How to Get Your Partner to Change His or Her Behavior

by Relationship Coach Rinatta Paries on November 13, 2005

in Break-ups and Divorce, Dating, Marriage, Relationships

need change nowIt can be frustrating and depressing to see the person you love ignore what you need and want.

It’s frustrating to have to ask repeatedly for what you want and not get it.

It’s maddening to show your relationship partner all of the logical reasons he or she should change, construct a completely convincing argument, provide all the necessary support – and still see no change in his or her behavior.

It’s heart-breaking to feel like you will have to sacrifice the relationship with a person you love in order to be happy.

Does this sound familiar?

You know you can’t make another person change his or her behavior. But you are certain there must be something you can do that you have not yet tried to make him or her change, so that the relationship can work and both of you can be happy.

And you are right.In this article I will tell you in what circumstances it is ok to ask your partner to change his or her behavior, and give you the tools you need to get your partner to make those changes.

When is it ok to ask your partner or spouse to change his or her behavior?

  • Ask for change if the change will help your partner become a better, more capable, more functional, healthier and happier person.
  • Ask for change if the lack of change is hurting your partner, you or your children.
  • Ask for change if the change will make your relationship better and more functional, healthier and happier.
  • Ask for change if the quality of your partner’s and your life will improve as a result of the change you want.

How to cause behavior change in your partner

1. Communicate

Begin by effectively communicating what’s wrong and requesting change. You may request change about 10 times overall, doing it respectfully and calmly. If you request change and your partner does not change, it may be because he or she cannot hear you and does not understand the importance of your request. Try a different approach and different words each time you raise the issue.

2. Read Together

If you do not see change in your partner’s behavior after repeatedly asking for it, it’s time to move on to the next step. Strongly request that your partner join you in reading a book on the subject of relationships. Initiate discussions about what the two of you are reading to facilitate learning.

3. Get Outside Help

If you do not see change in your partner as a result of reading together relationship-enhancing information, it’s time to move on to the next step to try to cause change in your partner — enlist outside help.

Outside help may be a coach, a therapist or a workshop that both of you will attend as a couple. You should see some behavior change quickly when getting outside help. If you do not, consider switching to a different therapist.

Often couples working with me in coaching see significant changes in their relationship. Learn more about how to get started with couple’s coaching here.

4. Most Effective Strategy – Become an Agent of Change

If the strategy of getting outside help is not working, you only have one last strategy left to cause behavior change in your partner. Or skip the other strategies and try this strategy first. This last and most effective strategy is for you to become an agent of change for your partner and your relationship.

How do you become an agent of change? You become the kind of person around whom only honesty and authenticity happens. You become the kind of person who takes care of your own needs first. You become the kind of person who acts kindly yet strategically in a relationship. As you become that kind of person your partner will have no choice but to make changes around. If he or she loves and values your relationship, there will be behavior change.

How do you implement this strategy? You can do it on your own by working on being courageous, honest and kind in your relationship — but know that it will be a struggle.

Or you can do it with my help. You can start with the Get Clarity Coaching Session, in which we can chart your course for relationship change.

Other information about effectively causing behavioral change in your partner:

1. A good way to avoid needing to deal with trying to change your partner’s behavior is to pick a partner who is a good match for you. It helps enormously if your partner has a fair amount of self-understanding and is willing to try to make changes when they are necessary.

2. You cannot nag, bully, cajole, threaten, manipulate, play games with or rage at your partner to get behavior change. The more of this you do, the less likely you are to get the change you want from your partner. Acting in this way makes it difficult for your partner to even admit that changes are needed, much less to make the effort involved in changing behavior.

3. You need to learn how to take care of yourself, so that you are ok no matter what your partner may be doing or not doing. If you are working on your own issues and making sure that your own needs are being met, you will be more confident, supportive, loving, and patient even in a relationship that needs a lot of work.

There you have it. Now you know when it’s appropriate to ask your partner to change his or her behavior, and you have a range of strategies that can help effect change in your partner’s behavior and your relationship.

Know that I am here to help you when you need it.


