In today’s advice column, Dr. Jim advises on whether to stay in a relationship with someone who needs to change in order for the relationship to work.
WHEN IS EXPECTING A PERSON TO CHANGE NOT GOOD?
People can change for the positive
A friend of mine (who is a counsellor) and I were having a conversation recently. He stated that he has never seen a modification in a person unless there was a significant crisis that provided the motivation to change. While I concurred with the fact that this is usually the way it happens, I shared that I was also pleased that people can change for the positive if and when their world of reference is changed. My world expanded when a mentor opened my thinking that I could do more than what I had experienced in the past.
When not to expect a change
There is one time that I believe one ought not to ‘expect’ a shift. This is when one is in a relationship and sees personality or character traits that they know are not acceptable.
Past experiences and the aging process condition our minds to think that if we do not make this relationship work, the odds of there being another one are getting slim. With this thought pattern in place, the individual will usually try to stick out the relationship and hope that they can influence the other person with their love to transform. They will even go so far as to marry the other person in hopes that they will change after marriage.
Significant changes needed? Don’t get married.
There is no perfect relationship as there are imperfections in each of us. Everyone deserves a chance to learn where he or she can improve in a relationship and make necessary changes. If these are small in nature, perhaps one can live with them. That is an individual choice. However, if the changes needed are significant in behavior or character, it would be ill advised to proceed into marriage with the thought that the other person will make the necessary changes after marriage.
This fact is especially true when the other person in the relationship understands the desire for change and repeatedly and without consideration continues to display the behavioral or character traits. Try as you may, there is very little chance that they will change after a future date.
Break it off just to ‘force’ change?
Allow me to share something that is very sensitive but worthy of your consideration. If it is true that people often do not change unless there is a crisis, perhaps you should consider breaking off the relationship. It may be the ‘force’ that surfaces the need in the other person to make the change? I would not do it to play a game with their emotions. It should be a last resort effort. I would even invite the input of a counsellor before doing so.
Did they change? Don’t rush back.
If the other person appears to genuinely make the change, or has the motivation to make the change, do not rush back into the relationship. It takes 26 to 28 days for new patterns to be repeated before they become more habitual. Let good counsel and God’s Spirit be your guide. Again, I would let the relationship mature before giving consideration to marriage. Be sure that the change was not a temporal one but one of depth and sincerity.
Don’t think you won’t have another chance, if this one gets away.
Finally, do not listen to the internal voice (or external) telling you that if this one gets away you will not have another chance. Do you want to be stuck the rest of your life with these traits? Give it a good, long, hard thought and walk a wise and peaceful path.