by Elizabeth Serio
“Nothing. I wouldn’t change a single thing about him.” Bullshit. Excuse my French, but let’s not lie to one another. I don’t mean to sound cynical, but there’s no such thing as the perfect boyfriend—or person for that matter. And let’s get something else straight… So long as you’re not changing who your man is, wanting to change something about him doesn’t mean that you don’t love him for who he is. It’s natural to want to help your significant other become a better person. (If that makes him more attractive to you, all the better!)
Still, regardless of whether you’ve just met or have been together for years, helping someone improve can be a herculean task. Half the battle is figuring out what you want to improve, and the other half is figuring out how you can help them improve it… It’s important to be honest with yourself, because there are just some things that you will NEVER be able to change about your boyfriend. No matter how hard you try, how supportive you are, or how many fights you get into, in some respects men are more like old, brittle pottery than moist, pliable clay. If you struggle too much to “mold” these aspects, you are more likely to break your relationship than achieve any beneficial changes.
Don’t worry: I’m here to help. First, we’ll tackle 2 difficult, but feasible things that you CAN change about your man. Next, we’ll delve into 3 areas where change is unrealistic and that are likely to prematurely end your relationship…
His Personal Hygiene & Manners
According to stereotypes, guys are crude, unkempt, and entirely dependent upon women. Luckily, these generalizations tend to be inaccurate, but that’s not to say that your polite, clean-freak boyfriend doesn’t have a dirty secret or two. Whether it’s his obnoxiously loud chewing, apparent inability to put the toilet seat down, or bizarre desire to shamelessly share explicit details about his recent bodily functions, there is still hope that your man might eventually learn that his “charming” habits aren’t quite so charming. Nevertheless, helping your boyfriend improve his hygiene or manners may require that you initiate a few awkward and uncomfortable conversations that bring potential issues to his attention. When broaching these delicate issues, it’s important to be tactful, honest, and sensitive to your boyfriend’s feelings. It probably doesn’t surprise you, but guys are a lot like dogs: If you want to teach them a new trick, it’s best to use a calm, gentle tone and to reward them when they do something right. If you come off too harsh and abrasive, they are less likely to actually “hear” what you’re saying and more likely to head for the door with their tails tucked between their legs and a bruised ego.
Fortunately, style is entirely subjective and doesn’t directly reflect whether your man is a good person. In other words, your boyfriend can still be a great guy despite his tendency to dress like Elton John. However, many men take this type of constructive criticism very personally and poorly. Even the most well-intentioned fashion advice may be perceived as an assault on your boyfriend’s manliness. Because your boyfriend’s personal style has been influenced by some of the most important people in his life (his mother, sister, close friends, or ex-girlfriends), he might be defensive about his style. Given all of these factors, don’t be surprised if your boyfriend initially rebuffs your attempts to change his style. This is also a two-way street, so the next time that you feel compelled to complain about his favorite t-shirt, think about how you would feel if he mentioned that he wasn’t too crazy about your most comfortable sweat pants or favorite skort (throwback).
The best way to approach this sensitive topic is to subtly point out what you’d like to see him wearing in a positive way. If you see an outfit that you’d love to see him wearing, you should enthusiastically tell him that it would look great on him. You could even offer to go shopping with him the next time that he mentions that he needs something. If his birthday or some other gift-giving occasion is coming up, try getting him a gift card to a stylish store that’s more to your liking. With gift cards, the key is to offer yourself up as his personal shopper as part of the gift. You want to appear enthusiastic and very willing to take him shopping, but be careful not to come off too pushy.
If you do take him shopping, it’s important to make the experience as fun and pleasurable as possible for him. The last thing you want to do is trigger a traumatic flashback of that time his mother embarrassed him in the middle of the entire department store by “jiggling” the crotch of his pants to make sure that they weren’t too baggy. If you get him to try on clothes that are outside of his comfort zone, you must be as complimentary and reassuring as possible. He’ll never wear the clothes if he doesn’t feel comfortable in them – even if you successfully expand his wardrobe. Accordingly, when you see him wearing something that you like, let him know! There’s no better way to make him enjoy shopping with you and feel more confident in his new clothes than by slipping into his dressing room to give him some “personal attention”. Remember that the better time he has, the more likely he is to go shopping with you again, and let you influence his style.
