“Love is when you think you can change someone, but they end up changing you.” ~ Jessica Lawis
I spoke with someone the other day who was gushing about how serious she is getting with her boyfriend. She thinks he is “the one!” She pulled out her iPhone to show me a photo of him. Then, instead of showing me a photo of a face, she shoved the phone in front of me and demanded, “Can you believe this?” “Believe what?” I responded. I was confused. All I saw in the photo was a pair of shoes – not the handsome face I expected to see!
“Do you see these shoes? Do you like them? He cannot wear these shoes,” she fired off in rapid succession. “These are shoes you only wear with skinny jeans. He wore them with regular jeans and it’s wrong. He can’t do that again.”
Whoa! Slow down! How did we get from he’s “the one” to “he can’t wear these” in just one brief conversation? For a brief moment, I thought she was joking. But, she was dead serious.
I asked her if he treated her well? Yes! Was he kind? Yes! Was he respectful? Yes! Did he make her laugh? Yes! Was he a gentleman? Yes! Did he treat his family and friends well? Yes! Did he care for his community? Yes! Did he allow her to be herself? Yes! “So,” I asked, “If he is all that (and presumably more), then why in the world does it matter if he wears those shoes?” “It doesn’t matter if he wears those shoes,” she said, exasperated, “It’s just that he can only wear them with skinny jeans.”
Oh boy. She is in for a world of stress (and perhaps even heartbreak) if she is going to let the kind of shoes he wears become such an issue for her. Clearly, she is a bit of a control freak (you think?), and there was an element of, “I can change certain things about him, and then he will be perfect.” Both are dangerous spots to be in!
On the “control freak” side … let it go. Pick your battles. Seriously, if his biggest flaw is that he wears the wrong shoes with the wrong pants, then be happy. Sure, you can gently suggest the “right” style and see if he “gets it.” It might even be fun to take him shopping for the “right” skinny jeans, but don’t let your blood pressure shoot through the roof when he wears the wrong combination. Call him cute, call him goofy, and love him for it! Embrace it; don’t fight it!
On the “I can change him” side … no, you can’t! You may think you can, but ultimately you can’t, and you will hurt yourself (and potentially your relationship) trying. You can make suggestions. You can try to influence. But you can’t change him. Only he can choose to change. Too many people get into relationships and find little things that they would like to change about their partners. They think, “This is cute,” or “This isn’t that big of a deal,” and “I can change this,” and they move forward. But, at some point, cute becomes annoying, and what wasn’t a big deal becomes a monster issue, and nobody has changed, and now refuses to change … and it becomes a deal breaker.
I know it’s easier said than done, but worry about yourself, and what you can control, as opposed to trying to control someone else. Focus on what you would like to change, or should change, about yourself, as opposed to trying to change someone else.
I told this woman: He is who he is and he’s an entire package. You either like him or you don’t. You either accept him as he is, or you don’t. Sure, you might try to tweak a little thing here or there, but be sure those things you “tweak” are relatively inconsequential to you in the big scheme of things. If they make your blood pressure skyrocket, and become monstrous issues in the relationship, it might be time to rethink the urge to control and the desire to change.
What do you think? Did you have a “wrong shoes/wrong jeans” issue in a relationship? What happened? How did you “fix” it?
Author Monique A. Honaman wrote “The High Road Has Less Traffic: honest advice on the path through love and divorce” (2010) in response to a need for a book that provided honest, real, and raw advice about how to survive and thrive through one of life’s toughest journeys, and “The High Road Has Less Traffic … and a better view” (2013) to provide perspectives on love, marriage, divorce and everything in between. The books are available on Amazon.com. Learn more at www.HighRoadLessTraffic.com.