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Changing for someone else
2:00pm Wednesday 30th October 2013 in Lifestyle
Conventional wisdom regarding relationships now holds that it is not healthy to change who we are to suit another person. If we give up our true natures, trying to be someone we are not, then we will ultimately pay a price. While there certainly is some truth to this argument, the issue is just not that simple.
Protecting our individuality and the right to be who we are can, unfortunately, be used as an excuse for not growing. It can, unfortunately, be used as an excuse for not growing. It can also be an excuse for continuing attitudes or behaviours that are damaging or hurtful. If a relationship is to continue in spit of differences, a healthy balance must be found.
If a man enters into marriage and family, but then decides he really is a party animal who must socialize frequently, there are going to be problems. Fulfilling his needs may seriously compromise the well-being of his family. However, a man could also argue that his wife's desire to pursue a career might also seriously compromise the well-being of the family. Now what? It is obviously necessary to have some agreement about which values take priority. Most would agree fulfilling one's potential is a higher value than partying.
A woman may love to go to the opera or ballet, while her partner is not only disinterested, but highly allergic to such activities. She may push him to stretch his boundaries a little, andd accompany her. This probably is not fair, or necessary. The relationship will not suffer that much if he never learns to like ballet. However, if her husband is not really into communication or showing affection, and she asks him to become more involved in these activities, this is a different matter. If he takes the stance he's just not a talker, and is not the affectionate type, there could be serious consequences.
Similarly, if a woman is given to angry outbursts where she cuts her partner to shreds, and claims that it's just the way she is and cannot change, she is choosing a destructive path. When we say that we cannot, or will not, change we may be putting our relationship on the line. This is not always a bad thing. Sometimes it makes things very clear.
If an abusive partner says change is not possible, that is a very clear message for the other one to move on. If a woman tells her partner she wants more closeness, affection and communication, and he responds he is just not the type, the relationship is in serious trouble.
To refuse to work towards improving those areas is to refuse to develop the relationship. It's a little like saying "I'm not hungry, so you can't eat." Hunger for relationship does not go away. The hungry partner is left with two options: starve to death, or eat out. Emotional starvation compromises physical health, and eating out, well, you know where that leads. Both are ways to get out.
It is wise to remember when a partner is asking for more in a relationship, it is because they truly WANT the relationship. Sometimes changing at the request of another is in our best interests. When they stop asking, it might be too late.
Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning Psychotherapist. For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books or cds, visit www.gwen.ca
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