I understand why you might’ve looked up “how to change my boyfriend” and clicked on this article.
But I’ll cut right to the chase. While there are plenty of articles out there that can help you try to change your partner, this article isn’t one of them, and for a good reason:
You can’t single-handedly change anyone else.
And actively trying to change someone wouldn’t be healthy or sustainable for the relationship.
So, I’m not going to share any manipulative tactics for trying to get your boyfriend to change to your liking or be your version of “better” in one way or another.
But nobody is perfect, and you may wonder what role you can play in improving your partner for the sake of the relationship.
Here’s some advice on how to best handle the situation when dealing with any undesired behavior from your partner or love interest.
Suppose you have a recurring habit of trying to change your partners. In that case, you might also have the frequent habit of accepting lousy behavior in the hopes that those behaviors can improve over time – instead of prioritizing the type of behaviors you desire from the start.
But believe me: getting into or continuing a relationship because someone “might change” is more likely to lead to frustration, disappointment, and unhappiness than anything else.
And significantly, nobody can change unless they want to change for themselves. You can’t force someone to act, dress, or talk in a different way if they see no benefit or value in making those changes.
So, the first thing you should do is rephrase your question from “how to change my boyfriend” to “what can I do to understand and then communicate what I want out of this relationship?”
That way, the focus is more on your boundaries, expectations, standards, needs, and desires, as opposed to what your partner “should” or “shouldn’t” do.
Someone who cares about you will inherently want to listen to those boundaries, expectations, standards, needs, and desires and work with you to try and meet them if possible.
If the changes aren’t possible, if you can’t compromise, or if your partner doesn’t care to change, these are signs that they simply might not be the right person for you.
Walking through the following steps will help provide clarity on how you want to approach the situation with confidence, understanding, and respect.
Let’s get into it.
Before having a conversation with your partner, it’s essential to get clear on what it is that’s bothering you in the first place.
This evaluation can help you determine the seriousness of the issue at hand.
Is it one repeated action or many things?
Is it something that annoys you a little bit or something you can’t stand?
Is it easy to change, or is it something that will take lots of effort, commitment, or even professional help?
These questions are important to answer because they will determine how to approach the situation when talking about it to your partner.
The more serious and heavy your concerns are, the more time and space you’ll need for the conversation.
When you realize something you don’t like about someone else, it might be because that behavior is overstepping your personal boundaries.
Boundaries are the limits you set for yourself and the people in your life. They can range from how much personal space you need to the tone of voice someone uses when speaking with you. Your boundaries should reflect your values, morals, and expectations.
It’s important to be aware of your own boundaries to communicate them effectively with your partner. So, if you want to be treated differently in one way or another, get specific about what that looks like.
Another step you can take before speaking with your partner is to evaluate and reconfirm your relationship standards.
Relationship standards include the values and behaviors that you expect in a relationship. These include things like respect, compromise, communication, trust, honesty, and commitment.
Reflecting on your personal relationship standards will help ground you and give you an understanding of what you consider acceptable versus unacceptable behavior.
That way, when you communicate your expectations to your partner, you’ll have a better idea of how to proceed if the conversation isn’t received favorably.
Once you have a clearer understanding of your boundaries and relationship standards and the behaviors you’ve noticed that are interfering with one or more of them, it’s time to talk to your partner about them.
When having this conversation, be sure to do it in a respectful and considerate manner.
If you bring up things you don’t like about your partner without warning, the conversation won’t be as effective. Your partner might feel taken aback, which could lead to defensiveness.
Additionally, if you bring up your concern at random moments, they may feel like it isn’t that big of a deal and not take it seriously.
Therefore, it’s crucial to set up the conversation in a way that both respects your concerns and also respects your partner’s time and energy. Depending on the gravity of the issue(s), this could be as simple as saying, “Hey. Do you have a moment to talk? I want to express something that’s been on my mind. When could I have your full attention?.”
Or if it’s more serious, you could say something like, “I’ve been feeling off about a few things in our relationship and want to share my feelings with you. I hope to spend some time talking through my concerns, which might take around an hour. Could we talk sometime in the next day or so?”
Once you’re ready to have the conversation, it’s helpful to make it very clear what you’re objective is.
If you start talking about what you don’t like that the other person does without prefacing the conversation with the end goal, it’s more likely that the person will feel like you are trying to change them. And again, that’s not the goal.
The goal is to express how you feel so that they have the necessary information to determine whether they want to change or not, which will then give you essential information to decide on your next steps in the relationship.
Your objective might sound something like, “I would like to share some of my concerns about your behavior recently. I want to share my feelings and hopefully receive understanding. If you feel inclined, I’d be happy to answer questions afterward.
Start by expressing your feelings with the help of “I” statements such as “I feel frustrated when…” or “I feel hurt when….”
Using this kind of language will help you stay focused on your feelings and needs rather than the other person’s behavior — which could lead to defensiveness on their part.
It’s also important to talk about the behavior in particular rather than generalizing it. Making broad statements like “you always do this” can make your partner feel attacked and less likely to have a productive conversation.
And finally, be sure to give them time and space to process what you said, ask questions, and express their feelings on the matter once you feel you’ve been heard.
Everything I’ve written thus far is under the assumption that you’re with someone who is generally caring, attentive, and reasonable. And I know that’s not always the case.
The concerns you wish to discuss may be behaviors that prevent your partner from having a cordial discussion. These behaviors include but aren’t limited to invalidation, defensiveness, mocking, gaslighting, cold-shouldering, etc.
When faced with these reactions, remember that the person’s behavior is not your responsibility and isn’t something you need to accept.
At times like this, you can refer back to your boundaries and relationship standards. The reason you’re bringing up your concerns is to see whether you and your partner can address the ways in which your partner has gone against these boundaries and standards.
So, if they continue to overstep these boundaries or not meet your standards, that’s your answer.
For example, negative and unproductive responses might sound like this:
If they respond to your concerns with any of these or similar phrases, I recommend taking it as a clear sign that they do not care to change, they do not care enough about your concerns, and they probably don’t care enough about the relationship as you might’ve hoped.
Don’t force them to.
Don’t try to change them.
Instead, let them know that that type of response (as well as the initial behavior you’re addressing) isn’t what you’re looking for in a relationship. Thus, they might not be the right match for you.
If your partner responds to your concerns with any kind of emotional, verbal, or physical aggression, then it’s important to take a step back and focus on your own safety.
If the reaction is extreme, consider leaving the situation and seeking help to navigate this particular situation.
Expressing your concerns about your partner’s behavior is valid and necessary. However, having the goal of trying to change them is unsustainable, ineffective, and unhealthy.
Shifting the question from “how to change my boyfriend” to “how to communicate what I want, need, desire, etc.” is an honest, open, direct, and respectful way of improving the relationship overall.
And remember, if you receive an apathetic, reluctant, disgruntled, annoyed, aggressive, or otherwise negative response to your honest concerns — that’s your answer.