Think about all the times you’ve thought about how much better a relationship could be….if the other person would change. It didn’t matter if it was a relationship with a significant other, a friend, or even someone in your family. Yet, no matter what you do – no matter how “good” you are, they do the same things and continue to damage the relationship. You, like a moth, return to that flame…drawn back to the heat. At least, you’re drawn back until you pay the ultimate price with your health, both physical and mental.
The only person you can change is you. You cannot fix or change your boyfriend, husband, girl friend, wife, significant other, mom, dad, brother, sister, or anyone else. We’d like to think that we can fix people. I think most women are just wired that way. In addition to genetics, most of us were raised to be caregivers…and many who weren’t raised that way were still surrounded by a society where that’s what women did: they cared for people…they did things for them. They seemed to make things better.
And Then We’re Shocked When It Doesn’t Work
I think we all have at least one relationship where we felt drawn back time after time after time…because we felt guilty about letting go. Oh, sure, some of us tried to classify it as love…but it is a form of co-dependence. I went through it with both parents and an ex. When we can’t fix people, we feel shocked. Why can’t we fix them? Why can’t we change them? Don’t they want to be healthy and happy? What is wrong with us that what we’re doing isn’t working? Are we unlovable? Don’t they love us enough to change?
People Are Who They Are
Adult children, you cannot change your parents. They are who they are. You may try to inspire change. You may elect to sever the relationship if it is unhealthy. You cannot change them.
Do not marry someone with the intention of changing them after you’re married. Do not date someone with the intention of changing them. If you cannot live forever with them just as they are, do not marry them. People are who they are. You are who you are. And there are things that your significant other (and even your parents) would love for you to change…and they may try to get you to change those things, but can they? No. You will either change on your own or you won’t.
You Can Only Change You
This is a hard truth for people. We understand it when someone tries to change us. People only change if they WANT to change. And if you don’t want to change, you won’t. Consider an altar call at any Christian church. Can those who go up front be forced? I suppose they technically could be, but they don’t have to change. People go because they either want to change or they go because they feel pressured…and if it is pressure, they may try, but the change won’t stick. They didn’t want to change.
It’s the same with you and with other people. The only person that you can change is you. Think about one time you were told you needed to change something to make someone else like you better. Did you try? Did it stick? Did they like you more? Answer honestly. Chances are that even if the change stuck, that person found something else to change about you. And then something else. And then something else. And then? Then you’re criticized because you’re just “not the same person” as when they met you.
You cannot change anyone else or their behavior, regardless of whether you give someone an ultimatum. If they don’t want to change, they won’t. You cannot save everyone. the best thing that you can do is try to inspire change…to model healthy behaviors.
You Must Put You First
I am a big proponent of putting others before ourselves. Yet, this only works when you’re dealing with people who are mentally healthy. You cannot put narcissists and their needs first. You cannot put manipulators and their needs first. When it comes to happiness, it is an inside job and you must put you first. That means eliminating unhealthy relationships. Yes, it’s going to hurt. Yes, you’re going to be sad. Yet, with time your eyes open up to an entirely new world…and you begin to realize just how good life can be and what you missed out on. People will begin to cry to you about how they will change, but until you see their actions, consistent actions, don’t believe it. Even then, it’s not worth the risk of the pain you’re looking to escape.