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How Does Change In Couples Happen?

People call me all the time to ask what to do about their partner— “how can I make Him or Her change?  Of course, no one can make someone else change. We can only change  ourselves. However, if we change something about ourselves it changes everything.  To effect change in a partner, we must change ourselves!

How Can I Make Him Or Her Change


The dynamic for change concerning men and women is different. Not All men are amenable to change for a woman. To some men this means that to do what a woman wants means weakness.

Men are raised to earn a living, to compete and to make the nearest woman happy. No man can live with an unhappy woman. If she is unhappy it is a constant reminder that he has failed

For many women, to tell her man what she wants means he has STILL failed. He is supposed to KNOW what she wants. He should intuit it.

This paradigme can never work. Worse, when he doesn’t know she gets angry with him. Now he can’t think either. I never knew a man to change when a woman got angry with him.

The most simplistic move is for women to understand that men don’t know things instinctively and that MOST men will do whatever their partner wants if only he knew what it was. She has to tell him. The old adage, “happy wife, happy life” is true.

Many men are very worried about doing things wrong. Therefore they do nothing. For a woman to tell her beloved what she wants removes the risk of failing. He WANTS to make her happy. He just fears failing. Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt! Let’s tell him.

So a man can ask and hopefully get an answer other than, “you should know!”

For the man, asking is the straightest approach. Hopefully she will appreciate the thought to ask — “how can I help?” “What do you want for Christmas?”

Men can also study their wives. Most of us women have that skill. Men are more apt to study their profession or their favorite sports stars. Study her. What are her favorite colors? What does she like to do? What is her favorite food? Play the Newlywed game with each other and see how you do.

While most men want to please their wives, some men are so deeply steeped in hyper masculinity that they will never change because a woman asks!

These men are raised to believe that men are in charge and make the decisions. They had fathers who believed this or no father—only a myth of what men do fed by the other boys who lack a male role model. These men can’t tolerate the sound of a female voice. To do as she asks makes them weak. They resist, avoid, may even become violent faced with her protests.

I met such a couple a few years ago. He had beaten her for years. He was abusive physically, emotionally, and verbally. And she stayed!  She saw all this as better than being alone. But she protested by talking on and on about his misdeeds. The more she talked on and on the guiltier he felt which he dealt with through meanness to silence her. The meanness worked until the next time.

His therapist was not discussing his unacceptable behavior with him. He was only sympathizing with how shamed he felt. So the behavior continued.

In such an instance, to change for such a man isn’t likely to happen at the wife’s request. This makes the man unmanly in his eyes. Some outside force has to make the difference.

After the last episode, the daughter said that he could not see his new twin grandchildren if he didn’t get help! That worked. And his wife managed to let their daughter know how her father was doing.

And what of such a wife? How do women change?  When a woman is talking on and on, how does she stop?  By being hit? Insulted?  A man’s power is in his words but he often doesn’t know it.  He doesn’t resolve the problem with physical abuse or by being insulting. He can ask her what she wants him to do. He can volunteer information. He can explain himself. He can be sure he is truthful. These direct conversations tend to quiet women,

In other words, nagging is good. It means the relationship is alive as long as someone wants something. When no one is asking, things may be over. Men tend to avoid the female noise by being gone or abusive but they don’t seem to know about how to have the conversation which closes it down or to provide reassurance of their participation in the relationship.

For a woman with such a man, she must reassure him that he matters to her and that knowing him to well won’t disappoint her but in fact, his vulnerability is the way to gain her empathy. She needs to thank him and make much applause for any moves he makes to do as she asks. When she gets unwelcome news she needs to deal with it without drama, with calm and still appreciation for his trust.


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