Don’t try and change the one you love! How to decide whether a romantic relationship is likely to last

Relationships are some of the most complicated challenges for the animal brain. We see in other primate species, that there is strong correlation between brain power and size of social group they live in. 

So it might seem like a bold claim to say it’s really quite simple to determine whether your relationship is likely to work …. at least in principle.

The question is, can you accept your partner exactly as they are, faults and all? Because, chances are that’s how they were when you chose them, and the truth is it’s unlikely you’re ever going to change them. And I would say dig deeply to see if you can accept them. Be objective, are those big things or small things that bother you? Can you live with them?

If the answer comes up no, and you really and truly cannot except them, you might want to consider separating rather than trying to change them. Because otherwise you likely signing up both parties for a life of near constant conflict.

The problem is that the things which initially draw us into a romantic relationship (often relating to visual cues or body chemistry) aren’t likely to be the same things that will make the relationship good in the long term. Most people who’ve had a certain amount of experience will agree that the starry eyed passion is unlikely to last. Though, initially it is likely to mask a multitude of things that we wouldn’t normally be happy about. On our oxytocin high we tell ourselves that those things aren’t important to us or we’ll change the person fit more closely with our preferences.

Of course when the passion cools to more normal long term levels, not only are we disappointed by the breaking of the romantic promise, that we were sold by fairy tails and Hollywood, but we are also confronted by the same issues that we ignored during the honeymoon phase but have now become screamingly intolerable.

Studies have shown that a relationship’s chances are much more determined by the bad times than the good times. If things are sometimes intolerably miserable, the chances are it won’t work, no mater how amazingly wonderful it can be at other times.

This is not as depressing as it sounds. The truth is it shows that we have more power in the relationship than we might imagine. Because ultimately we are responsible for the way we think, our beliefs, assumptions, expectations and judgements. We have the power to choose to be more tolerant and less judgemental. This is not to say forgive your partner for anything. You need to use your judgement to decide how objectively important an issue is and whether you are prepared to change the way you think. Sometimes the answer will naturally and justifiably be no. But you need to decide this and then act on it accordingly.

If you come to the conclusion that your relationship is worth working for, then go to it whole heartedly. And if you need a little help, hypnotherapy and CBT offer many techniques to help you change your thinking, reach acceptance and manage your feelings on the way.

In true blog spirit here are a 5 tips that will significantly improve the chances for your relationship:

-       Don’t expect to change your partner. Sure give them feedback about how you feel about something, but then it’s up to them

-       Be tolerant about the small things, are they really worth getting so worked up about

-       Don’t expect your partner to think just like you, they may have different ways of showing how they feel

-       Talk about you interests to your partner and show an interest in their interests. According to a study in 1990 this last point is one of most reliable indicators of whether a relationship will last. If someone points out something of interest and then receives interested attention from their partner less than 30% of the time, then the relationship is unlikely to last as much as 6 years. However if the figure is closer to 90% of the time, the couple will almost certainly be together more than 6 years.

-       Be grateful, be kind and avoid contempt. When you start to feel contempt for your partner, it’s like the funeral bell tolls for a relationship. So pay less attention to their faults and be grateful for the things you love about them. And if have an argument try to be kind not nasty in the way you express your point of view. During hypnotherapy I find it useful to ask clients what it is they originally loved about their partner. Getting them to remember this, perhaps even during hypnotic regression can help them to re-access a much positive mindset towards their partner which is a great help when dealing with complex issues.