John Shore Christian Blog and Commentary

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To Single Women: Men. Don't. Change.

If you're a single woman, can you think of anyone from whom you'd be better off taking relationship advice than a middle-aged man you don't know from Adam?

You can't? Me neither! Great!

So here's what I'm thinking: Being a guy means I know guys. And there's one critically true thing about guys that all women learn sooner or later--and that you should definitely learn sooner, which is where I come in. And that truth is that men don't change. You cannot change a man.

Anything that you say or do in hopes of changing a man is positively destined to fail.

If you're thinking about marrying a man, realize now that he is who he's going to be. If there are things about your potential life-mate that you don't like -- little habits, personality quirks, major behavior tendancies -- you need to ask yourself whether or not you can live with those things. If the answer's no, then move on to Bachelor Number Three, because Bachelor Number One isn't your guy.

You need to find a man you love exactly as he is.

Which can seem tricky, because who is perfect?

But here's the thing about that. Relative to whatever it is about any given guy that you think is a problem, ask yourself this question: Is that thing a matter of values, or taste? If he's behaving in a way that runs contrary to your values, then that's a serious issue. But if it's only a matter of taste--of preference, of just, when it comes right down to it, of him doing things differently than you do -- then that's a whole other deal. That's something you need to think about in a different way than you do things he's doing or saying that are incompatible with your core life values.

A value difference? That could be a deal breaker. A style difference? That probably shouldn't be.

For instance, let's say you love a guy, but don't like the fact that he rides a motorcycle. Is his riding a motorcycle a value issue? If not (and it doesn't seem to be: knowing a man rides a motorcycle tells you nothing about his character), then you need to decide whether or not you're okay with him riding a motorcycle. Because you're in love with a man who does ride a motorcycle. That's who he is. There isn't a different man inside of the man you love who doesn't ride a motorcycle, a man that you can somehow get to replace the man you know.

Your man rides a motorcycle. And though it sounds harsh to say, insofar as his riding a motorcycle is a problem, it's your problem, not his. There's simply nothing you can do to change the fact that he rides a motorcycle. You need to either be okay with his riding a motorcycle, or you have to say it's too much, and be ready to leave him over it.

The choice you can't make, though -- or can, of course, but really, really shouldn't make -- is try to change what is your problem into his problem by complaining about it, or trying to make him feel guilty about it, or (even) crying about it. Sure, at the time you do those things a guy may respond to the emotionality of the moment by saying (and perhaps even believing) that he will change -- but he won't. Because once the drama has cleared, something inside of him (which he may not even consciously register) is going to reassert itself, and begin telling him that you don't actually have a right to tell him who and how he should be. And that's going to put him right back on the path he was on when you first met him, the one he's been on all his life.

What so often happens, of course, is that after you've made a Big Point of trying to change your man, he'll come to think: "Hmm. [Your name here] doesn't like me riding a motorcycle. But I've always ridden a motorcycle; I love riding a motorcycle. I have no choice but to keep the fact that I ride a motorcycle away from [you]. That way she'll be happy, and I'll get to keep being myself. I certainly don't like deceiving her, but what choice has she left me? I love her, and want her to be happy. She's made it clear that the only way she's going to be happy is to believe that I don't ride a motorcycle. So I can't let her know I do. It's not so much that I'll be lying to her; I just won't be telling her something she's told me she'd rather not know anyway. Cool. That works. Are we out of ham?"

And there you'll be, stuck in that nasty little loop so many couples do get stuck in, where the woman's either constantly nagging at her man to stop doing something he keeps doing anyway, or is sometimes being deeply upset at discovering that her man's been lying to her about something he's been doing all along that he's not "supposed" to be doing at all. You know how that resentment-acting out cycle goes. Everyone does; we've all seen or lived it. It's awful.

Avoid it now by realizing that when it comes to a relationship partner, what you see is what you get. If you love your man, then love all of your man, or be clear on the fact that you're signing up for more trouble than you can possibly want. Men aren't homes women (or anyone else) can redecorate to suite their taste. They come as is.

If you try to change your man you will, in effect, become his mother. That's a role you do not want to substitute for "wife." And if you believe anything in this world, believe that if you turn into your man's mother, he will turn into your son. Tell him he needs to eat more vegetables, and as sure as the day is long, he'll start sneaking pizza.

Life's too short. You want a man, not a boy. Successful relationships are built on respect, not the kind of co-dependant, mutually dyfunctional craziness that necessarily grows and develops whenever one person in a relationship is convinced that they always know what's best for the other person in that relationship. Women shouldn't act like that toward their men; men shouldn't act like that toward their women.

If you think you're in love with someone, you're not. When you're in love with someone, you know it. And one of the ways you know you're in love with someone is that nothing that person does or says ever really bothers you at all.

(By the way: I'm not saying men can't change; of course they can. I'm saying that you can't make your man change -- or predict when he'll change, or how, or why. People only change from the inside out, never from the outside in.)

Remember: Love means never having to say they're sorry.

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(For related posts o' mine, see Six Tests To Determine If He's Mr. Right, and Top 10 Tips For Becoming A Better Husband. But, really, Pick-Up Lines of Famous Men in History is just stupid. Funny, but stupid. So ignore that one. But it couldn't hurt to go see What's In A Word: The Truth Behind Men's Personal Ads.)