A word of caution: do NOT tell him that you wish he’d dress more like [insert name of other guy in your life]… In particular, never mention his guy friends, your platonic male friends, or co-workers. This will only foster jealousy and lead to suspicion that you’re harboring a secret crush.
I get it. I’ve been there. You think his friends are obnoxious, immature, or bad influences on your boyfriend. Perhaps you feel threatened by his friends that happen to be girls, despite assurances that they’ve always “just been friends.” When it comes to “changing” his friends, you’re heading into dangerous territory that could cost you the relationship. Realistically, his friends have been around much longer than you have, and even if he’s “in love” with you, he probably thinks that his friends will be around long after you’re gone… Guys tend to be very conscious of the fact that they will date many women in their lifetime and while they may have strong feelings for you today, you could be gone tomorrow for a myriad of reasons. As a result, men tend to remain loyal to their friends over their “flavor of the month.” Many guys also identify with, and see a lot of themselves in their friends—so there’s also a potential concern that if you don’t like their friends, then you won’t really like them.
So what does this mean? It all depends on two things: significance and trust. How much do you like this guy? How much do you dislike his friends? Do your feelings about his friends affect how much you trust him? Weigh your options carefully before you jump to any conclusions. Once you open this bag, you can’t close it without confronting severe consequences.
The easiest solution is just allowing your boyfriend to have separate time for his friends… Just because you don’t like someone doesn’t mean that he shouldn’t be allowed to see them without you. This will also give you the opportunity to make sure that your girl friends don’t feel neglected. Moreover, if he has a particular friend or two that you don’t mind as much, make a genuine effort to get to know them. If they’re single, you can suggest setting them up with your single friends. Your boyfriend will be happy that you’re making an effort. In addition, if they hit it off, you can start forming a new group of friends that you can tolerate. If his friend is already in a relationship, you can fulfill your “friend obligations” on double-dates, thereby avoiding his friends that bother you the most.
Ultimately, if you genuinely love and trust your boyfriend, you shouldn’t allow his friends to interfere with your relationship. You don’t need to love his friends. You just need to see them infrequently and be okay with HIM spending time with them. This should also score you some points with your boyfriend and his friends… They will think that you respect the sanctity of “guy time” and appreciate your consideration.
The only real problem arises if your boyfriend’s friends make you trust him less… Trust is the bedrock of any relationship: if there’s no trust, there’s no relationship. If your boyfriend’s friends affect your ability to trust him, you can try to calmly, rationally, and tactfully voice your concerns. Perhaps he’ll be sensitive to your feelings and willing to see them less often… But it’s far more likely that your relationship’s expiration date is fast-approaching.
One last thing about your boyfriend’s friends: Do whatever you can to prevent his friends from realizing that you’re not their biggest fan. You want them to think that you adore them. If they can tell that you don’t like them, there’s a pretty good chance that they will ruthlessly trash you behind your back until he breaks up with you.
I’ll bet anything that this little gem popped into your head when you first read this article’s title. Unfortunately, there isn’t much that you can do if you don’t like or get along with your boyfriend’s family. Regardless of whether his parents hate you, you clash with his bitchy sister, or you are creeped out by his pervy brother, your boyfriend’s family is not going anywhere. Therefore, your best option is to put on a smile and try to find some common ground with them. You don’t need to become the daughter or sister that they never had, but you must learn to co-exist. The added stress of a disgruntled family pressuring your boyfriend to break up with you WILL inevitably doom your relationship. It’s a matter of WHEN, not IF, the axe will fall.
