Q: I met someone who has huge potential and fell in love. Several years have gone by and I am really not being treated very well. When he is in a good mood he is a delightful human being. However, I never know when he will be abusively unkind or rude or use abusive language or ignore me for days at a time or accuse me of stressing him out. I thought love conquered all. Do I need to give up?
A. That’s the age-old question from many people, especially females. They tend to “see the potential” in others and think that they can be the catalyst to help them reach that potential. Listen up: you can only change yourself. You cannot change others. People have to want to grow, develop healthier habits, exhibit kind and gracious behaviors, and reach their potential. If several years have gone by and you are not “being treated very well,” take a look at your expectations of this individual; decide if that’s the way you want to be treated for the rest of your relationship with this person.
One of my favorite quotes is by Maya Angelou. She wrote: “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time. People know themselves much better than you do. That is why it is important to stop expecting them to be something other than who they are.” I agree that it may feel like you are “giving up.” However, expecting someone to change their behavior can be stressful—to both parties—especially when the other person does not want to change. Expectations of this nature are not “love.” It is thinking you know what is best for them and how they should behave.
Jane Goodall said that the only possible way to get people to change is to get into their heart…the problem is that they have to be willing to let you in and they may not love you enough to do that or be too afraid or simply unwilling. So, concentrate on changing yourself...and that may mean accepting that this individual is not a good fit for your life and for the way in which you would like to be treated...