Why do we try to change others? Why can’t we accept their differences, deal with it and move on? We know no one is the same as us, that people will have different tastes in music and food, and they probably won’t react the same way we do in tricky situations.
Goldie Hawn was giving an interview recently and when asked what her marriage advice was to her daughter, she replied that men and women are different. It’s not something you can change so you need to accept it. If you enter marriage hoping your partner will start behaving differently, there’s a big chance you’ll end up with a rude shock. If he didn’t pick his socks up off the floor five years ago, he probably won’t now (even though you nag him over and over and over...). If you got into an argument on your first date because he hates chic flicks and wouldn’t watch one with you then, you’ll either be watching chic flicks alone or having the same argument on repeat for the duration of your partnership. And if he has a history of losing his wallet and keys, chances are you’ll be getting many new sets of house keys and buying him a new wallet quite often despite how angry and frustrated you get at him.
A leopard never changes it spots, once a cheater always a cheater, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. You get the point. If there is a characteristic about your partner you aren’t happy with – you will not be able to beat it out of them, no matter how hard you try. If it is something they truly want to address and change, then you can offer support. But in the end, it’s up to them. You may feel that you are constantly telling them not to do something, or to stop complaining about something, or having the same argument over again on a Saturday night when they want to go out but you just want to stay at home. And you think my gosh, I tell them over and over again and they don’t change! The sooner we realise we can’t force others to behave differently, the less arguments we will have and the happier we can be.
If your partner enjoyed a few too many beers on the weekend when you started dating, you can’t really get angry with them ten years later when they polish off a few six packs on a Saturday night. If you are hoping that your relationship will improve because one day they will make more money, or wear different clothes, or suddenly start listening to jazz music, then you are likely to be disappointed. You either take them exactly as they are, or not at all, instead of having arguments because you have unspoken expectations that they will change but they never do.
If you are reading this and thinking well what chance do I have if they’re not going to change, it’s just hopeless – be aware you do have a choice. We can change the way we deal with these situations. When you realise you don’t like what’s happening and the other person continues going about things their way, your only option is to change how you deal with it. There may be a little communication and compromise thrown in there somewhere, but you’ll end up coming out the other end happier.
Gav is terrible with locations, his internal GPS is permanently broken and can’t be fixed. He is now so used to his Navman telling him where to go that he has lost all ability to instinctively know what suburb lies at the end of the road. His brother was in the car with us on the weekend and made a comment about all the directions I was giving him and was it really necessary. I learnt that if I didn’t contribute, we would end up going in the opposite direction to where we needed to be and then we’d start arguing. I still need to learn not to get angry if he does make a very silly wrong turn somewhere, but at least I’m aware of it and I no longer (well, less often anyway!) tell him gee I wish your directions were better. I’ve accepted his sense of direction is terrible and know there is no chance of it improving! (NB: there may have been some *editing* done to the weekends driving situation, I may or may not have lost my cool when Gav took a wrong turn even with directions...)
Start being aware of how often you think I wish they didn’t do.... OR I’ve told them so many times and they still do... OR life would be so much better if only they.... If you love them, accept it and deal with it. Tell your friends you’re sorry that you will always be twenty minutes late to whatever event is on, make friends with the locksmith and strike up a deal because you’re such a regular customer, go to the movies with your girlfriend to watch the latest Katherine Heigl movie instead of your partner, and stop getting angry when you walk past the loo and the toilet seat has been left up. It’s just who they are, if you are married I’m pretty sure you knew these things before you walked down the aisle but you still said yes.
So when hear yourself telling your partner that you wished they were different, remember that the only person you have any control over is you. YOU can be different, you can respond to them differently but you can’t force any change of behaviour on them. They may go through a phase of self discovery and decide to address some of their not so fine points, but they most likely won’t do it because you nagged them to. Stop being that broken record, practice acceptance.
What have you learnt to accept about your partner? Or – have you been in a situation where the other person bugs you, and you’ve changed the way you handle the situation?