Accept that people don’t fundamentally change.

What won’t people do for love? It turns out that for the most part that doesn’t work too well. Love is part of a relationship ecosystem. If we are constantly disappointed or frustrated by our partner, or we are regularly in conflict with them, the goodwill and affection will be greatly challenged. While we may find many things attractive about our spouse, our overall happiness will be impacted by whether or not the relationship is in a good place. If a woman has contempt or disrespect for her husband, or a man has loathing or negativity towards his wife, the marriage will be under continual strain. Even if the relationship began with strong attraction or a powerful chemistry, that will never be even close to enough to paper over those cracks.

Marriage should be founded on shared values and compatible personalities.

That is why it is vital that a marital relationship is founded on shared values and compatible personalities. It is crucial that both parties are honest about their strong preference in a life-partner and recognize where the potential for trouble may lie. If smoking or heavy drinking are major red flags to you, then you should not apply wishful thinking to your decision about marrying someone who indulges in such things. Your date may express willingness to quit smoking or drinking, but there is a reasonable chance that they will revert to it later. If that issue is a deal breaker, ask yourself why you would be willing to believe that they would never go back to those practices.

People don’t easily change their core beliefs and attitudes.

It is true that people may be ready to take on a new perspective and change their ways. However, equally so, people have whole schemas, or mindframes, about how the world works and what key principles should govern how it should be run. Such broad attitudes are mostly hardwired into a person’s brain and don’t readily change. They may be willing to switch their opinion in the moment to please someone else, but the chances are that those previous views will resurface. It would not be wise to wish yourself to believe that you can truly change their mind and habits. 

Thankfully, most preferences are minor and we can let go of them in favor of higher priorities. We may have a preference for someone of a particular height, level of education, or professional orientation, but we may meet someone who we connect with sufficiently well that we are willing to drop those demands. If you feel ready to put aside certain issues in favor of what you believe could be a wonderful relationship with this person, then put them aside and move on. But if you are unwilling to do so, then betting that in the name of love they will change for you is a highly risky gamble.

People do make changes and accommodations on smaller issues.

Also, many issues are small and insignificant, and people would be genuinely willing to make those adjustments to make their spouse happy. For example, if he dresses in T-shirts and you really don’t like that, or she always wears flats and he would like her to wear heels – those are things that can be easily agreed upon. There are hundreds of examples like this. If one party says, “no big deal. I can go along with that,” or alternatively some middle ground is found, there is no reason to be concerned that “they are only doing it for me.” Doing things in a relationship to make the other person happy is exactly what should happen and is not a problem at all. Couples figure these things out during dating all the time. 

Would you marry the person as they are?

The simple way to think of it is like this: Would you marry the person as they are? If the answer is yes – but you would rather they change this thing about themselves – then you have nothing to lose. If they do change, you will obviously be happy. And if not, they will still be happy. But if the answer is no, then you should think very carefully before doing so on the basis of their promises to change. If it is something they care little about and is not a deeply ingrained behavior, the chances are it shall not be an issue at all. However, it is a longstanding viewpoint, or a habit it is not easy to change, the chances are it will stay put. 

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