Anthony September 15, 2009 at 11:19 am

i wanted to ask im havin big problems like me and my girl are fightin alot all the time like we will stop one day an start the next day i wanna be a better man for her she wants my old self bac but i dont know how to change back to my old self i try an try but i cant find out how to can you help me i wanna marry her an she does to but we both want to work things out but how can you please help me im stressed out all the time an mad at myself i wanna feel good like the old days when i was different

Adriana April 27, 2009 at 12:24 pm

hmm…i dont know what i CAN change more about myself… do i just stand up for what i want…. i feel like i dont know where to draw a line between standing up for what i want and being demanding….i dont know, i feel so confused

Love Coach Rinatta April 27, 2009 at 12:30 pm

Adriana, work on change that impacts you as opposed to trying to impact him. If you want to create a specific strategy of action, I will be happy to meet with you for a coaching session. If you are interested, go here to register.

Adriana April 20, 2009 at 11:20 am

Hi there….
so i find mytself in alot of the same situations that i am reading about..I have known my bf for about 6 years…on and off…the last time we got togher i got pregnant after being wiht him for 3 months… i was horrified, but we decided to keep the baby and see what happens… i dont know if it matters but i am 25 and he is 26. Well, at first he used to go out all of the time and spend alot of the time with his friends, which is when i threatened to leave ( i was 6 moths pregnant)..he promised that everything will change..its hard to say it he has been any different- he works out of town mist of the time…well, we had a lot of argument s and i am realizing what i have gotten myself into… he is adopted, his dad is 2 time divorced and has been an alcoholic since my bf was a baby…he grew up with all of the material things, but his dad was never really there for him emotionally… i dont know if i am just looking for excuses for him..
well, he went out on the weekend and didnt come home until the next day around lunch… didn’t call or nothig ..he said that he was sorry that he didnt think about calling…
i am feeling so tired of all of the bs…. its been 3 years…we have a beautiful 2 year old boy and i would think that because he never had a “family” when he was growing up, he would try everything in his power to keep us together… i am tired of trying to make it work…. i still love him though .
I dont know what to do…i dont want to waste another 3 years but i dont see how he will change…
Does anyone have any suggestions for me.

Thank you in advance

Love Coach Rinatta April 27, 2009 at 12:06 pm

Adriana, he may not change at all, but if he does, it will be because you changed. What are you willing to change?

Robin March 12, 2009 at 9:30 pm

Coach Rinatta Paries,

I don’t know really where to begin as this is not something I would normally do. Normally I know what I want, when I want it, and can roll with the punches. But in this situation, I’m torn. I have been married to my husband now 3.5 years. We were together 2 years prior. I knew who he was before I married him, and I never expected him to change. I went into the relationship with the realistic notion that I could be comfortable with him as a partner for the rest of my life. Now things have changed.

Now that I reflect on our relationship, I see that I have given up a lot of my control in the relationship. I humor him when possible and allow him to think he is in control when he is not. Now he acts like he is in control and he knows how to intimidate me. The worst part about it is, his temper can be rather explosive in nature and my past experiences with violence from my late violent alcoholic father have made me rather emotionally unstable. I feel the strong need to fight or flight. He has never laid a hand on me, because I told him up front that if he ever did, he would lose his hand.

Now, if we have fights, he threatens to throw me out of the house with the clothes on my back and that he will burn my things. He’s even threatened to call the police and lie to them that I tried to attack him. I think its time to leave, but I know I have to do it carefully and strategically to make sure that I’m not hurt and that it can be civil in nature.

What do you think I should do? Should I start preparing to go, saving money and storing things elsewhere until it is time to make my exit? I can’t even talk on the phone when he’s at home because he listens to all my phone calls and even checks my emails. (I caught him once, and he said he would never do it again, but I don’t believe him.)

Any good advice would be appreciated. This is unchartered territory… a beacon of light would be nice.

