Is a Romantic Partner Ever Worth Waiting For?

Should you wait for your partner to change?

Posted Aug 22, 2018

Relationships can be complicated. After all, a relationship is a joining of two individuals, each with different hopes, dreams, desires, personalities, expectations and experiences, into a state of connectedness characterized by trust, care, safety, and love. As relationships evolve and change, however, so do the people in them. This question comes to me from a reader in New York:

If you’re waiting for your partner to change, is that always a red flag? Are there changes that are valid to wait for? How can you tell?

Stockpic/Pexels CC0
Source: Stockpic/Pexels CC0

Change is hard for everyone, but I do think external changes are worth waiting for, so long as you’ve vetted that your partner has the internal qualities to make those changes possible. For instance, when we first meet someone, we tend to care about their superficial qualities–their attractiveness, height, weight, level of education, religious affiliation, and other qualities that barely scratch the surface of who this person really is. As time goes on, we uncover his or her values. I always tell my clients and students alike to try to really pay close attention to a partner's values first, despite how blind "love" can be in the beginning (the blindness, of course, relates to how quickly we can use these superficial qualities to sway us to believe the fit is right). If you've together decided on future goals, like starting a family which can require a large financial investment, and your partner is still in school but values ambition and hard work, then waiting on changes like your partner graduating college, working his or her way up in a company, in order to have stability so that you can both meet future goals you both value, like perhaps starting a family, traveling, or buying a home together, is well worth waiting for.

Waiting for someone to change his or her internal qualities, like values or personality, however, takes a tremendous amount of effort, will power, growth, and hard work. From what research shows us, partners who exhibit abusive traits, even after years of therapy, may still never change. In the case of abuse, it’s always worth leaving. Abuse aside, if you are waiting for your partner to change an internal quality, like being less selfish or less demanding, I would advise you to ask yourself, "if my partner never changes despite promising he or she will, can I live with my decision to stay in this relationship, regardless of what that means for my life?" Asking yourself honestly will help give you the answer you are looking for.

Good luck!