them is the ultimate goal, and as such experiencing the enduring tradition of relationships and marriage with this timeless perspective.

As we are all aware, the likelihood of spending a lifetime with someone is slim, if not unattainable. According to research, it’s common to have five to eight relationships before finding the perfect match to settle down with. For some, it’s a little less, while for others, it’s a whole lot more. The issue is what happens when you realise that the concept sold to us is a cruel lie. What usually happens is that we do one of three things and likely all of them eventually.

To begin, we focus on our partner as a potential source of change. What exactly does he or she need to accomplish to ensure that we are content? Complaining, suggesting treatment, becoming needy, and employing codependent tactics are some of the ways we will try to bring about enough change so that we may feel comfortable. Attempting to alter the behaviour of a partner in a relationship can be fraught with complications and may result in unfavourable outcomes. It is typically recommended that one does not make an effort to replace their partner for a number of reasons, which are as follows:

  1. Respect for individuality: Each person in a relationship is entitled to their own beliefs, values, and personality traits. It is important to respect their individuality and embrace them for who they are. Trying to change someone implies a lack of acceptance and can erode the foundation of trust and mutual respect in a relationship.
  2. Authenticity and happiness: People are happiest when they can be true to themselves and live authentically. Attempting to change someone to fit your ideal version of them can lead to feelings of frustration, resentment, and a loss of personal identity. It’s healthier to foster an environment where both partners can express themselves freely and feel accepted for who they are.
  3. Unrealistic expectations: It’s essential to have realistic expectations of your partner. No one is perfect, and everyone has their strengths, weaknesses, and quirks. Trying to mold someone into your ideal vision of a partner often sets unrealistic standards that can be a constant source of frustration for both parties.
  4. Communication and compromise: Instead of trying to change your partner, focus on effective communication and compromise. Discuss your concerns openly, express your needs, and work together to find mutually satisfying solutions. Healthy relationships involve understanding, empathy, and a willingness to meet each other halfway.
  5. Self-growth and personal development: Personal growth is an ongoing process for individuals, and it should not solely rely on changing someone else. Encourage your partner to pursue their own self-improvement journey, support their goals and aspirations, and provide a nurturing environment for their growth. This fosters a healthy dynamic where both individuals can flourish individually and as a couple.

Always keep in mind that love, trust, acceptance, and understanding are the foundations of a healthy relationship. Embrace the individual attributes that your partner possesses, place a strong emphasis on clear and open communication, and work to create a setting that encourages personal development and pleasure. When the aforementioned strategies are unsuccessful (which they inevitably are, as they should be), we redirect the attention inside and make an effort to bring about change within ourselves. The reasoning behind this is erroneous because it presumes that if it isn’t them, then it must be us. In this situation, codependents especially, are likely to victimise themselves in the vain hope that they would be rescued by another person or something.

Attempting to change yourself for somebody else can be detrimental to your well-being and the health of your relationship. In a relationship, it is essential to be truthful to yourself and maintain your own identity. Attempting to alter fundamental aspects of one’s identity can result in feelings of estrangement from one’s true self. It is essential to be accepted and loved for who you genuinely are, rather than attempting to conform to your partner’s expectations.
Self-esteem and sense of self-worth: Changing yourself for another person can be detrimental to one’s self-esteem and sense of self-worth. It implies that you are insufficient as you are and must conform to someone else’s standards. This can result in a loss of self-assurance and an ongoing sense of insecurity.
True contentment consists of being at ease with and content with oneself. Changing yourself to please a partner may provide temporary satisfaction, but it can lead to resentment, frustration, and a lack of fulfilment in the long term. Being in a relationship with someone who adores and accepts you for who you are produces lasting happiness.
Changing oneself for a partner can lead to problematic power dynamics in a relationship. It creates the conditions for one individual to control and dominate another. This can result in an unbalanced relationship in which your requirements and desires are consistently put second to your partner’s expectations.
Genuine connection and intimacy in a relationship are founded on acceptance, comprehension, and mutual respect. If you alter yourself to conform to someone else’s expectations, you may create a shallow connection devoid of true understanding. True intimacy can only flourish when both spouses are honest and forthright.
Short-term compatibility: attempting to alter yourself for a partner may create the illusion of short-term compatibility. However, the fundamental distinctions between your true selves will likely resurface in the long run. It is preferable to find a partner who accepts and appreciates you as you are, as opposed to suppressing your true self for the sake of a relationship.

As you can possibly imagine, when the above doesn’t work in our minds, we tend to take the nuclear option of ending the relationship and finding someone else. This might be the right course for some but often relationships end because the tactics employed to get our partner to make us happy fail. In effect, no- one can make you happy. That can only come from within. Once you realise this, it has an effect on everything in your life. Remember, while personal growth is valuable, it’s essential to strike a balance and ensure that both partners are actively working on themselves for the benefit of the relationship. Mutual support, respect, and understanding are crucial elements for a successful and fulfilling partnership.

Subscribe to Dr Jenner's Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 5,493 other subscribers


Dr. Nicholas Jenner, a therapist, coach, and speaker, has over 20 years of experience in the field of therapy and coaching. His specialty lies in treating codependency, a condition that is often characterized by a compulsive dependence on a partner, friend, or family member for emotional or psychological sustenance. Dr. Jenner's approach to treating codependency involves using Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy, a treatment method that has gained widespread popularity in recent years. He identifies the underlying causes of codependent behavior by exploring his patients' internal "parts," or their different emotional states, to develop strategies to break free from it. Dr. Jenner has authored numerous works on the topic and offers online therapy services to assist individuals in developing healthy relationships and achieving emotional independence.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Great article with many truths! Thanks for this. I always say UCU — your message in a nutshell.