Expecting someone else to change is one of the biggest issues humans struggle with. Believing that someone else will change because of something you do or something you say or because of how you feel is one of the biggest causes of unhappiness with many people.
We believe that if we behave in certain ways the other people will be happier and will therefore change to give us what we think we need or want. If we serve all their needs then they must in return serve ours. If we allow them to treat us as doormats or even to abuse us emotionally, physically, or verbally and we do nothing, they will automatically read our minds and know what we need from them and give it to us. If we allow them time and space to work out their own issues at our expense, surely they will one day change because they love us. None of this is true. No one changes unless they want to change.
We think that if we give them everything, not just emotionally but materially. If we buy our kids or our partners everything they want, they will see how much we love them and will change. If we get married, then they will change. If we have children, then they will change. If we tell them how badly we feel, then they will change. If we do everything for them and nothing for ourselves, surely they will change. If we stay with them no matter how much we suffer, they will change. One day they will change. But they will not unless they want to. There is absolutely nothing that you can do to make someone else change anything about themselves at their core.
The other punishment we give to ourselves is that when we realize they are not going to change, ever, and we get angry because they are not changing. It’s almost as if we can’t believe after all we have done, sacrificed, given, they aren’t changing. As if we truly believed they would. And it’s because we do believe it, we convince ourselves that it is true. And when it doesn’t happen we get mad about it and we start pushing back. The other person, who never intended to change, then gets mad that we are pushing back and not continuing to give them everything they want. And this is where relationships go sideways. When the person who isn’t changing is confronted by a person who is finally tired that they are not changing things get messy. As long as you are going along like someone else wants you to, they have no reason to be upset with you. They are getting everything they want and you are giving it to them.
If you find yourself in a relationship, any relationship, where you have convinced yourself the other person will change, you need to start looking at yourself and not them. Looking at them is a waste of time – they are not changing. So that only leaves you. You have to change. And you have to realize that if you change they will change – but the change will only be in how they react to you. They will blame you for their being angry about you not doing everything the same way you have always done FOR them. They will be angry that you expect better for yourself and that you are doing it to hurt them or that you don’t love them. They will be angry in exactly the same way as a 2 year old is angry when you have a toy they want and you won’t give it to them. It is no different.
The truly hard part will come when you have to make a decision about the relationship. It is almost always going to be extremely difficult because the other person will be your parent, your child, your partner, your friend. They will be people you love. They will be people you share your life with. But the decision is either you change and you start managing your own happiness or you stay in the same place and quit wishing for them to change and be miserable. It’s just that simple and that difficult. If you choose yourself, you may be upset and sad for a while at losing that relationship, but eventually you will be happier with yourself.
Change or stay the same – the choice is yours – not someone else’s.
Until next time,
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