If you are trying to get someone to change, you should read this article…right now.
Around age 13, my buddies and I decided to try cigarette smoking to appear more mature and to look "cool" around the girls. Yes, it was a dumb idea but what do you know at 13.
One day my father, himself a smoker, found us smoking behind our garage. I knew I was in trouble. But to my surprise, he put an arm around me and said, "Let's go inside son and talk about this man to man." I soon discovered I was being set up.
He took me into the living room, sat me down, and proceeded to take out a really old dirty pipe and an old, stinky cigar. He broke it in half, stuffed it into the pipe, handed it to me, and said: "light up." He smoked a cigarette while insisting that I smoke the pipe as we talked. To this day, I can't tell you what we talked about. I can tell you that I got so sick that I thought I was going to die.
You would think that this would stop me from ever smoking again. It wasn't. It took me some 20 years later to make that decision. So what does this have to do with the topic? I have four important points represented in this story about change.
The first point is how difficult it is to change old patterns of behavior—especially the ones we've developed over a lifetime. It may seem simple to the person looking from the outside. It's a far different experience for the individual trying to change. Does this mean that we should ignore the negative behaviors of our partners—especially the ones that impact us? Not at all. But what I am suggesting is that we recognize how difficult it is to change and be more empathic. Even the smallest of steps taken should be acknowledged. Positive behavior that is recognized is more likely to be repeated.
My second point is that people don't change because we want them to. Rather, they change because they decide to change. For over 20 years, people tried to get me to stop smoking—my wife, sons, doctors, and a host of friends. Yet, in spite of their sincere appeals, I didn't stop until I made the decision to stop. The decision to change is personal. It's made when a person decides that it's in their own best interest to change. Then, and only then, will they make a change.
This brings me to my third point. When we complain and demand that our partners change as a demonstration that they love and care about us, we are attempting to force them to change and it rarely, if ever, works. Partners are likely to become bitter, resentful, and more determined not to change. When we stop demanding change, it frees our partners to make their own decision. When they're free to choose, they often decide to change. It's their choice—their right to decide. And just as they have the right to decide, so do we. Some behaviors are "deal breakers." They may include the abuses — physical, emotional, substance and/or habitual cheating, gambling, dishonesty, and all kinds of irresponsible behaviors that put us at risk. Each person must decide what to do in response to these behaviors.
Finally, I'll conclude by pointing out that we can influence others to change by (1) the ways we relate to them and (2) the ways we ask them for what we want. This involves learning some important relationship skills. Most of us haven't been taught how to do either. We often react negatively when triggered, say and do things that we later regret because we were angry or frustrated or both. Our approach is not solution focused. It is impossible to offer a set of suggestions to cover every relationship situation because each one is different and has very specific factors that need to be considered. If you're stuck or need help trying to decide what to do, or need to learn how to ask for what you want, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let us help.
To your relationship success,
Jesse and Melva
Learn more about them by visiting their website, www.jesseandme