In some ways your new relationship seems to be going pretty well. But at the same time there are doubts that keep nagging at you. Maybe you have issues with the person’s table manners. Or their friends seem a little…off. Perhaps their goals (or lack thereof) are different than your own.
Or maybe it’s something else.
The point is that you’ve got some fairly significant concerns about whether to keep pursuing this person. But you wonder if you’re being too picky, or you should hold tight to your standards. In other words, should you cut your losses now, or be patient and tolerant to see where the future will take you?
This can be a pretty tough call to make. But if you can think through some key relational issues and stick to some basic guidelines, you’ll have a better chance of making a good, healthy decision as you try to determine just how significant you want to make this new other in your life.
Don’t Expect to Change Someone
There’s an old saying that you should never try to teach a pig to sing. The reason? It’s a waste of time, and it annoys the pig. Expecting to change a person that you’re dating falls into the “trying to teach a pig to sing” category. The simple fact is that for 99% of us, we are who we are. So no matter how much a person tries to change us, we’re not going to change. Plus, we’re going to resent the person who is pushing us to be something other than what we’ve already chosen to be. So don’t expect to change the person you’re with in any fundamental way. Still, that being said, …
Do Encourage Growth and Expose the Person to new Possibilities
There’s nothing wrong with presenting someone with ways they can improve as a person or shake off some of the rough, so that the diamond can shine through a bit more. The key questions are your motivation, and how you go about recommending growth. If you genuinely care for this person and see ways they can improve their quality of life, then that’s a justifiable motivation, especially if you can present your recommendations non-judgmentally and with respect. That’s much more legitimate than calling for change out of your own insecurities, and in such a way that makes them feel bad about themselves.
Don’t Change Who You Are
Just as you can’t expect to substantially change the other person, you also shouldn’t deny or give up on the most important parts of yourself. Sometimes we want to make a relationship work so much that we let go of what makes us who we are or what we truly want and need. But obviously, that’s a bad move for ourselves, for the relationship, and even for the other person we’re changing for. So remain true to who you are, and hold firm to your identity and core values. On the other hand, it’s also important that you …
Do Remain Open-Minded, Flexible, and Tolerant
Being consistent in terms of who you are and what you believe is a good thing. Being rigid is not. So even as you remain true to the essence of who you are, be careful to avoid being closed-minded about changes you could make to improve yourself, or your new relationship.
Let’s face it: all of us from time to time feel lonely and just want to be with someone. But do your best to keep in mind an important truth that you already know: It’s not healthy to accept less than you deserve, or less than you need, just because you’re afraid of being alone. There may be times when you feel like having someone—anyone—would be better than being by yourself. But fight the temptation to give in to this line of thinking. Instead, …
Do hold Firm to the Items on your “List”
You know what you want, and what you need, in a relationship. Chances are you’ve got a list in your mind (or even on paper) of the qualities you’re looking for in the person you date. There’s no reason not to expect to find someone who meets most of the items on your list and can make you happy. So if you have some non-negotiables, and this person in your life doesn’t meet the criteria you’ve set out, then be willing to move on without that person, and make yourself available for new possibilities. However, …
Don’t Work from an Unreasonable List
There’s nothing wrong with having standards, even high ones. But make sure that those standards are reasonable. For example, the length of a person’s second toe, or the fact that they sometimes chew with their mouth open, probably shouldn’t be an absolute deal-breaker. Also, it may not be realistic to expect to find someone who looks like a fashion model, or who loves the Dodgers as much as you do. Don’t overemphasize the small stuff, and don’t expect the impossible.
Do Think about what Matters most to You
Concentrate on whether you and this person are like-minded and compatible in terms of values and important issues. Then use your best judgment. Yes, it may be true that they don’t have a job right now. But if they’ve done cool or interesting work in the past and are legitimately in a transition phase, that’s different from someone who’s been “transitioning” for the past three years.
Don’t Avoid Making a Decision you Need to Make
This can be one of the most difficult truths to accept, but it’s also probably the most important. If you know that a person is wrong for you, and that they’ll never be right, then you have to walk away from the relationship. No matter how much you feel that you need them, don’t deny what you know to be true. Remember the words of Maya Angelou: “When people show you who they are, believe them.”
Do Trust your Instincts
Pay attention to what you’re feeling inside, and trust yourself to make the decision that’s right. If, when you’re being totally honest with yourself, you feel that you two have a real shot at creating something good together, then give it some more time and see what happens. But if your instincts tell you that it’s time to move on, then move on.