Such a simple word with quite a complex meaning. Webster defines it as “to give a different position, course, or direction to; to make a shift from one to another; to undergo a modification; to undergo transformation.”
But I say one of the biggest characteristics of change is its scariness. Oh you’re one of those people who don’t think change is scary? Hmmm, well I would argue that not only do a majority of us fear change, a majority of us act like we want it and will do it when we really don’t and won’t. In fact, I believe change is something a lot of us talk about in theory, but many of us rarely practice.
And it’s also where I think many of us go wrong in our dating lives.
Stop me if you’ve ever heard or said the following statement: “I can only be me, so if a man/woman doesn’t like me, then that’s his/her problem.” Or “I can’t be someone else to get a guy/girl to approach me. The person I’m supposed to be with is going to want me for me.”
Okay, now, I get the sentiment behind the statements. Yes, you have to be true to yourself, and no, no guy or girl should be looking to change you into what he/she wants you to be… but don’t most of us pride ourselves on not being who we were ten years ago? I can’t count how many times I’ve told someone “I’m not the same girl I was at 23” or 25, or 27, or hell even at 30. I also can’t count how many times folks have amen-ed and agreed with me. And yet, the same people who will swear they’ve changed for the better will turn around and say that they don’t need to make any further changes when it comes to their relationships. That this is who they are. Period.
That just can’t be!
If we are all seeking to improve ourselves at all times, why do we get caught up in the idea that it’s somehow negative or not empowering to improve ourselves to be better mates?
My theory? It’s because we’re a generation of people (mostly, not everyone) who were taught that bettering ourselves should only really be about us. We go to school to improve ourselves. We get good careers to better our lives. We travel to make ourselves more cultured.¹ And all of that is great, because it taught us independence and self – sufficiency, but what it didn’t do was teach us how to translate that bettering of ourselves into partnering with someone.
So I get it. I really do. I get the hesitation toward saying “I will figure out what my part is in the things that have gone wrong in my dating life, and I will actively focus on changing that.” It goes against everything we know. We’re supposed to change just for us. But the problem is if you’re doing the same wrong shit over and over again, and you don’t want to change it because you don’t believe you should have to, chances are you won’t have to change a thing because you won’t ever need to. And the problem with that thinking is that every happily married couple I know talks about what they had to change in their lives to get to that point.
This is why I call it a cop out. Not changing is the easy thing to do. It doesn’t take any skin. It doesn’t break you out of your comfort zone. Saying someone has to accept me “flaws and all” without any attempt at working on those flaws is the easy thing to do. It gives us a reason for those relationships not working. It puts the blame on the mystical “other.”
The harder thing to do is to take an honest assessment of yourself and say, “some of those folks just weren’t right, but sometimes, I was complicit as well.” And then to look and see what you can do differently.
I had to do that. I had to look back over my relationships for the past 8 years or so and ask myself what was my part in their undoing. And you know what I realized? I have a problem sticking around. I leave or don’t get invested in the first place so that when something even slightly uncomfortable comes up, I can leave before he does. It’s why I haven’t had someone break up with me in years. It’s also why the longest relationship I had during that time period we didn’t even actually call a relationship until it was over. And outside of that, none of them have lasted over 6 months.
That’s not good for someone who wants to eventually get married and have a family. So you know what that means? I have to change. I’ve got to do the work to make the changes that will help me a better partner for my future guy. Yes, that’s about bettering me, but it’s also about knowing that if I want to achieve that goal of eventually being happily married and having kids, I can’t be worried about how that process may not look very feminist-y or how it’s not just focused on me. I can’t afford to take the easy cop out and keep doing the same thing while expecting different results.
And if you’re feeling stuck or don’t like what you see in your dating life or relationships, you can’t either. It’s only hurting you going forward.
1 And yes, I know many of us volunteer and seek to impact change in others’ lives, but even that sometimes can be about what’s gives us “fulfillment.”