My granny always said leopards don’t change their spots. Is that true? What do you think? I think Kayt is right on time with her article (below). Keep on writing!
Writer, mother, and big fan of bread. firstname.lastname@example.org — Miami, FL
Stop Waiting for People to Change
“One day they’ll let me in… One day they’ll change…One day things will be different…” until they’re not.
Photo by Henri Pham on Unsplash
The room remained quiet, while we both stared at the ceiling in complete silence. My thoughts continued to plague me as the silence stretched onward. “How had thing gotten this bad? How can I fix this?” While I’d been together with my boyfriend for a year, I was realizing our relationship was tanking quickly. The chasm that had grown between us was like trying to jump from one side of the grand canyon to the other. It didn’t matter that I reached out to reassure him with a gentle touch, he turned his back. So my thoughts continued to torture me, looking for a way to repair our relationship. Determined to persevere I told myself, “Just wait a little bit longer… things will get better. Something has to change.”
Silence was the new normal, however. Conversations were bland, and he responded with one word answers. I could ask about work, life, or his day-to-day activities and he’d shrug and zone out with a beer on the couch. I even tried to be proactive and learn his coworkers names as well as the latest happenings at work.
“Whatever happened to that situation with your manager?”
“Nothing..” he would reply with genuine disinterest.
Everything within me begged to connect. But I was Mercury trying to talk to Pluto. The cold planet he remained on couldn’t find warmth because the distance between us was so great.
I expressed my feelings and concerns to him many times but we always wound up in the same pattern. Could I continue this relationship? I was the one waiting on something — anything — to change. I wanted things to get better. To be honest, I kind of wanted one of us to muster the courage to just end this dance. But I was the person holding onto the inane idea of “one day.”
One day he’ll wake up and discover I love him.
One day he’ll let me in.
One day I’ll break through his walls.
One day he’ll… change.
But that never happened.
We Drag Our Dead On Leashes
I was determined to “make this relationship work” at all costs. Yet, as the days, weeks, and months dragged on, I could feel my energy wean. The silence game became torture, but I couldn’t pry myself away from this toxic relationship. No matter if I cooked him dinner, dressed up, or planned events, our relationship was the equivalent of dragging a zombie on a leash who responded with little effort towards creating a thriving relationship.
Bitterness brewed inside of me, and I grew resentful. Maybe he wasn’t into the “Susie Homemaker” girlfriend type, so I went out with my friends more. I ignored him like a footnote in my life story, but he remained unfazed. With every relationship there are faults on both sides — and I certainly had my own — but without communication, connection, and vulnerability our relationship was doomed no matter what I did.
Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash
But that’s also the problem with many of our relationships these days. We don’t see the red flags until they’re wrapped around our head and we’re suffocating.
From the moment we first met, all the flags popped like fireworks. I paid for every movie, dinner, and date night because he didn’t want to work. It’s all right, he’ll change. He leaned toward the quiet side — perhaps a little boring even — but maybe this mask hid his rich inner life? It’s all right, he’ll change. Given enough time, he’d open up and the walls would come down. He’ll change.
It would take a near fatal car crash to jolt me from this fantasy.
Surely after almost losing me he would realize how precious life is and how lucky we are to have one another? Yet, the car accident changed nothing for him.
But it did fundamentally change me.
I realized I was the only one who could take control of my happiness and future relationships. I stopped waiting, hoping, longing, and praying. Sometimes we can believe God cruel when we don’t get our prayers answered. We think he’s ignoring us. But often when we think a prayer is left unanswered, it’s really the answer we don’t want to hear. Please, God, let this relationship work. Thankfully, his response was “No,” even if I didn’t want to hear it.
None of us enjoy hearing the word “no” to sincere requests. For me, I want to know why.
You aren’t hiring me? Why not?
You don’t like me? There must be something I can do to change that.
Sometimes “no” is final — and that’s all there is to it. Did my boyfriend love me? No. Was he going to magically become ambitious, committed, and communicative? No. Once I recognized this and diverted my attention from our dying relationship, I focused on my needs again. I saw my own flaws. I had the startling revelation that my happiness depended on a relationship while I continued to lose my identity. I was his girlfriend, but I wasn’t me anymore. Our relationship brought out the worst in one another while mutual respect and compassion remained nonexistent. This wasn’t the life I wanted, the love I wanted, and I wasn’t the person I wanted to be. When that reality sunk I realized something.
I could actually change my situation.
Giving Up Doesn’t Mean You’re a Failure
The day I told my boyfriend I was breaking up with him happened like the other conversations I’d had with him. All he said was:
That was it. Just “okay.”
I, however, felt like a failure. I wasn’t enough for him to even fight for. I felt unworthy of love. But realizing breaking up and ending this toxic relationship would mold me into a stronger person, the “failure” became a victory.
Photo by Julian Santa Ana on Unsplash
For many of our relationships, be they friends or romantic, we need to ask ourselves this question: If nothing changes, can I stay in this job/relationship/friendship? If the answer is “no” then you’re doing nothing more than waiting for a bad thing to become a good thing. Instead accept it for what it is and discover the strength within to change things.
I know those who’ve had controlling fathers or boyfriends would love to wake up and see them as a changed men, but we’re only deluding ourselves. He is who is today. And sometimes that’s the same man as yesterday. I know some of us dream about our boss having a spiritual awakening in which he comes into work, tells you how awesome you are, and gives you a big, fat raise. But in the real world, he still doesn’t appreciate you. You’re probably suffering in an unhappy job, pouring out hours of your life you’ll never get back. Accept that some situations might not change. Some people will never change.
When you waste your energy on people and situations you think you can change, often it’s one sided and you’re left doing all the work. Instead, spend your love and energy somewhere else where it’s reciprocated. While that may sound harsh at first, when you love people for who they are — flaws and all — you free yourself from your desire to change them. You’ll stop trying to fix them, and you won’t put up with unhealthy habits.
And when you’re not too busy trying and hoping that things will change, you’ll love messy people even better.