Saturday, 01 December 2012
In my years of observing the relationships of other people around me, there is one dating mindset that has always left me confused. I refer to this philosophy as the “I’m Going to Change Him/Her!” Mindset. Those who run their relationships with this mindset are usually dating a person who they see as immature, and they want to alter the significant other’s lifestyle choices.
Let’s take an example: Bill and Lisa are a couple. Lisa is committed to Bill and wants to marry him, while Bill does not believe that marriages last, and he does not want to take that step with Lisa. He instead wants to continue to live the life of a young, single man for as long as he can and go to parties, flirt with women, and go to bars with his friends on weekends. Lisa knows that this is Bill’s preferred lifestyle, but instead of breaking up with him and finding a partner with a lifestyle similar to hers, she convinces herself that she can change Bill to follow her lifestyle, even though their preferred lifestyles are very different. She blindly tells herself - and others around her - that Bill is the only man for her, and she therefore must change him so that they can be compatible.
Has trying to change a person ever worked in a relationship? Maybe, if the changes that a person wants to make are small. If, for instance, one does not like how his/her significant other squeezes the toothpaste from the middle of the tube and instead would like that person to squeeze it from the bottom of the tube, it is not unrealistic to believe that the person could be able to convince his/her significant other to change. Where one squeezes the toothpaste bottle is not usually considered a large part of one’s identity; therefore, asking a person to change in that way will not usually be seen as offensive by that person.
What about when a person wants to change his/her significant other’s entire life philosophy? This is a lot to ask, and this is where people tend to run into major problems. Most people want to feel loved and accepted by their family and friends for who they are and do not appreciate when other people criticize their ways of life. “This is me: like it or leave it!” is the philosophy of many.
The insistence on changing a person, in most of the cases I have observed, has selfish motives. It’s basically like saying, “My lifestyle and way of thinking are what’s best, so I expect you to adapt to what I want you to be.” Unless the major life change involves eliminating a bad habit that could potentially cause harm, I do not see the point of trying to change a person’s lifestyle; that person is not going to cooperate, and the person trying to change him/her may end up ultimately pushing him/her away.
In my own experience, I have never observed one person in a couple successfully alter the behavior of his/her partner. In most situations, the party trying to create the change becomes discouraged after the significant other rejects the idea of change, and significant other becomes upset and offended that his/her partner does not accept who he/she is. Eventually, both people decide that the relationship is not working and ultimately break it off.
What do you think: Is it realistic to believe that you can change a person, or do you find that way of thinking delusional? Is it selfish to want to change another person’s lifestyle to a lifestyle closer to your own?