Love Coach Rinatta March 16, 2009 at 8:25 am

Hi Robin, take a look at the following article on cnn – it will give you insight into what you should do –

overit March 3, 2009 at 5:04 pm

My boyfriend of 10 years insists on seeing his ex every Sunday for about an hour for lunch. This lady is rude to me, and constantly throws the fact that she took his last name, in my face. Because of a horrible marriage and divorce, my boyfriend says he will never get married again. To add insult to injury, he continually befriends odd women and conveniently forgets to tell them that he has a girlfriend. These women assume they can build a relationship with him. He says he is not interested in any of them that way, only me. I have left him numerous times because I just could not put it up with it anymore. Now I am pregnant, and he is still doing the same stuff, disrespecting my concerns and my issues with these women. What should i do? How do I get him to see how much he is hurting me by continuing these relationships/behaviors? He says he loves me and that I am the love of his life. Boy, he sure doesn’t show it.
Thoughts and suggestions are welcome

Lazar October 30, 2008 at 12:34 pm

Me and my girlfriend been together 9 months now. Prior to that we were friends since high school. I’m 24, she is 21. We Constantly have the same argument. HER position is that its ok to “hang out” with friends of the opposite sex when im not present around her (she dorms out in her college, so i see her only Friday, SAT, SUN.)Her other claim is that its ok to even go out sometime, somewhere with other people when im not there. ESPECIALLY SHE THINKS ITS OK TO HANG OUT WITH A BUNCH OF GUYS BECAUSE THEY ARE JUST FRIENDS. i dont know WHY its so hard for her to understand that its NOT a trust issue with me…i trust her…I my morals and standards are such that i just think its plain WRONG to go out without ur partner. i’ve already gotten better at handling the situation of her having guy friends.
And moreover, she KNOWS i TRUST her…and she knows that i just dont like her hanging out with guys even if there just friends, she knows i think its wrong…and she still does it. i’m not trying to lock her up …i just want some understanding and respect. NO…i don’t expect her to drop all her school friends and excommunicate everyone…but at least make an effort to tell these guys… “Listen…we can hang once in a while, just not as often…my boyfriend doesn’t like it too much.” it not too much to ask for. and at least tell them to limit their phone calls and invitation to places to her. WHY IS THAT SO DIFFICULT TO UNDERSTAND?

carolina October 26, 2008 at 9:54 am


Love Coach Rinatta June 24, 2008 at 1:59 pm

Dear Lolita
You do not change him, you change yourself. You decide what you will no longer answer, and you calmly inform him that this will be the case from now on. And you stay calm when he asks you the question or makes comments, but you remind him that you were no longer going to answer these questions and entertain these comments and you change the subject. If you can stay calm and use a bit of loving humor in changing the subject, after a while he might stop asking. If you can’t stay calm about this and his behavior really bothers you, I can help you get calm and stay calm, as this is one of the things I teach clients who come into my coaching practice – how and why to stay calm around explosive issues. To learn more about a coaching session go here:

lolita June 23, 2008 at 9:30 am

HIE well i have a very good relationship with my boyfriend i have been seeing him since 8 months now i really love him n believe that hes my soul mate but i have had a long relationship in my past and that is something tht keeps bothering us i mean when we started going around he really helped me to forget my past and all but today hes the one who keeps fightinf over it asking me questions telling me to think tht where was i this time and that time and trying to dig more into the past then later all hell do is say a sorry ,…….also i have to always keep giving him an assurance tht i love him n i will always b with him…he keeps askin will you leave ur career for me when he knows its imp for me and then apologises but now i m really fed up of all these questions and arguments i really love him n dont want to loose him at any cost plzzz help me how do i change him im trying everyhting possible plzzz….

Clint September 11, 2006 at 7:56 am

My wife makes me keep my head down because she thinks I look at other girls and I honestly don’t. I love this woman more than anything but it hurts me that she thinks that. She also thinks that im cheating on her always she’s always thinking that. I need some good advice. I have asked her to change plenty of times and she will for about a week or two then she is back to her self. Please help me!

Sara December 30, 2005 at 10:49 am

Coach Rinatta Paries-

I am dating this guy for about 1 1/2 yrs we both are divorced (me for 5 yrs and him for 3 yrs). I have 2 daughters, he had no children…he and my children get along great. No problems there. But my problem lies in us. I feel like I give so much of myself to him doing for him and he doesn’t. He is an only child and comes from a family that doesn’t really show there emotions. He told me when we first started dating that he wanted to learn to show his feeling more. And I will say he has opened up some but dang. I feel that he is selfish and inconsiderate. He wants to do what he wants when he wants and take no one else into consideration.

