Can A Relationship Still Work If Your Ex Does’t Change?

Sometimes two people who deeply love and care for each other can fail to make a relationship work, not because of lack of trying, but because of who the other person is.

This is a dilemma that some of my clients have. They love their ex with all his/her faults and shortcomings but they also know that if some of their ex’s behaviours don’t change, the relationship can’t work.

If this is your dilemma too, and you still want to continue fighting for your relationship, understand that you will be the one to change for the relationship to have a chance.

I know, I know. Why should you be the one to change?

I hear this complaint all the time. I have also been accused of “blaming the victim”. “She wants you to take blame for everything”. “She wants you to feel bad about yourself” .

No, I don’t want you to take blame for anything or feel bad about yourself. I want you to save your relationship.

If you want to preserve your relationship, you will have to change because you are the only “person” you can change.

It doesn’t mean your partner or ex doesn’t need to change. He/she probably needs more changing than you do, but you can’t change another person.

If even after changing your beliefs, attitude, behaviour, responses, reactions etc, you still find yourself needing to make a request for him/her to change or get help, communicate it lovingly and effectively but keep in mind that the other person may reject your request (and it’s his/her right to do so).

You can request but you can’t demand change.

Demanding change only makes the other person more determined to resist, or want to leave the relationship.

If the other person decides he/she wants change, offer support and encouragement. That’s all you can do.

The important thing to keep in mind about support and/or encouragement is that you can only offer as much support and/or encouragement as the other person wants you to provide. No more.

If for example your ex acknowledges or mentions that he/she thinks he/she should see a therapist, do not rush in there and find him/her a therapist.

In your mind that might seem like “offering support”, but that’s still trying to “change’ someone.

Most people if you jump in and “take over” their change process, will change their mind about seeing a therapist, or will go along reluctantly, and not put in any effort to change.

You can listen. You can answer their questions. You can make suggestions. You can encourage them. You can do what they ask of you. You can not take over someone else’s change process.

Again, you can offer as much support and/or encouragement as the other person wants you to provide. No more.

If you can not accept that you can not change someone else, or find that you can not wait forever for them to change, remember, no one is forcing you to remain in that relationship.

In my experience, when someone is so focused on their ex’s “issues” and/or their ex getting help, or thinks that they don’t need to change/don’t have to change, it’s usually because the relationship has really no chance to begin with — and they know it, or at least feel it.

Making it all about their ex’s issues is their way of admitting (without really admitting it), that there is nothing they can do to make the relationship work. After all, you can’t change another, or make them want to change if they don’t want to change.

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2 Comments

  • Yangki, I believe that a relationship can work if only one person changes, but the other person has to want to change too. My ex after 2 months back together says he no longer feels I am the same person he fell in love with. He says he really wanted to make us work but just can’t do it anymore. I told him to give it more time but he refuses to even consider it and now has cut off all contact. He says it’s for the best. In your experience have you seen a situation similar to mine and the ex eventually did come back.

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    • I’m sorry things have taken this turn. First of all, you are right about the other person wanting to change too. There are however times when the other person thinks he/she doesn’t need to change (most of us don’t want to change), but because the relationship means so much to them, they’ll be “open’ to trying the the new dynamic and in many cases are (indirectly) changed by it.

      I have also seen cases where the person who changed changed so much or changed aspects of themselves that were not an issue with an ex (may be even was what their ex loved about her/him) that the chemistry and compatibility that first drew two people together is forever lost.

      Some people got back together and others didn’t. The troubling part about your case is that he has cut off all contact. The lines of communication are blocked and all you can do at this point is wait for him to reach out to you.

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