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athenasgriffin's avatar

What things are acceptable to ask your SO to change? What things are not?

Asked by athenasgriffin (5964points) June 28th, 2012

So, ever since I asked my question about my boyfriend’s cologne, I’ve been wondering where the line is between things that you can ask someone to change and things you cannot, reasonably.

Generally, after spending a certain amount of time with a person, there is something that irks you. Is there a level of commitment you should have to someone before you can ask them to change this?

What things are completely off limits for you? Have you ever broken it off with someone because they wouldn’t change something? Or, the opposite, have you ever ended a relationship because the other person asked you to change?

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22 Answers

Trillian's avatar

I don’t think there are really many things that one could reasonably expect another to change. For the most part one simply has to deal with it or bail.

Judi's avatar

I think that’s really an individual thing. It was no problem when my husband asked me to quit drinking (when we were dating.) That might not be ok with someone else.

woodcutter's avatar

My SO will like my dog. There is no wiggle room on this. If we can agree to any modifications to make this so, then things will be swell. Having said this, realizing that I’m not perfect, I couldn’t imagine expecting them to change anything about themselves.

Coloma's avatar

You can ask him to pick up his under ware but you can’t change his personality.
As soon as you get into the disliking of personality traits you’re screwed, not gonna change and if you can’t deal with them you need to move on asap.

YARNLADY's avatar

I had to work on getting him to put our mail in the box I provided. If the mail gets put down in random places it tends to get lost.

whiteliondreams's avatar

I believe that if you want to ask for change, it cannot be something that has to do with his personality, hobbies (unless very dangerous), music, style (except hair), and personal preferences. These are things you should try to support and promote to make and keep him happy. As far as making suggestions on the other hand, may be required if there is a trend that does not follow suit to the occasion. Make it known that you dislike something he does or wears or likes, but be careful how you say it if you really love this person. The same should go for him when discussing dislikes. It’s normal to express them, especially if you can both laugh about it later without hurting each other’s feelings. I think it’s also very important to set down expectations at this point and discuss shared beliefs and standards to contribute to the relationship. If you are married, kudos, work hard at making each other happy and respect each other. If you are engaged, kudos, keep working at understanding each other more and more and respect each other. If you are cohabiting, but not engaged or married, be wary of the consequences of being in a relationship that is cohabiting because communication is fundamental in any relationship, but particularly cohabitations due to the reasons for cohabiting and the stressors placed on the individual for expectations never set. And finally, if you are living apart, but are considering any of the above, remember to be kind and considerate of your words and actions. I have not left my S.O. for things she has asked to change because she hasn’t asked me to change, but she has hinted at things she dislikes and it puts a strain on me because I do not realize what I am doing. So I do expect my partner to explain the issue to me in order for me to fix the problem(s). One thing I would definitely no longer consider to do for my S.O. is to deliver her children to their other parent. I did break it off 8 years ago because I felt I was being used and psychologically manipulated. I hope this answers some of your questions.

JLeslie's avatar

I agree with @Judi and @Coloma it depends on the individual and if it is a personality trait that is very hard to change.

When it is something like what @YARNLADY is talking about, and your SO sees the logic behind the request, then they might come on board and do as asked. But, back to what @Coloma said that somewhat has to do with personality, that the person is willing to be open to ideas regarding organizing and shows respect for these types of requests from their partners.

I think if the two of you take life as a work in progress and as a united front, wanting to improve, there is a decent shot each partner will change a little for the other, and for themselves. But, minor changes, you have to like the basic person, and if there are some things about them you just cannot stand, I don’t care how trivial other people say those things are, if it drives you crazy, you will really hate those things more once married. Those things get exaggerated during difficult times. I saw Judge Judy in an interview once, I think she had written a book, and she said if you can’t stand the way he fill in the blank, but everyone is trying to tell you that shouldn’t matter, he is a good man, good job, all around nice guy, still don’t marry him.

whiteliondreams's avatar

In fact, I just completed an essay on Middle Ground and it was about marriage and cohabiting. Apparently, according to the research and studies conducted, relationships require very good communication skills and particularly a couple who understands each other and have the same characteristic foundation as well as, belief system. Here are some sources:

Sassler, Sharon, and Amanda J. Miller. “Class Differences In Cohabitation Processes.” Family Relations 60.2 (2011): 163–177.

