Thirty-six-year-old Rosemary acknowledges that smoking is not a healthy pastime. But for six years, it was something she and her husband enjoyed doing together.
“Usually, we had our heart-to-hearts while smoking in the evenings or late afternoons. He was a hearty smoker. Six months ago, he quit to signal the start of a healthier lifestyle, which he hoped we would enjoy together,” she says.
Ordinarily, this kind of change would be a cause for celebration, but for Rosemary, it has become the biggest source of rows.
“Now that he’s done it, he keeps pressuring me to quit. I can only smoke outside and I also have to be conscious of my breath around him. It’s hard relating to him. I want things to be as they were before,” she says.
She did not know how big a role smoking played in their relationship. “Now we spend less time together and the quality of our relationship has dipped. I feel neglected,” she says.
The way she sees it, smoking was one of the things that attracted them to each other in the first place. Now that he cannot enjoy it with her, she feels as if he has outgrown her.
Even in relationships, people are bound to grow as individuals, so change should be expected. It can act as a boost to a relationship, especially if it is mutual and desired. However, committing to a personal change which your partner resists can be a lonely experience.
After years of marriage, Hilda experienced what she describes as a spiritual awakening. she decided to get more in touch with herself and with God.
“When I broke the news to my husband, he hit the roof. He called our friends, claiming I had contradicted his beliefs and that this was not what he had signed up for. He felt insulted by the fact that I had changed my denomination,” she says.
While Hilda believes her spiritual change made her a better person, she acknowledges that it put a strain on her relationship.
“It’s been two years and I am always careful not to make a mistake he will attribute to my change. He is uncooperative and still takes every opportunity he gets to sabotage my successes,” she says.
What to do
When change affects only one partner, marriage therapist Ezekiel Kobia maintains that it is vital that this person understands that.
“You can only change yourself and you have to accept that your partner may never change. When one feels good about his success with a positive change, it is easy to subconsciously push his loved ones towards the same so that they too can enjoy similar successes,” he warns.
Often, out of fear that change will lead to incompatibility, your spouse will not be receptive to the change or the new you.
“It is not uncommon to find one partner subconsciously putting on weight as soon as the other has taken up a weight-loss regime. When this happens, it is easy for you to equate their willingness or unwillingness to change with their love for you,” he adds.
His advice? Work on accepting the difference and giving space to your partner to change at his own pace. You can only hope that with time, your passion will inspire them to change with you.
“Change takes time and consistency and he or she must want to change for themselves. The more you pressure them to change with you, the more they will dig their heels in. If they change to please you, they may end up resenting you for it in future,” he says.
And he adds, “However great the change you have made, remember to create time for each other. Instead of pressuring them to join you, create new rituals so that your partner doesn’t feel left out.”
Ultimately, before making any decisions, both parties need to weigh the importance of the change versus that of their relationship.
What not to do
Do not sweat the small stuff. Be more accepting.
Do not give an ultimatum for a partner to choose either you or the change. They can have space for both of you in their life.
Do not take their changing or their unwillingness to change personally.
Do not sabotage your loved one’s attempts to take on a positive change.
Signs that all is not well
It is a bad sign if one makes constant attempts to sabotage their partner’s success.
If your partner openly speaks negatively about an individual change you have undertaken, it could mean jealousy or fear.
It is a red flag if your partner is making progress but you are keen on them going back to being who or how they were.
It is likely to put strain in a relationship if one partner is so self-absorbed in the change that they neglect their relationship.
Pay attention if you feel that you do not recognise who you fell in love with in your partner.
What women want to change in their men
There is one thing that women are told often: You can’t change a man. However, abstaining from trying to change a man to make him fit a certain mould is easier said than done. Here are some things that women try to change about their men.
1Dress Sense: You may have a perfect hygiene sense but she still wishes you would throw away your old tees and pants. If a man is making money, the woman in his life expects that he will invest in a decent wardrobe and pay attention to his grooming.
2Smoking: Statistics show that men are twice as likely to smoke as women. And though there are women who enjoy their cigarettes, in most cases it is the man who enjoys puffing, while the woman can barely stand it.
She loves the man but wishes she did not have to put up with the tobacco breath, and the lingering smell on his clothes and ash and cigarette butts all over the place.
3Asking mother-in-law to intervene in everything: Women are all for men having good relationships with their mothers, but if it means that he cannot make a single decision without getting on the phone with his mother, his wife or girlfriend will take it that he is still tugging at his mother’s apron. Every time he calls to consult his mum, she wishes he would make her part of his support group.
4Not seeing beyond the physical: Women appreciate men who notice and acknowledge the efforts they have put to get a toned body and the care in getting a new hairdo or outfit. However, if that is all he ever notices, the charm is lost as she feels like a mere trophy. Most women wouldn’t mind if men noticed them for their other qualities such as a good sense of humour.
5Deaf ears: If there is one thing that women want from men it is to be listened to and to be heard. Men on the other hand are masters at playing deaf, which leads women to fall back on nagging to get their messages across.
6Spending habits: A woman may like the thought behind the cash a man spends on her, but if she sees a future with him she’ll want to change a few things about him. She may want him to spend less and invest more or if he is a saver, to spend more and put away less.
7Insecurity : Women like to feel safe and secure in relationships. If you care for her to the extent that you doubt any male that she comes into contact with, she sees you as insecure which is very unattractive. She wants you to be independent and confident.
8Addiction to your smart phone: The world is currently riding on a wave of technology, but women hate it when they have to compete for a man’s attention with texts and emails. She would rather if his eyes were on her.