Characteristic #2 of a Healthy Relationship

2. Change is brought about by changing ourselves, not the other!

When my professor was writing this characteristic on the laminate beaming onto the white sheet at the front of the classroom through the overhead projector, she had first written:

“Change is brought about by: insisting the the other person changes–NO! Changing ourselves, not the other!”

A common misconception people have in relationships is that we can change the other person. I know I’ve thought it plenty of times myself in previous relationships. One person may be disrespectful to another. One person may say hurtful things to another more often than not. One person may be needy or clingy to the point of driving the other person absolutely crazy. And for some reason, a lot of people think that they can change the other person. Or, they can “make” them change. Unfortunately the only person responsible for our actions is ourselves. Oh how I wish I could have controlled some people’s actions in my past, but I can’t. At the end of the day, only I am responsible for me, and the other person is responsible for themselves.

It’s a hard thing to accept, when you’re faced with a challenge in a relationship where someone is doing something to make you upset, to make the relationship difficult, or whatever the case may be. It’s hard to accept that all you can do is try to communicate your frustrations to the person and tell them politely how they can help fix the situation. It’s almost like thinking, “okay, if this person really cares about me and the relationship, all I can do is tell them how I feel and hope that they change.” After you’ve expressed your “side of the story” so to speak, it’s really up to them to decide how they will act from that point.

Then comes the hard part that all of us stubborn, strong-willed people cannot stand to hear. The other person needs to communicate with ME and tell ME what I’m doing to hurt them or the relationship. (It’s literally like nails on a chalkboard, isn’t it?!) One thing I’ve learned is that it doesn’t matter if I am intentionally doing something to hurt someone, make them upset, or put stress on the relationship–all that really matters is that the other person feels some sort of negative emotion based on MY actions and therefore, I MUST change. But, at the same time, there is no way anyone can know they’re upsetting someone else (or whatever the case may be) unless they communicate it. Once it’s communicated, my thought at that point is: if the person and their feelings means anything at all to me, I will change. So hard to hear, so hard to admit, and so hard to do, believe me. It’s how we are as humans. Criticism and being told we’re wrong or hurting someone is never an easy conversation.

But it’s necessary.

All we can do is communicate with each other, tell each other point blank what the other person can  do to change, and then control OUR actions of OURSELVES. Because it’s true, we really cannot change another person.

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2 thoughts on “Characteristic #2 of a Healthy Relationship

  1. Preach it, sista. A corrollary is that people (adults in particular) should not CONTROL other people, allowing us all to make healthy choices in relationships. Controlling others ultimately detonates into an ugly situation that leaves both parties much worse than ever before, placing the relationship you wanted thru control at great risk–a supersad irony worth avoiding, if you truly value the other.

  2. It took me entirely too long to realize this after moving in with my fiancee. I used to come home and find a dirty house and just start slamming shit around, trying to make him realize I was angry. Of course, he had no clue that I was pissed and would continue watching TV and not helping.

    Once I realized that my plan was not working, I decided to not let it bother me so much. Rather than getting angry and starting a huge fight, it was easier to just pick up the house myself and ask Andy for help calmly. Now we’ve made a point of telling each other thank you constantly. It sounds cheesy, but we often have conversations like this:

    “Thank you for cleaning up the house. It looks really nice.”
    “Well, thanks for doing the dishes. It looked like there were a lot to be done.”
    “I appreciate you picking up your laundry. It feels so clean in here!”

    It’s super cheesy, but it really does make you feel better to hear thank you more often. 🙂

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