“Baby, I’ll change – I promise!” Whether it’s a middle school boy agreeing to spend more time with his girlfriend or a grown woman swearing she won’t be messy, change is a lot easier said than done. Yet scores of partners spend their lives hoping their other half will change.
In some cases, waiting around for your lover to change can be downright dangerous. If your partner is unwilling – or unable – to break patterns of physical abuse, drug use or cheating, the results can be life-threatening. So is it really true that people never change?
What you can’t change
The old cliché is, “People never change.” The truth is closer to, “people never change each other.” One of the biggest mistakes we make in relationships is believing we can change our partners. Let’s just say you can encourage your partner. You can nag them… you can inspire them, but no matter how smart or kind or loving you are, you can’t change them. They have to do it themself.
If there are things about your partner you don’t like, you have to decide whether they are deal breakers. If they lie, cheat or abuse you, get out – now! These problems are theirs – and they involve issues bigger than you or your relationship. No matter how much you love them, you will not change them. And in these situations, no matter how much they love you, they will hurt you.
What you can change
At the end of the day, there’s really only one thing you can count on changing in a relationship – yourself! If your partner does something that drives you nuts, don’t repress it or complain about it. Instead, communicate your feelings honestly and openly – and then let it go.
After that, the most you can do is control your own response. If you can’t change them (and you can’t, remember?), you can at least change yourself. If they leaves their clothes on the floor, do you pick them up? If you don’t, do you resent that they are sitting there? Regardless of what you choose to do, remind yourself that you made the choice. Take some joy in the fact that even if you can’t control (or change) your lover, you can at least change yourself and let go of the resentment and frustration that comes with trying to change another person.
Change vs. growth
As rare as improvement is, sometimes it does happen. But if your partner does change, it isn’t because you made it happen- it’s because they grew. Growth doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a gradual process of self-awareness and self-improvement. It begins with a partner making a decision to change – not for you, but for themself. Growth requires that they evaluate their challenges, educate themselves on options for improvement, and most importantly, take action. Growth does not announce itself by saying, “I’ve changed, I promise!”- growth shows itself through action.
Some people waste their whole lives waiting around for someone to change. But growth is something truly unexpected: a gift that cannot be requested, only received.
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