I want to change but my partner doesn’t

Dear Lisa,

I’m in a relationship, living with my partner and I enjoy the relationship because we don’t have expectations of each other. I was in a relationship before where my partner had a lot of expectations of me to be something that I wasn’t or more than I was and it felt like what I was wasn’t good enough.

The current relationship I’m in is sort of the opposite. I can be exactly who I am and he encourages that. The thing is that there are some changes I’d like to make in my life. I’d like to get up earlier, I’d like to go to bed earlier, I’d like to have a rhythm to my day that really supports my growth, but I don’t feel strong enough to do it alone.

Over the nearly a year that we’ve been living together I’ve really tried to make these changes and I’ve found that he hasn’t wanted to make similar changes and I’ve lapsed back into my old ways. Now I’m really feeling like I need to make these changes but I want support. Is it that we’re not supposed to be together because I’m different now from when we got together or because I want to be different? Or is there a way to make it work?

–Ideal Life ( ♀ Vancouver)


Dear Ideal Life,

First off I want to clarify that you are being emotionally supported by your partner, in other words, your partner isn’t trying to hold you back from making positive change in your life. If he is, go ahead and end it. If not, then breaking up is certainly not your only option.

Second I want to preface my comments with the thought that we all grow and change at different rates, within a relationship and without. And unfortunately, despite your longing to be supported, you can’t depend on another person to support the aspects in your life that you are unable to support in yourself. To require someone else’s support to make change in your life is unsustainable at best and more likely co-dependent behavior. Maybe the real question is what kind of support you can expect from a romantic partner, and what sort you have to find elsewhere.

There are four types of people who can support you in your life:yourself, your friends & family, professionals and your romantic partner.

  • You provide yourself with the lions share of the support: you create circumstances around you that encourage positive change, from things such as engaging in work to empower yourself and cultivate self love to not having processed foods in the house when you are changing your diet.
  • From your family and friends, you can almost always find an accomplice – someone to go to the gym with or someone you can call specifically when you need to be told ‘don’t do it!’, or at least someone to cheer you on. This can sometimes be your romantic partner, but it is too much of a burden to expect that sort of constant support from him.
  • Another place to go, especially when you need specific support, is to a professional – a coach, trainer, counselor, or someone else who specializes in your issue. I advise never using your partner to replace this sort of help as it depolarizes the relationship.
  • Your romantic partner should be treated gently; they provide you emotional support and encouragement to be what you are striving for, and often a little treat when you’ve reached it. Remember that just because they are there all the time doesn’t mean they are your built in wrist slapper or morning alarm clock (and if they were, you’d probably resent it!)
  • The bottom line is that when you find yourself frustrated with other people in your life for not supporting you enough, you can almost be sure that you aren’t supporting yourself and consequently attempting to fill that void with someone else.

    Support yourself to develop your will and work toward your goals by adjusting your circumstances. Avoid resenting your partner for the judgmental story you make up while you’re practicing yoga and they’re snoring in the next room. As you start to glow from the inside from all of your hard work, I can bet your partner will likely want a little bit of what you’ve got, but not if you try and force it with the threat of breaking up. If in the end your lifestyles aren’t compatible and neither of you want to compromise, you’ll know the next change you need to make.

    Bonne courage,

– Lisa



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