Changing Others

“What do you really want?” I ask my friend. I am hoping she will say peace of mind but I suddenly understand that what she really wants is for him to change. She loves him so much and she wants him to be successful and happy.  I understand that she is really feeling hostage to his actions and that she thinks she can never really be happy until he stops ……


            A Wise Woman I knew in 12 Step Program once said, “People do change but they don’t change for each other.” She was right.

I have learned that you cannot make anyone else change so you must find your peace of mind, your joy and your happiness within yourself. Waiting for someone you love to change so that you can be happy is not sensible. Nor does it work.

It is foolish to give away your power. You may wait a long time until he or she stops drinking, stealing, gossiping or picking on you.  Your life script will just about always have a few characters who are acting out and saying lines that you don’t get to write.  At the same time, you do have some power in the relationship. You can control your actions and you can speak new lines by yourself.

If you are in a relationship that seems to be making you miserable, take a look at the situation and find your point of control. Are you giving away your power by hoping for agreement? Are you behaving like the schoolteacher who gives her students, “one more chance” and never insists they do their homework? No matter how hopeless a situation feels, there is some part that is yours to change.

Bad relationships are like tennis games. One player hits the ball over the net and the other hits it back. You repeat the same actions and lines, over and over again. No one changes and no one wins. If that sounds like the relationship that troubles you, look for a way to change your part in the game. Where is your point of control?  You cannot force the other person to play your way but you’re not totally trapped.

Here’s a simple example. Suppose the restaurant boss has a waiter who is rude to customers. She can explain clearly what is expected but if the waiter’s behavior continues, she must face her choices. She can put up with the behavior and be miserable while her business fails or she can let the employee go. The employee really has fired himself. The boss has learned that she cannot force the employee to behave and she must follow through on her desires. The waiter also has choices and he has learned that he must take responsibility for them.

Of course when we truly love the person who is not behaving the way we want, it feels more complicated than a simple work relationship. It is scary to think of breaking up or banishing a loved one from your life. I like to remind my Wise Women groups that they are not abandoning their relationship, just re-negotiating. This is true for men as well.

Long before you get to the place of giving up, you can take smaller steps. You can begin to pray for yourself and claim guidance. You may be able to articulate or modify your demands. You can learn to stay in the present when you quarrel. You can look for self-help books on your issue and follow through with suggestions. You can seek help from a practitioner or counselor.  All of these things will open up opportunities for change.


Ask Yourself

Do I want to make any changes in any of my relationships? What are they?


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