We are drawn to other people by qualities we admire. He is so hardworking (or kind, or grounded, or strong or creative)! I really like that she is so independent (or compassionate, or outgoing or funny or honest)! But as time goes on, it happens. It is inevitable. No matter if it’s our partner, a loved one, or a friend, sooner or later we find ourselves thinking: “If only s/he could change thisone thing (or maybe two or three), then things would be so much better!
Sometimes it’s the very quality that we liked so much in the beginning that is now annoying. “I loved that he was so kind, but he doesn’t stand up for himself often enough!” “I adored that she was so outgoing, but I don’t like that she spends so much time talking to everybody!” Or sometimes something that seemed so small before now seems like a big deal. “I always knew that he was sarcastic, but now I cannot stand his bitter comments!”
How can we continue to love someone, without needing them to change?
I just read a great article by Martha Beck, called “How to Love More by Caring Less.” In my mind, it’s not about caring less about the other person, but caring less about specific traits, behaviors and actions of that person. She introduces a simple 4-step system to help us with this:
And here is the bonus: When we try to change someone, the energy we project can be anxious, pushy or controlling (even if we don’t mean to). This usually triggers the other person to react the opposite way we want them to – they become defensive and more resistant to change. But when we stop trying to change the other person and focus on ourselves, the anxious and controlling energy goes away, and it frees the other person to feel accepted and more open to change.
What can you do today to feel the way you want to?