Given the impact that your boyfriend’s family can have on your relationship, it’s crucial that you make a good first impression with his parents and siblings. Consequently, it’s no surprise that meeting his family for the first time is such a stressful and nerve-wracking experience… It’s much easier to foster a healthy relationship (or merely coexist) with his family before there’s bad blood between you. The key is doing whatever it takes to make a good first impression and get his family to like you from the start—even if you don’t like them. How do you make a good first impression with his family? That’s a topic for another post…[OR insert link to other blog post if we have one on the issue] If you’re reading this and hoping to change his family, it’s probably too late for a first impression anyways…
Here is the question: Do you want to change his family because you have a problem with them, or because they seem to have a problem with you? If his family doesn’t have a problem with you, consider yourself lucky. It’s much easier to preserve your relationship with your boyfriend if you have a problem with his family, as opposed to his family having a problem with you. If you care about your boyfriend and his family isn’t excessively cruel to you, you should probably just suck it up and let go of any issues that you have with his family. To that end, you may be better off venting to your friends about his family rather than your boyfriend unless he broaches the subject first. Even if he introduces the topic, himself, choose your words carefully. Remember that insulting your own family is one thing, but insulting someone else’s family is quite another… Finally, if you do confront your boyfriend about his family’s behavior, don’t get frustrated or upset if he seems clueless or defensive. He has probably been exposed to whatever it is that you find objectionable about his family for his entire life. Consequently, he genuinely might not notice the behavior or may even be immune to it.
Unfortunately, if roles are reversed and your boyfriend’s family has an issue with you, things are much bleaker. Be proactive, swallow your pride, and do whatever it takes to preserve your relationship. First, you should talk with your boyfriend and let him know that you care about him deeply and are willing to do WHATEVER it takes to win his family over. The two of you must figure out why his family doesn’t approve of you, or what you may have done to offend them. Next, your best bet is “coalition-building.” You should strive to bond with the family members that find you least objectionable. For instance, if your boyfriend’s mother and older sister don’t like you, go out of your way to win over his other siblings. Simultaneously, continue being respectful, courteous, and thoughtful whenever you see his mother and sister. Over time, even your staunchest critics will start to come around when they see you making a genuine effort by treating their family well.
With that said, no matter how hard you try to win some people over, you may not succeed. These stubborn individuals make snap judgments, never change their opinions, and won’t relent until your relationship falls apart. When it becomes apparent that you’re dealing with a family that falls into this category, it’s time to cut your losses and get out of the relationship as painlessly as possible. Sure, you can hope that your boyfriend never succumbs to family pressure and try to stick it out until he does, but that’s just masochistic and a waste of everyone’s time. Even if preemptively ending the relationship stings, you’ll be protecting yourself from much greater heartache in the future. More importantly, you’ll also avoid wasting your “prime” years trapped in a dead-end relationship.
Because I have very strong feelings about this section, my heart skipped a beat while writing it. In short, if you want to change your boyfriend’s personality, break up with him sooner than later. You’ll be doing BOTH your soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend and yourself a favor. If you need to fundamentally change who your boyfriend is, do the right thing and save him the pain of losing himself just to be with you. Even if he’s initially willing to change who he is for you, sooner or later he will become resentful, get frustrated, and end things on his own terms. So save the time and energy that it will take both of you to change your boyfriend’s personality, and use it to find people that are better fits for each of you. Physical attraction, alone, isn’t enough to sustain a long-term relationship. Fortunately, the dating cliché that “there are plenty of fish in the sea” is very true. Even though it can take some time to find your ideal match, you should NEVER settle. No matter how annoying you find your boyfriend’s various quirks, there is someone out there that will find them endearing and want to be with him without asking him to change.
Ultimately, we all have flaws – some are physical flaws and others are character flaws. As the saying goes, the key to a successful relationship is finding someone that you love because of their flaws, not in spite of them.
What do YOU think is the most difficult thing to change about your significant other? Sound off below in the comments…
Have you ever tried to change something about your significant other?
- Yes. (Curious about the M/F breakdown)
- If yes, were you successful? (Curious about the gender breakdown)
- If yes, were you successful? (Curious about the gender breakdown)
- Yes. (Curious about the M/F breakdown)
What do you think is the most difficult thing to change about your significant other is?(Look at the gender breakdown)
- Personal Hygiene & Manners.
Elizabeth Serio lives in South Florida and writes intermittently- mostly about food- in her blog,AqueousAdaptation.blogspot.com. She has a B.A. In Marketing with a focus on e-Commerce from University of West Florida in Pensacola, Florida. Elizabeth, or Liz as she prefers, is the founder and creator of Sugar Leaf Co., a creative design studio for paper crafts and photography she operates from her living room. Liz is currently single but is expecting the unexpected any day now.