My children are gone to visit their dad for the week. He never wants to see them and he decided he wanted to have them for this week. So my boyfriend had me all to himself. We can do whatever we want together. But he decided that he wanted to work on a race car that he is building (which he can work on at anytime) instead of spending time with me. We don’t live together… we live 30 minutes apart. But he said that he wanted me to stay with him since they were gone… no need to drive all that way. So I said ok. The first night there he stayed out working on the car till 9:30pm. I went to work the next day when I came back to his house he was out there working in the car again and did not come in till about 9pm… (He works from home so he practically never leaves). So the next morning I packed all my stuff to go back to my house after work because heck I can sit at my home by myself or do housework at my house instead of sitting in his house alone. He called me at work when he saw that I had packed my stuff. He wanted to know if I was coming back why I packed up. I told him that I was going home that I had housework that needed to be done since the girls are gone. He got pissy and said fine. He wanted to know if I was coming back the next night I asked him if that was what he wanted and he said yes. So I said ok I will be there after work. Well the next day he called me at work and said that his friend was coming over to help work on his car but he still wanted me to come over. I was livid when we hung up the phone… So I called some of my girls friends and asked if they wanted to go to the movies and out to eat. They all said sure. So later he called me and wanted to know what I was going to bring home for supper. I told him that he was going to have to get his own supper I would be home late because some of us girls were going out to eat and to the movies… He huffed and said so you don’t want to spend time with me… I told him that I would love to spend time with him… but I was not going to sit on his couch all night while he and his friend worked on his car that could not be raced till the end of 2006. I told him that I was going out and would be home when I got home…

I am just tired of him wanting me to form to what he wants when he wants. Don’t get me wrong… I love doing things for him and making sure he feels special. But is it to much to ask for a little something back. I am not that hard to please and I don’t require 24/7 attention… just a little something. I thought that he would be excited to have me all to himself and be able to spend time with me with out having to be interrupted by the girls or having to entertain them… we can be like people without kids and be together.

Do you think that I am asking too much? I have tried to talk to him about this as well as me feeling he can take or leave me… Talk and not yell. I have been very calm every time I have addressed this… all he says is… I will try to do better. I am just about tired of waiting for him to try.

We have talked about marriage and we are going to start building a house in the spring. But I am not sure that I want to marry someone who doesn’t seem to care whether I am there or not. He makes me feel like he can handle having me around and he can handle being with out me it doesn’t matter to him. However I know he loves me… but I am not sure if he is “IN” love with me. I am not worried about him cheating… or anything like that… he is a great guy. Dang… I can be & feel alone… all by myself… and I can feel like crap all by myself too… What do you suggest I do…? I think I am at the point of throwing my hands in the air.

Desperate Girlfriend

Love Coach Rinatta Paries December 11, 2005 at 10:23 am

you just never know how people will react to things and although I am sure his reaction makes perfect sense to your friend, it is inexplicable to you (and to me). But, you have to respect that he wants to be out of contact. Give it time – a month maybe – and then reach out with a card. But I would not send flowers – seems to grand of a gesture and may get him to have more bad reactions.

Coach Rinatta Paries

rosette December 11, 2005 at 10:02 am

I have a question to throw, and I believe you can help…..I have a friend and was inviting him to camo over at my place for dinner…and he said it was a short notice and he’ll be out of town….There was a miscommunication that he told me “I’m unbelievable” I was asking him what made him say that..and he said it’s only his thing….I can’t send him emails because he blocked it…I’m planning to give a peace offering like a gift or this appropriate? please reply….I don’t want our friendship to end this way….

Eddie November 15, 2005 at 4:46 am

Me and my wife to be work together and one day I happen to work in her area wile she was off that day her coworkers could not understand how I deal with all the men that call on her it is hard because I use to be one of them myself in my heart I really do trust, her being it is the male in me that sometime make it very hard to understand .Why I was maybe the one and only but maybe I need to just wait and see…

Cher November 14, 2005 at 9:15 am

This is great timing! I am experiencing these issues right now in my life and have moved out from my boyfriend’s house. Nothing was changing and something had to give! We are still wanting to be together and just needed some sort of guidance. Since we both have busy schedules, this will be a nice, convenient guide to help us! Thank you!

Gary November 14, 2005 at 8:50 am

People give up when their spouse don’t want to change.People have to make a decision to change. It takes effective communication and trust to make a relations work.

This is a great article and well worth the information on changing your partner’s behavior.


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