Is he willing to do the work?

Any mature person knows that to keep a relationship humming, it takes some work. Even if you get along fabulously, usually there are a few hiccups that need negotiating. My ex and I started going to a counselor a few years into our relationship as I wanted a safe place we could work out any hiccups. I equated it to a high-performing car needing more care to keep it running at its best.

A gal pal recently ended a 6-month live-in relationship because her beau didn’t want to work on making the relationship better. He was fine with it as it was and didn’t see any need to improve anything.

When she explained that great relationships are continually evolving and improving, he said he understood from the beginning that she was a girl and liked to have “relationship talks.” He was fine with having them if she wanted. But he didn’t like to have them very often and was certainly not going to initiate them.

She was saddened by his not sharing her continuous improvement philosophy. And she felt he was condescending to say her need for these talks was a girl thing.

Realizing continuing to improve her relationship was critical for her, she decided to leave. We traveled together right after she extricated herself from him, but they still communicated some. He acted like she’d be back as soon as she came to her senses. She knew she’d not go back.

My experience is many men don’t like to talk about their relationships, as the woman usually asks for them to do something different and they don’t want to. I’ve dated men who initiated conversations about improving the relationship and others who didn’t. I am drawn more to the former as I like to be working to make things better in all areas of my life.

How important is continuing to improve the relationship to you? Is it critical? Or is your philosophy, “If it’s good, don’t mess with it”?


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8 responses to “Is he willing to do the work?”

  1. johnc Avatar

    I think this is getting awfully close to the line of wanting to change your man. If you are happy with him and how things were when you partnered up, why are you trying to change things?

    I can see discussing hiccups – but as a man, a general “talk about making the relationship better” is ridiculous.

  2. Lisa Avatar

    I guess everyone is different. In general, it is my impression that men usually do not think as much about the small dynamics of things. Many times, they seem not even aware of them. Of course, if someone is totally neglectful of your feelings and cares, how could that person ever be a joy to be with.

    I recently read a profile of a man who seemed really really into self improvement in every area of his life. I was mentally exhausted just after reading the profile. I had a friend whose husband had to turn every single experience with his young kids into something educational. I was exhausted just walking down the street with them.

    The only thing I know for sure is that the older I get the less I know. I am much more self aware of myself now, but I have not met anyone in a while to “test” it out on!

  3. Richard Avatar

    I’m with Johnc. Are you trying to change the person, or is there something new to discuss? If he always watches the local football team on Sunday, and you want to “improve the relationship” by having him watch fewer games, then that is changing him.

    Or, after 6-months in the live-in relationship, the lease is up on the efficiency apartment, and you want to rent a bigger place, then that is fair game. Who do you visit for Thanksgiving or Christmas? Your mother has become quite a pain now that she has found out about the new Friend.

    There are obvious things that need to be discussed, such as: job opportunity requiring a move. I’ve alwyas hated my job, but now that you can support me, I can change jobs.

    But, if the other person’s idea of “improving the relationship is”: I’m vegan, and you are not, let’s discuss it. Well, you went into the relationship knowing that, and it is unfair to expect the other person to change to your way of life.

    It is one thing to have a safe place to discuss the next hiccup in life (my daughter lost her job and would like to move into the basement), vs I’m tired of being a football widow every sunday.

  4. Trixie Avatar

    I prefer men who take the view that relationships are continually evolving. Sadly most men I think take the view of Richard and John.
    Men in general hate change of any kind. As long as they are happy that’s all the matters.

  5. Lisa Avatar

    I guess in the situation that DG writes about, it is not possible to know who is being unrealistic because the details are not there over what specifically she’s unhappy with.

    I would think the first 6 months of living with someone could be stressful; on the other hand, the older I get, the more I think that if something is “right” it will not be so hard. Maybe she is trying to make something that would never work “right” and they are just not right for each other. Or he could be someone so blind to someone else’s feelings that he is not right for anyone.

    I would think after agreeing to live with someone, you would know the person pretty well and know what you might be getting in for, but who can really say except the two involved.

    In the end, it is much easier to be alone than with someone who is not making you happy. If you are being unrealistic in your expectations of everyone, maybe you will be unhappy for ever after.

  6. Richard Avatar

    I agree that relationships are constantly evolving, because people and situations are constatly changing. She is pregnant – relationship will change.

    However, if you want the other person to change because you never liked something about the other person, then that’s a problem. What if you are not a good cook, and the change is he wants you to become a good cook? I should be able to figure out pretty quickly that you are not a good cook, and accept that part of you (or break off the relationship and find someone else). Now, if you want to learn to cook better, that’s a different story. That is changing yourself, not the other person.

    Many times the other person argues “don’t you want to be a better person”? That is unfair. Wouldn’t you be a better person knowing how to cook well? Wouldn’t you be a better person knowing how to replace the brakes on the car yourself?

    Then there is Love Languages. If the other person does not naturally communicate your love language, then it is a losing cause to change the person. Sure, the person can learn to communicate “better” in your desired language, but that person will never be “fluent” to the level that makes you truly happy. Having “relationship talks” about the same thing over and over again breads resentment. The other person communicates the best they can, but you have to change to accept what the person came in to the relationship with.

  7. Mikki Avatar

    I’ve been married almost 26 yrs & we are on the process of getting divorced. I don’t see it as changing completely. Instead, I see it as tweaking. I’ve made a ton of mistakes (no physical abuse or violence) & I realize if I don’t change, I’m headed down the same path that ruined my marriage.

  8. Janet Avatar

    My BF tells me he’d rather ‘do’ our relationship, not talk about it.
    I think men are sensitive in ways that women aren’t in tune with. A relationship talk can signal ‘uh oh, it’s time to be criticized’ for a guy.
    I try to appeal to my audience (him) and learn how to communicate with him specifically, rather than jabber on about my agenda and what I want!
    Being sweet while asking for what I need works with him every time.