Jose, Anita, K. Daniel O’leary, and Anne Moyer. “Does Premarital Cohabitation Predict Subsequent Marital Stability And Marital Quality? A Meta-Analysis.“Journal Of Marriage & Family 72.1 (2010): 105–116.

Hohmann-Marriott, Bryndl E. “Shared Beliefs And The Union Stability Of Married And Cohabiting Couples.” Journal Of Marriage & Family 68.4 (2006): 1015–1028.

Dew, Jeffrey. “Financial Issues And Relationship Outcomes Among Cohabiting Individuals.” Family Relations 60.2 (2011): 178–190.

ucme's avatar


Ron_C's avatar

It’s funny that you mentioned your boyfriend’s cologne. I am very sensitive to certain perfumes. I especially hate the scent of anything with “musk”. One of my wife’s perfumes made me sneeze the other had some sort of musk overtones and actually made me sick. She thinks I’m a pain but quit using them. Other than that, there is very little in our 46 years that I would change about her.

nikipedia's avatar

I think you can ask someone to change anything; it doesn’t mean you’ll get what you want.

Sunny2's avatar

I think you pretty much have to accept the whole package unless it’s something small. My SO made me aware of the fact that I often fail to close something completely, like drawers, cupboard doors, jar tops. It made me more aware of it and I could see the reason, so I’m better about that now. It’s a matter of being considerate of the other person. The way I arrange the kitchen annoys him somewhat, but I’m the one who uses it, so it’s my way. The way we each drive could be an issue but we don’t make it one. An occasional gasp may be heard.

LittleLemon's avatar

I was amazed when the boyfriend told me about his past girlfriends and the things they asked of him. He ended up changing, but resented them for it. As for our relationship, I’ve definitely asked him to do one or two things differently, but more often I just let it be known that something he does irks me. This is always done in an over-dramatic whiny voice.

“You didn’t put the beer in the friiiiiiidge, Gawwwduhhhh.”

Works every time.

thesparrow's avatar

It’s usually women who want to change men rather than the other way around. It could be because woman are often more inclined to do domestic chores and want to keep the house tidy. I’ve never heard a man say ‘pick up your underwear’ or ‘throw that into the laundry basket.’ A general pattern of not-giving-a-shit is observed with men, whereas with women there is constant nagging. I think out of general respect it is perfectly reasonable to tell a man that you don’t want dirty clothes on the ground, that you expect him to be responsible and consider your needs, etc… this is what women do ALL THE TIME.. consider others’ needs.

Trillian's avatar

^^ “It’s usually women who want to change men rather than the other way around.”
Do you have any evidence other than anecdotal to back up that claim?

flutherother's avatar

Trying to change someone can cause stress in a relationship. Once you accept someone you accept them for who they are for better or worse. If their behaviour then changes then that is another matter. But when two people like each other and spend time together they often to adapt to one another easily and naturally.

athenasgriffin's avatar

@LittleLemon I love the strategy. I do generally agree that hints can be better for the relationship than straight out asking for a change. You kind of bring up something that @flutherother expands on, the idea that trying to change can really stress the relationship, and cause resentment, which is a great point. Ideally, I agree with @Trillian‘s and @Coloma‘s idea that there aren’t many things that you can reasonably expect a person to change, especially with personality.

Thank you all for answering! I love hearing all your differing opinions on things, helps me reconsider my own decisions through other’s eyes.

Judi's avatar

@thesparrow, I have a much higher filth tolerance than my husband.

LittleLemon's avatar

@thesparrow While no one can deny that this is the stereotype, I’ve found several cases to be the opposite. Then again, I used to date men that were terrible for me. I’ve been asked to change everything from my wardrobe to my sexual preference for men I’ve been romantically involved with.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

If I made a big deal of it, my husband would put the seat and even the lid down on the toilet- he might even start sitting to pee instead of standing but I doubt he’d ever change his laugh or not squint when he smiles, stuff like that. He’s asked me to not wear a particular dress he finds unflattering which is fine with me but had he asked me to change my natural haircolor or wear makeup to cover my freckles then that wouldn’t feel right.

thesparrow's avatar

My fiancee has never asked me to change anything. But let’s be honest here. There isn’t much to change.

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