Waiting for a person to change for us is a useless form of suffering. This situation often occurs in couple relationships. Typically, one member wants the other to adopt certain behaviors, improve his behavior, and someday learn to love him as he wishes. These expectations are rarely met.
Believing someone will totally change their behavior can create an emotional addiction that is as damaging as it is exhausting. It means living in anticipation of a miracle and believing in your partner’s words when they say that they will change and that past bad situations will never happen again. In reality, one ends up falling into the trap again.
These situations are more common than one might think. That they can happen is normal because, when you love, you tend to trust your partner. Love cannot be separated from trust. Therefore, we grant a second, a third and, if necessary, a fourth opportunity while waiting for the relationship to improve. We fight with conviction, because to love is to believe that every sacrifice will be repaid. There comes a time, however, when a person opens his eyes and realizes that what he had wished for will not come true.
Waiting for a person to change for us, a frustrating desire
In psychology the term “personality” is used to define a series of characteristics that are more or less constant over time. If a person is shy and introverted, it is unlikely that this characteristic will change overnight. However, leaning towards a certain type of personality doesn’t mean you can’t change.
If we did not believe in the possibility of change, the psychological intervention would be meaningless. In reality, people, rather than change, adopt new mental and behavioral approaches that lead to improvements.
Some studies, such as the one conducted by Dr. Walter Roberts, of the University of Illinois in the United States, indicate that change occurs more frequently within a psychotherapeutic context. When a person is aware that there is a problem to be addressed, clinical intervention facilitates and helps the personality change.
Is it okay to want and wait for a person to change for us?
We continually expect others to change. This hope also concerns the family environment and the growth of a child. For example, when our children’s behavior is not what we expected, we make corrections and inform them about what we want and expect from them: respect, attention, affection, responsibility.
Within the educational process it is normal to expect changes. Ultimately, educating means guiding, suggesting, talking, being a good example and indicating a path that, in our opinion, is the best possible for our children. By adulthood, much of our personality is deeply defined and if there is no will, change rarely happens.
It is very common, therefore, that behaviors are adopted within relationships that we do not like. The ideal condition is to accept the positive and negative aspects of the partner. The defects, the quirks and the singularities that characterize it in its authentic being. Wanting to change a person to fit our ideal model isn’t always the right thing to do.
It is also true that more serious situations can arise. Abuses, disrespect, lies and similar behavior must not be admitted or accepted under any circumstances. In these situations, wanting a person to change is not only desirable, it becomes a priority.
What should we do if the partner continues to hurt us and does not change?
In the book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, Dr. John Gottman gives us some important information. Love is above all acceptance, we must appreciate the other for what he is and vice versa. If toxic behaviors appear in the relationship, which Gottman calls the four horsemen of the apocalypse (contempt, lies, negative criticism, and a defensive attitude), the relationship is doomed to end.
In these cases, it is critically important to initiate change. And it’s not about waiting for a person to change for us, but about realizing that there is a problem. When there is suffering, attitudes and behaviors must be changed not only in order to maintain the relationship, but to find the essential elements of the same: well-being and happiness.
Generally, two situations arise in these cases. The first is that the partner says: “I’m like that, take it or leave it!”. The second is to fall into the mental and emotional trap of thinking that the partner can change for us. He will tell us that it will change, that things will improve, that from now on everything will be fine and that what happened will never happen again. Unfortunately, not only will the same situations occur, but they will get worse.
What should we do if we find ourselves in such a relationship? The answer is simple. If we are unhappy and the partner does not intend to improve the situation in any way, we will have to make the change. All we have to do is turn the page and heal the wounds we have long neglected. In these circumstances it is also advisable to seek the help of experienced professionals. Couples therapists and psychologists can be of great help.