When Your Partner Refuses to Give it Up

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Sometimes, No Matter How Hard You Try--Your Partner Refuses to Give Up Something That Is Hurting You

You’ve told your partner how you feel about “XYZ.” This XYZ has become an issue in your relationship because no matter how you have tried to explain —

  • it bothers me that you still talk to her
  • it bothers me that you still go out partying with your friends
  • it bothers me that you are drinking so much
  • it bothers me that you never let me see what you are doing on your phone
  • it bothers me that you don’t include me in the finances that I feel we should be sharing at this point

WHATEVER your XYZ situation is — and there are many scenarios that apply here — you have expressed that it bothers you and have been told — it is not an issue. You’ve been told that for some reason or another, your partner feels justified in their behavior, has no intentions to change, and that you need to just deal with it. Perhaps, they even accused you of trying to change them or of not “loving them as they are.” Is this really what is happening?

Because, to you, it is an issue. Perhaps this is a behavior or situation that was in your partner’s life long before you came along — you should just deal with that right? Like they want you to? Not necessarily.

Where do you go from here? No matter how you have tried to approach the issue, feelings get shared but nothing changes. And you are becoming reluctant to “just deal” with the situation anymore. If you are feeling conflicted, understand this:

  • Your feelings are valid. Express them carefully and respectfully. Your partner should listen.
  • It is ok for you to ask for what you want and need in a relationship— especially if your partner’s behavior is unhealthy and is harming either party involved, or doing harm to your relationship.
  • If your partner is not listening or is shutting you down when you are expressing how you feel, your relationship may be at risk of failure.

Inciting change with a reluctant partner

First of all, trust that if it is an issue to you — then it is an issue. Do not let someone dictate to you how you should feel about a situation. Your emotional reaction is worthy, in and of itself. The first thing you should do is acknowledge that these feeling are real and valid — and take steps to ensure that they are healthy reactions and not rooted in some unhealed traumatic pain that you have not resolved.

Psychology Today suggests the following 5 steps in an article entitled: ”5 Ways to Get Your Partner to Change — You CAN change someone without pushing them away.”

Step 1) Understand what’s causing the lack of change.

Step 2) Restate twice, then give advice.

Step 3) Model the behaviors you’d like to see.

Step 4) Set boundaries.

Step 5) Be open to changing yourself.

A few of these steps, as further expanded in the article, are along the lines of the advice I shared with a personal friend today as she vented to me about a situation in her personal relationship. She is upset about her XYZ situation, has discussed it with her partner, but no changes have taken place. This leaves her to stomach her feelings, battle the whirlwind of unresolved emotions with justification, denial, or confusion — and this is a very unfair position her partner has put her in.

How can I approach this conversation, she asked?

My advice was twofold:

Firstly, your feelings are valid

— and because it matters to you, it should matter to your partner. Approach the conversation by being honest, non-accusatory, and calm. Explain that you have tried to just deal with the emotions for the sake of your relationship and that you feel this responsibility should not be yours alone. Remind your partner that you are in this together, that there are always going to be things your partner does that bothers you for some reason, and that facing those things together, and with respect, will strengthen your relationship — which should be the common goal.

If your partner’s behavior is hurting you, both your own personal preservation and the health of your relationship is at stake. By all means you must speak up, but do it with respect and as much calm as you can muster. Offer to be present and helpful for your partner and encourage them to get help if they need it.

Secondly, you must set boundaries

We truly do teach others how to treat us by what actions, behaviors, and verbiage we will put up with. Be consistent. You have to find a way to make your expectations known. What exactly is it that you need from your partner to rectify the situation? Don’t be afraid to ask for it. Most partners will want you to be happy in the relationship and would be willing to ask how you can BOTH make this better. Focus on that strength and on what unifies your relationship.

Stay away from inflammatory language, demands, or threats as these will only push your partner away or make them defensive.

Don’t be afraid to get counseling

If you express what is bothering you and ask for your partner to discuss a compromise — and get absolutely nowhere — the relationship is in a position to possibly require some outside help. Counseling is not a band-aid for a relationship or an embarrassing situation by any means — it is a tool to help you strengthen as a couple. If your partner refuses — go alone. Dealing with the situation may require for you to have an unbiased outside professional opinion.

Don’t Give Up on Your Needs

It is never easy to elicit change. People like what is comfortable to them. But if a situation has become emotionally uncomfortable for you, it can only fester into a greater problem. Face it head-on, be honest, be open to compromise you can both live with, and keep your dignity in the process. If your needs are consistently not being met in your relationship, it may be time to consider your options. Life is simply too short to spend it trying to change people who are happy being exactly what they are. Simply, sometimes we outgrow our partners.

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