It’s so tempting to believe you can fix him.
You can see the things about his personality that are holding him back.
If only he’d let you, you could help him become a great success in life. You’d help him! You’d back him!
But he won’t listen to you. He won’t even try to change.
Physicist Albert Einstein put his finger on the problem when he said, only half-jokingly:
“Men marry women with the hope they will never change. Women marry men with the hope they will change. Invariably they are both disappointed.”
One of the more difficult parts of dating is not figuring out whether you love him. It’s figuring out whether you can live with his flaws.
He’s fantastic in so many ways, but can you really put up with his video game collection taking over the house or his lax personal grooming standards … forever?
For many women, a man is a fixer-upper project. They believe men have to be taught how to be good partners. Men have to be taught the importance of obeying a woman’s rules. She is the ultimate arbiter of appropriate behavior in the home.
Some popular dating books even suggest training men using the same principles as animal obedience classes. A man who drops his towel on the floor is ignored, while he’s praised lavishly for taking the trash out.
But is all this focus on changing men ultimately fruitless?
A recent study suggests it might be.
Angela Bahns and Chris Crandall asked whether people in relationships are alike because they’ve grown alike over time, or whether they were similar to begin with
Their data conclusively pointed to the latter. People connect and fall in love because of their similarities, not their differences.
In fact, our preference for people like ourselves should be considered a “psychological default.”
Bahns, an assistant professor of psychology at Wellesley College, adds:
“Anything that disrupts the harmony of the relationship—such as areas of disagreement, especially on attitudes, values, or preferences that are important—is likely to persist.”
So, will he change to become more like you? Not likely. Your friends might say you’re two peas in a pod, but it’s because you were both very similar people in the first place.
This doesn’t bode well for couples considering long-term commitment.
If you disagree on important issues, like whether to have children or where to live, then marriage won’t make you suddenly agree. You can’t count on growing more alike the longer you’re together.
Women consistently overestimate the amount of influence they have over their mate.
If you’re tidy and he’s messy, you can’t count on him picking up your tidy ways. If you’re conscientious with money and he’s not, he’s not likely to start sticking to a budget from his own free will.
Bahns believes that couples should take a hard look at how compatible they are before committing.
“Change is difficult and unlikely,” she states. “It’s easier to select people who are compatible with your needs and goals from the beginning.”
Now, chances are he WILL change over time … but not in the way you think he should.
Everyone changes as they grow older. You may love the man you’re with now, but there’s no guarantee he’ll be the same person in five years’ time.
A man changes because of personal reasons that may have nothing with the relationship. For example, middle age may force a reassessment of his goals and priorities. He may have a health crisis. He may feel differently once he’s a father.
The conclusion? The man you have is the man you’ve got.
You can ask him to alter minor behaviors, but you can’t ask him to change who he is.
Nor should you want to.
After all, why would you stay with someone you don’t admire the way he is?
One helpful question to ask yourself is:
If you knew he would never change, would you still be happy in the relationship?
Your answer should be yes.
If it’s not, then rethink what you want from him.
It’s ok if he’s not perfect. In fact, letting him be imperfect can be a change in your mentality that leads to a sudden increase in your happiness and satisfaction. Because you give yourself permission to just start enjoying the connection for what it is.
Being with a man you don’t have to fix is such a relief. He can be himself, and you can be yourself. That’s the foundation for a happy future.