“He can change”

I heard the male version of this the other day from a friend pining for an ex-girlfriend.

Yes, people can change. Some can change at the snap of their fingers, vowing to stop or start a behavior immediately. A few actually accomplish that.

Others change after starts and restarts, taking days/weeks/months/years/decades to adopt the new behavior. Some are eventually successful; others never are.

And some people have no desire to make the change, even though they tell you (and perhaps themselves) they do. They make the verbal commitment and maybe some half-hearted attempts (or not!), but never shift one iota.

But nearly all of us do change. Some consciously and with effort to become better. Some, with no consciousness or effort, allow their bad habits to become worse. Very few midlife people behave exactly the way they were in high school or college.

Some people change out of a self-motivated desire to become a better person. Some change because they know it will make a loved one happier or less annoyed. And some refuse to change out of spite for someone, knowing a certain behavior sends them up the wall.

The problem with wanting someone to change for you to be happy with them is you will be unhappy until 1) they do, or 2) you accept them the way they are.

There’s an old saying that women enter a relationship expecting to change a man and men enter a relationship hoping the woman won’t change.

Deciding to stay in a relationship predicated upon the other person changing is asking for heart ache for both parties. You will never be happy unless they make the change. They will not be happy as they know you aren’t completely happy with them.

I’ve entered relationships thinking I can remodel the man into someone who fits my ideal. Have I been able to influence some behavior changes? Sure. But ultimately he resented it, just as I have if a man thinks I should be different than I am and tries to get me to conform to his idea of perfection.

When a 21-year-old relative was complaining about her live-in boyfriend, I asked her, “If he were to be exactly the same in 5 years, would you be happy?” The answer was “no.” If you can’t live with the man he is now, don’t make it permanent. People will change. We can’t control that. It’s part of being a growing human being. But if you are in the relationship counting on him to change for the better, you should move on.

Have you tried to change a sweetie? If so, how’d that work? Have you had someone try to change you? How did you feel?


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5 responses to ““He can change””

  1. Catherine Avatar

    When I was young and naive, I got involved in a relationship with a man that was 8 years older than myself. (A big age difference if you are 18 yrs old). We dated for 10 years, most of the time I wrongly thought that I could change him into a warm caring individual but alass it was not meant to be. I never could overcome his narssistic views of the world and the “mean streak” that he had over dealing with any person, place or thing that didn’t meet his expectations. Needless to say it was a roller coaster ride. I learned lots of good lessons, but missed out on
    some good opportuities away from the boyfriend that would have allowed me to grow as an individual.

    My take on this looking back 20 years is that it depends on what kind of change you are asking him to make. Wardrobe changes while initially resisted, eventually are embraced by most men. Changes to communication styles can be successful too if both parties are motivated to improve communication. Some personality flaws and skewed perspectives may be too hard to change no matter how patient and dedicated you are to changing these areas.

    As for men trying to change me, a couple of short relationships ended because the man could not convince me that we had to have sexual relations NOW, when all along I had been talking about mile stones within the relationship that would help move to that level of intimacy.
    Some things just never change do they?

  2. Karen Avatar

    The flip side of “don’t try to change your partner” is “don’t expect your partner *not* to change”.

    I’ve been talking with several friends lately whose 20+ yr marriages are falling apart—primarily because the people in them have both changed & in these cases grown apart. In all these cases I’m currently hearing about, one partner wants to explore and be more adventurous (travel, take up a new hobby, downsize their house/job, or move to a new part of the country), while the other person in the marriage doesn’t want anything at all to change. Interestingly, the “no change” partner resents and feels tremendously betrayed by their partner “suddenly” (! over 20 years?!) wanting a different lifestyle. I think this is a strange approach—change is a constant in life, we should expect it!

  3. Anna Avatar

    The biggest mistake I have made in the past is to try to change myself to suit what I thought a man (boyfriend, husband) might like. I down played my intelligence, my knowledge, my ability to cope well and be independent. I looked like a Barbie-type so what they saw made sense and appealed to them. This was done unconsciously but I have an awareness of that now (isnt hindsight and wisdom great!). Eventually my “true self” emerged and the men did not like the real me. So now as I approach 50 I know that I must be myself always (and am finally enjoying that) and hopefully I will meet a guy who finds that aspect of me appealing!! So as I manouver the nuances of online dating, I have been careful to include facts about my education, career and independence.

  4. Ruth Purple Avatar

    It was decades ago but the experience was a total turn around for me when my then- partner told me- “It is not my obligation to cater to your insecurity! If I am not good enough for you, then you are not good enough for me, too!” I ended it right then and there but I realized that what he said was true.

    It was a painful lesson to go through. I tried compromising myself too much and expect my partner to do the same for me and ended up losing myself and my partner. It was a tough time but I’m glad I went through it.

    Changing our partner usually happened when we fall for the “idea” of what our partner brings and not see them as who they really are. We have this “silent” expectations and believe that they will live up to. And if they fail to live up to our expectations, we go through an emotional uproar and end up hurting our partner and ourselves as well.

    The major lesson I learned here is to “Know Thyself.” A philosophical cliche but so true! If you are deeply aware of who you are and what you need and want, then you know what to do and what kind of person you want to be with. And with this, you spare yourself the heartache of changing some.

    Thank you, Goddess, for sharing your story. You are truly an inspiration.


  5. Mitsy Avatar

    Yep, I had to learn the hard way a few too many times. My last boyfriend was an alcoholic who supposedly wanted to quit the booze. I was already deeply involved w/him before I knew how bad his alcohol problem was. I suffered through him going to a detox clinic HOPING he would get into AA and clean up his life. They kept him for 4 days and that was not long enough for any real change to happen. He didn’t go to AA and was back to drinking in no time. It was a roller coaster off/on for almost 2 years until I finally got off the sickening ride. I did really love this guy (the sober, caring, loving guy that he could be) but sadly the drunk guy was what I got more and more along with verbal & emotional abuse that I’m still not over even almost a year later. He came back to me in May of this year and said he was done with the booze. I kept my distance but wanted to believe him. He was back to it in about 2 weeks so I totally lost respect for him at that point. If a man has major character flaws (as in addiction of any kind, self-absorbed to the point of caring about no one else or otherwise always has an ax to grind) then you can’t change them and they will likely remain that way for years to come unless or until they land in some legal problems for their behavior. Sadly, sometimes the consequences aren’t severe enough for them to want to change and sometimes the angel of light shines upon them to where they see they need help and actually get it. However, I can’t afford to wait around to see if that will happen w/this guy. I think 2 years was enough time to waste on someone who didn’t want to help themselves.