“Don’t marry someone with the hope that you’d change them”
For a while, I nodded in agreement whenever I heard or read this piece of advice. It sounded like a stress-free path to a blissful union; real easy and my mantra is, if it’s easy and it works, I’m in.
Lately though, as I’ve thought deeper and observed how relationships play out in real life, I’m at the edge of completely rejecting this well-intentioned, but (in my opinion,) flawed tip for a successful relationship. So this is where I am today.
Question: “Would you stick with a relationship if you knew she wouldn’t change one bit for the rest of her life? Can you live with who she is today for the rest of your life?”
Me: Honestly, I don’t think so.
Let me explain.
1. You WILL change.
Have you ever had that awkward conversation with an old friend or acquaintance you haven’t seen in a long time? Beyond the exchange of pleasantries, every sentence felt forced and you couldn’t think of anything else to say after one complete minute. Why did that happen? Both of you have changed since your last meeting. The personal changes affected your interactions. It works that way in every facet of life.
You will not be the same person five or ten years from now. You may not know exactly who you’d be but I’m sure you agree you’d be different.
Now, in all honesty, do you think the ten-years-later you would have the best of relationships with the other person just as they are today ten years from now? I don’t think so.
Because you will change, the relationships (aka people) that will remain valuable in your life will need to change as well.
2. You SHOULD expect that you can and will influence your spouse. Positively.
Marriage is an adventure in adaptation. Those who make the most adjustments turn out better. If someone else is going to risk committing to a life-long, covenant relationship with you, would they be asking too much by hoping that you’d adapt to their personality, preferences and desires? Would they be overstepping expectations if they believe their entrance into your life will stimulate certain changes that won’t be rebuffed on the grounds that “this is how I am and you knew before you agreed to marry me, so you just have to live with it”? Doesn’t that statement sound callous and selfish all by itself?
I’m thinking, what am I doing in your life if I’m not, in some way, helping you get better?
Relationships influence us. We’re reminded of this fact of life when choosing friends, workmates (where possible) and business associates. Should we suddenly suspend this when it comes to one of the most crucial relationship decisions of all?
This is what I think.
Your sweetheart should expect a different (aka better) you with time. They should love you for who you are but love you too much to leave you just the way you are.
They should expect that they’ll play a role in bringing about that evolution by praying for you, cheering you along the change process and lovingly calling you out on observations they have about your character and attitude.
They should expect that you will adapt, refine and if needed, radically transform aspects of your character and personality simply because of the love and respect you have for them. That’s the true strength of love- the courage to accept balanced by the power to influence, because let’s face it- no one wants to do forever with a statue. They should expect an exciting adventure of growth with you and that they will be responsible for some of that improvement.
But if we strip these away, if we claim that the other person shouldn’t really expect any of these, if we heed the advice quoted at the start of this article, then there’s only one question left to ask- what exactly is going on in that relationship?
Or what do you think?
Live by Design.