I Wanted to Believe My Husband Would Change
In my world, only negative people uttered the discouraging phrase, “You can’t change people.”
Not me. I was certain my husband could.
Therefore, I persisted. I wasn’t actually attempting to alter my husband.
Like many before me, I was crafty in my pursuit. It was all in the semantics. I called it ‘growth.’
I had to.
Because too many people kept speaking that annoying negative phrase in my direction.
“Fine,” I would say. “I don’t want to change who he is. I want him to grow as a person. We’re all supposed to be evolving throughout life.”
I actually did subscribe to this.
I did believe there was a difference between ‘change’ and ‘growth.’
Obviously, I loved my husband and liked who he was. That’s why I married him. But there were aspects of his personality that were upsetting me and continuing to hurt me.
It felt as if our relationship needed to mature.
I hadn’t married someone I wanted to change. Our marriage had problems and was struggling and it needed attention. I couldn’t be the only one willing to continue in couples counseling.
Looking back, it was all incredibly foolish of me.
I wasted so much valuable time begging someone to change.
Not to mention, it brought out the worst in me. The more he upset me, the more I fought back. Mistakenly, believing I was fighting for our relationship. For our marriage. For our family.
Though I recognized I was the only one trying, I thought he would care enough to change. This in itself, is a ridiculous contradiciton. Why would a person who isn’t trying to save a relationship be interested in changing?
It sounds rational now.
But when my heart was twisting and turning, and the day to day chaotic, I couldn’t see it. Emotions have a way of clouding reality and canceling out the obvious.
One day, my brother and I were having a conversation.
My brother over the past thirty-four years has spoken to others about overcoming alcohol addiction. This is not his profession. He has just reached out when others have asked him to. My brother told me that never once had an individual stopped drinking because of his words.
I found this difficult to comprehend. It seemed impossible that no one would have chosen the same path as my brother. Especially after hearing his own journey. A beautiful family and working in the profession he loves.
This got my attention.
At that moment, I understood my mistake.
Can people change?
The answer is both positive and negative.
Yes, they can.
But no, not because we want them to.
In the positive world, change is open and possible to every human being. Often fueled by the recognition something must shift in our lives, in order to be healthier, happier, and achieve better relationships. It is achieved by an inner desire for personal growth.
It is not accomplished by an exterior call from someone who cares. Who begs and begs to be heard.
The good news is people can change but we can’t change them.
They have to choose it themselves.
Why do we try?
Because of an innate need to rescue the people we care about. And because in unhealthy relationships, instead of leaving as we should, we first attempt to fix it.
Also, because it works well for the person we are begging to change.
It becomes a circular chorus.
They behave badly and we keep shouting how much we love them. By staying we continue to encourage and support the behavior.
Sadly, the more we plead with them to change, the more they change us.
At least, the better parts of us.
I was chatting with someone recently. They said, “What’s the matter? Don’t you believe people can change?”
Yes, I believe people can change.
But rarely when you have asked them to. They may temporarily but not authentically.
If they do not recognize something isn’t right, or isn’t working, or their behavior isn’t appropriate, that’s a problem. No one else should have to point it out to them. Self-responsible individuals accept accountability. Or people in distress finally get low enough, spiritual enough, or fed up enough to ask for help.
And if they don’t, no matter how much we love them, they probably aren’t going to listen, let alone change.
It’s both good and bad news.
And why I’m now in unison with those who once spoke the discouraging phrase, “You can’t change people.”