A couple in a cafe looking seriously at each other

The dangers of trying to “fix” someone

by Eharmony Editorial Team - August 23, 2010

Think you can change your new partner? You might want to think again after reading this article.

Maybe the guy you’re seeing is absolutely perfect for you…as long as he learns how to dress properly, gets some new friends and secures that all-important promotion at work. Or perhaps the girl you’re dating is absolutely The One…well, she will be once she learns to be a bit more trusting (after a run of bad relationships), then she’ll love you unconditionally.

If this sounds familiar then it’s pretty likely you’re dating a fixer-upper. They’re like that flat you bought that you know will be wonderful, once you’ve fixed the plumbing, refitted the kitchen and sorted out the damp in the bedrooms. The problem is, it’s much easier to fix a property with a little hard work – you can’t fix a person quite so easily.

Some people are addicted to fixer-uppers – maybe it’s the need to rescue someone, maybe it’s a need to spread their own brand of happiness around the world. But are you dating one? To find out the answer, ask yourself these crucial questions:

Am I being realistic?
OK, so nobody’s perfect, but are the changes you want to create in your partner completely unrealistic? For example, if you’re dating a skinny guy, but encouraging him to go to the gym, are you hoping he’ll have muscles like Arnie in a few months? If this is the case, you’re looking for changes that will render your partner almost unrecognisable, defeating the object of dating them in the first place.

How much effort is my partner putting in?
Imagine the scenario: your partner is a little overweight, and they’ve expressed a desire shape up. You’d like them to do that too, as it’ll be good for their health, but it’s always you who’s preparing healthy meals, or booking squash courts. The fact is that someone has to want to change themselves for change to happen, and to stick. If you’re doing all the pushing, you’ll just end up pushing them away.

Do I see them more as a project than a partner?
Any imbalanced relationship is doomed to fail. A relationship should be a partnership, otherwise resentment builds, often on both sides and conflict occurs. If you’re treating your other half like a project, they’ll start to feel like they’re not in a relationship at all.

What am I looking to change?
Encouraging your partner to pursue new hobbies, or give them the confidence to aim for that promotion at work, can only be a good thing. Relationships are about helping each other be the best you can be. But, if you’re hoping to change something completely fundamental in your partner – such as their sense of humour, or even their religion – then, as in the first question we put forward, you’re delving too deep. In other words, you might as well look for someone else.

Am I ignoring my own needs?
Sometimes the desire to change someone else means we forget our own needs in life. If you’re working hard at some point you’ll run out of energy and crash out, feeling resentful – and causing ever more problems in your relationship. In order to be there for your partner you need to be on form too, so in fact you’re causing more harm than good.

When it comes down to it, you can’t change someone – work off the rough edges maybe – but ultimately you have to accept someone for who they are.