Talia Levy

August 23, 2023

before you ask me to change

Being asked to change and preferences building in a relationship can be stressful. I’m talking about things like “I prefer that you text me within this amount of time,” or “I prefer that you don’t talk to this person.”

While it may sometimes make sense to voice these preferences to a partner, many times, it’s unnecessary and does more harm than good.

When you ask something of your partner, you have to realize that it’s one more thing for them to think about. One more thing taking up their mental space. The first small ask may not feel like much, but over time, these asks will build and build.

Depending on what it is, an ask may become habit and won’t require much active thought over time. But others will take a conscious effort on your partner’s end to remember and act on, and stacking those asks up can weigh heavily on their mental space and freedom.

We usually ask our partner to do or not do certain things. Many times, those requests are sparked by experiencing something we don’t like. It could be the flip side as well, but they’re two sides to the same coin.

If you don’t like cooking and ask your partner to do it for you, it’s the flip side of liking not cooking and making the same request. So for simplification purposes, I’ll focus on the side of not liking something.

In a past relationship, I was asked not to do many things because my partner hadn’t preferred it. The asks would seem reasonable, so I would agree to them. But I didn’t realize until later that the way they stacked on one another was taking a huge toll on me.

I often felt stressed and thought a lot about what he didn’t want. It didn’t help that he’d frequently get upset if I didn’t follow a certain preference. I was in a constant state of not wanting to make him upset, and I was constantly met with new preferences that I now needed to consider. It was not a fun place to be in, and I felt trapped.

You have to be careful because sometimes you won’t even notice that requests are building. It might not be so obvious. My past partner wasn’t making direct commands or even asking me to change outright, many times. They were just preferences voiced, so they were more of implied asks.

But because you’ll most times want to honor your partner’s preferences, especially if you know you’ll be met with upset if you don’t, it’s an ask all the same.

It wasn’t immediately obvious to me in the beginning that I was greatly shaping my actions and words around what he wanted, feeling restricted in what I could do or say. So it built until the point that I was stressed enough to know it needed to be addressed.

And I did address it, which is where the open-mindedness comes in. I believe that to like or dislike something is most times a choice. I haven’t learned enough about all of the ways we can like or dislike things to say it’s a choice all the time. But in terms of how we feel about certain words, actions, or situations, I feel that we can control our emotions to each of those things.

Not necessarily the first time we experience and react to something, but after that initial experience, I believe we can ask ourselves consciously, “do I want to like/dislike this?”

We can look at situations logically, as opposed to basing everything off of those first emotions. We have control over how we feel moving forwards. If we do choose to change our initial emotions, tools like affirmations can help with that.

Our feelings and opinions on things are largely based off of our upbringing and what society tells us to feel. We many times don’t stop to ask ourselves, “do I want to be feeling this way?” Some people don’t even know that’s an option.

It’s a really freeing thing to realize that you don’t have to be annoyed by x or feel upset over y by default. How you feel is in your control. It’s your choice. And when it comes to feelings around a partner’s words or actions, this is incredibly important to consider.

Instead of asking your partner to act differently when they say or do something you don’t initially like, think for a second. Don’t ask them to change right away. Think about whether you want to feel the way that you do. Does it even make sense why you’re upset? Would it be worth it to change your own mindset so that your partner doesn’t have to change themselves? Do you want to let this thing make you feel this negative emotion?

Asking yourself these questions will help you figure out how you’d like to feel, in a logical manner, as opposed to a solely emotional one. Many times, it will end up benefitting both you and your partner.

It’s crazy how many things I find I don’t really wish to feel upset about. So I choose not to be. Now, I’m no longer upset about a new thing, and my partner doesn’t have to change or experience another thing to think about.

Your partner’s mind is precious. The space in their mind is precious. We all are already thinking about so much, so being considerate of their mental space and clarity is important. Doing the work to shift your own emotions before asking your partner to change is important. I’d many times rather make changes in myself than ask my partner to think about one more thing.

Your job is not to mold or change the person you’re with. It’s to grow with them and experience the blessing of being this close to another person. You both will evolve and change regardless, but should the catalyst of that change frequently be you not liking something and requesting a change from them? I don’t believe it should.

Through that process of logic and asking yourself questions, you still may find that you don’t like something. And that’s fine. It’s fine to voice preferences to your partner, but always consider that it’s another thing taking up space in their mind.

Hopefully it can eventually become habit, with their subconscious now taking care of it. But don’t ever take asking something of someone else, lightly.

And of course this can be very situational, but try to also have grace when you can, if they sometimes don’t meet a preference. You don’t want them in a state of fear over making you upset, so for some things, it can make sense to show them grace if they do ever slip up.

So consider your partner’s mental space and clarity when you ask things of them. Every ask is a big ask, and they add up. We’re not here to mold or change our partners; we’re here to grow with them. Keeping an open mind to preferences changing over time is also important because you may choose to feel one way now, but another way as time goes on.

It’s crazy how little you’ll find you’ll want to be upset about, and know that you’re doing yourself and your partner a favor. You’re creating freedom for the both of you when you make changes, as opposed to asking them to. And always, when you can, have grace, and be patient with your partner.

About Talia Levy

i write about relationships, self-help, & other random reflections i have. new posts every sunday.