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Study: Noticing Your Partners Efforts to Change Can Improve Your Relationship

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Feel like your partner will never change?

A new Northwestern University study shows that the more you believe your partner is capable of change and perceive that he or she is trying to improve, the more secure and happy you will feel in your relationship.

“Many of us tend to under appreciate our partner’s efforts to improve the relationship simply because we do not have enough faith in those attempts,” said Chin Minh Hui, lead study author and graduate student at Northwestern University. “When we see those efforts in a positive light, we can enjoy our relationship much more.”

Researchers separated several couples who were in relationships and asked them to rate how much their partner was trying to improve in areas of patience, understanding, and being a good listener.

After a three month period, the couples were asked to rate the same characteristics and also how they felt about their relationships at that point. Hui found that those who didn’t believe their partners would change, didn’t notice when their partners were actually making sincere efforts to improve.

“If you don’t believe that your partner is capable of changing his or her fundamental characteristics, even when he or she is working hard to try to improve your relationship, you can actually end up discounting these efforts,” said Daniel Molden, senior study author and psychology professor at Northwestern University.

He also points out that one can convince themselves that their partner is capable of change through self-awareness and effort.

“A secret to building a happy relationship is to embrace the idea that your partner can change, to give him or her credit for making these types of efforts and to resist blaming him or her for not trying hard enough all of the time,” Molden said.

The study is published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

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