If there is one commonality that I observe in relationships that fail it’s this incessant desire and many times NEED to change the person one is with.
It’s the #1 issue with all relationships: marriage, parent/child, family, romantic. So many individuals have this assumption that we can change people to suit THEIR needs…
You can’t change people.
This is a tough reality to accept. I think it is one of the ones that we don’t fully understand until much later in life with many more years of maturity and wisdom. It’s one of those things you have to screw up in order to finally accept as true, no matter how many books you read, people you talk to, lectures you hear.
So many of us love “fixer uppers”, we love the challenge of taking another individual and shaping them as if they were a ball of Play-Doh, molding them into a form that we feel best fits OUR life instead of accepting someone else as they are and seeing the differences as positives from which we can enhance BOTH parties involved.
I think that many individuals are unaware that they are even doing this, subconsciously the act of trying to change the other person gives the party “something to do” — a purpose and meaning that entertains and brings drama into their lives that becomes an addiction as all-inclusive as drugs, alcohol, or gambling. For some it’s an irresistible conquest they can’t say no to. These people might say they like and accept another how they are to start, then slowly try to bring about change. Whether it be simple suggestions or saying “you should” or complaining, cajoling, giving ultimatums. The goal is the same, this individual WILL do what they want, one just has to push hard enough.
I’ve seen it and I’ve experienced it first-hand as the victim AND perpetrator… and it isn’t fun. Trying to change others creates stress in life which doesn’t need to be present and it ends up hurting everyone involved.
With friends we generally don’t feel the need to change them and it’s why friendships end up being some of the best relationships in our lives because we accept the person for who they are and love them as they are. We understand that variety truly is the spice of life and that bringing different things to the table makes for a fuller, more interesting existence.
Why is it when it comes to romantic relationships this acceptance is so many times not allowed?
When one of my good friends got married and I was asked to be Best Man it was (and remains) one of the proudest moments of my life. One of the things that stood out was getting to spend some time with one of the people involved with the wedding and I distinctly remember how strongly her biological clock was ticking. She talked constantly about needing to find a mate and that if she didn’t do so soon that she was going to go out and have a kid on her own.
Another person that I knew spoke for years about how badly she wanted to find a man and that it pained her so much the days, months, and years where she still had an “opening” for the “role” of mate.
Why is it with romantic relationships so many individuals are “casting for a play”, looking to simply fill a need instead of allowing a relationship to grow naturally, accepting the “flaws” of the individual as the traits that simply make them who they are?
We want what we know, fear what we don’t and there seems to be a built-in desire to seek only what we are comfortable with.
For the most enriching, fulfilling, complete life, don’t try to change people into the person you WANT them to be. Not only is it an impossible task, it limits the enjoyment you will get by just allowing people to be how they are, taking the good from every individual that is available to you. When/if idyll’s end has been reached in the relationship and it’s no longer good for you to be a part of, move on. It’s healthier to find new people than to try to “fix” old ones — your life will be far better off in the long run.
Going through a really hard time in my own life I became closer with some friends and family more than ever before. I learned who was there for me when I needed a shoulder, hug, or simply time. I also learned the harsh reality who WASN’T there for me. The lesson of who was going to be present and who wasn’t hurt… it hurt REAL bad but there was nothing I could do to change the people I thought would be supportive. I had to accept the choices these individuals had made because there was nothing I could do about it. Instead of wasting time, energy and increasing my own levels of stress, I spent time by myself, made new friends, dated… I got out and LIVED instead of wishing things were different and feeling sorry for myself.
If you are in an unhappy relationship and are still of the belief that things will change “someday” you are just kidding yourself. It’s true you might be able to make microscopic changes like getting the other person to always put the toothpaste cap back on, but any major changes (or possibly even that toothpaste cap) are made only when people want to change THEMSELVES.
People are what THEY choose to be. Whether it’s how they are from day 1 or what they turn into later in life, you have to accept people as they are or get out of the relationship.
It’s really that simple.
Since the time I decided to make improving myself a major priority in my life, I have been perplexed by individuals that want to change others. The things that make us unique are also what make us special. Instead of trying to turn others into a clone of ourselves, appreciate those differences (in positive relationships) or find new relationships that suit you better.
“You can’t change other people. You can only change yourself. Everyone’s got problems. You learn from them, you live with them, you move on. It’s a choice you make if you want to have a happy life. Nobody’s perfect. People are different and that’s what makes them so interesting.” — Lorraine Bracco, actress best known for The Sopranos