Perhaps you may relate to the following scenario: you have met someone you are falling for or have already fallen into a relationship. You love the same music, laugh at the same TV shows, read the same books and eat the same kind of food. Your conversations are endless and your chemistry is off the charts. And everything would be absolutely perfect if the object of your affection would just change that one thing that really bothers you. I am not talking about habits that annoy you or his imperfections that make him human and not a leading man in a romantic blockbuster.* It's the thing that keeps you up at night and creates endless anxiety. It's the thing that feels so painful that you question why you tolerate it. It's the thing that causes you to feel insecure about yourself. It's the thing that has you attempting to renegotiate your own values. It's the thing that you talk incessantly to your girlfriends about while they give concerned looks and ask you questions like, "Is this really want you want?"
This thing is the thing that is not in alignment with what you truly value. It could be the fact that he does not want a commitment, is unclear about monogamy, has an addiction of some kind, is in some way abusive, has massive debt, does not want kids, is still wrapped up with his ex, puts work before you all the time, or simply doesn't share one of your core values. But as bad as this thing may be, there seems to be something about him that keeps you coming back for more.
And often what keeps you coming back is the belief that you can change him. That your love is the magic potion that will save or transform him. You see the hurt little boy under the abuser. You celebrate the dreamer under all the debt. You recognize the pain underneath the addiction. You are attracted to the passion that fuels his drive. You can see all his potential and possibility. You feel that once he sees and experiences how what you value enhances your life, he will want what you want. The wonderful thing about the feminine is that She naturally sees through eyes of compassion and love. Your heart is not logical, it just feels what it feels and all of a sudden you are smitten. And often the smitten can be so intoxicating that the sobering smell of the truth is ignored.
I see this pattern in my clients, my girlfriends, and have even been there myself. And the truth is it does not feel good. It is exhausting to be in any find of romantic relationship from dating to marriage where you are constantly change someone. And the reason it is exhausting is because it is not possible. The only person you can change is the one reading these words right now.
Now part of you knows what I am saying is true and part of you hopes you can be the one that changes him (believe me, I get it!). We are attracted to the challenge. Now we can investigate the reasons for why that is by looking at our past, our relationship with our fathers, what we observed growing up and so on. But first let's cut to chase (literally) and go back to basic evolutionary biology. Back in the cavewoman days, we had to fight for a man. There was a lot of competition and we knew we needed a man to hunt and kill for us. Shared values and long conversations about life goals were not part of the courtship -- we just needed a man to live! So part of this attraction to the challenge and taking what we can get is because it feels like a basic survival technique. Knowing that we are all somewhat influenced by the collective unconscious of belief systems that we have been carrying around since the beginning of time may help you if you are judging yourself for settling. Remind yourself there is not a man shortage and stop living out of alignment with your values.
I get that is not always so easy and simple to do so let's break this down even further and come back to present day with a real example. Take the archetype of "The Player." The guy who loves women and when he is with you he is with you. But when he is not with you, he is either with or wants the freedom to be with others. He is not ready for a commitment. Maybe he will be one day but that will be 100% his choice. This does not make him an a-hole worthy of trash talking about with all your girlfriends. This does not make him someone that is trying to hurt you. This is just the fact of where he is on his path, which is not in alignment with what you want. Really ladies, it does not have to be more complicated than that!
We've all heard stories about a person being a certain way and then finally changing when they meet their "match." But here is what I have observed about this phenomenon. It is true that we can be catalysts for another person's change but in most cases in order to be that catalyst we have to be totally unattached to being it. Let's go back to the player example. Even players fall in love and settle down but usually not with a woman who went into the relationship tolerating it with a motive to change him. It is detachment, acceptance and honoring our own truth that often creates the inspiration for someone to find the truth within themselves. That said, don't try to strategize about how to be unattached about changing him hoping he will change -- that is still attachment!
My encouragement to you is to be ruthlessly honest with yourself about whether or not you are in a romantic relationship where you are hoping to change him in some way. If you are, here are your options: you accept him exactly how he is right now and find peace inside yourself or you admit that you do not have magical transformational powers over other people and lovingly end the relationship. Now you may be thinking, "there is another option, we can work on the relationship together." That is only an option if he truly wants to and is taking clear action steps toward change for the sake of his own growth. Please spare yourself further suffering by lying to yourself any longer.
If you are particularly challenged by a relationship that feels unhealthy or realize that you attract the same kind of guys with the same kind of issue you'd like to change, I encourage you to enroll the help of a coach or counselor. Relationships are great teachers and exploring the lessons your soul is seeking to learn from them is an important part of your path and personal growth. Often wounds from the past continue to influence our present day choices and a trained professional may be able to support you in healing so that you can create the relationship you truly desire.
Remember there is nothing wrong with you and there is nothing you are doing wrong. You are worthy of feeling peace in your relationship. You are deserving of a man who shares your values. You are enough exactly as you are. If he is not changing or evolving in the way you are requesting, that is not your fault. You have a huge heart with so much love to give and I understand that it feels like love can heal anything. But it is not your job to heal anyone else and we have to give each other the dignity of our own processes.
Most importantly, keep in mind that the love we yearn to give someone else is really our own yearning asking us to finally make ourselves worthy of our own love. And the change we desire from someone else is often a reflection of the desire we are craving for our own transformation. So take all that love you feel and open your heart to receiving it from yourself. Utilize that longing for someone else to be different to propel you to be the change you are craving.
*Writer's Note: Only for the sake of clarity and specificity, this was written to speak to women in heterosexual relationships. The fact that we cannot change people applies to anyone in any type of relationship.