I Love You…Now Change!

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:

1.      Think about a person you love or care about, but about whom you want to change something.
2.      Identify what this person must change to make you happy. Complete the following sentence:
If _________________ would only _________________, then I could feel ______________.
3.      Now take out the first part of the sentence, so all that remains is:
I could feel _____________________.
Sure, it would be lovely if the other person could cooperate, but the truth is you don’t need that in order to feel the way you want. This can be incredibly hard to accept. Wouldn’t it be so easy to feel good if others could just do what we want? Yes, it would be, but it is not absolutely necessary!
It is possible to feel the way you want to, even if the other person doesn’t conform to your wishes.
4.      Begin to focus on creating your own happiness, rather than trying to control your loved one’s behavior.
This is not a one-time action, but really a lifelong practice. What is it that you really want to feel? Do you want to feel loved, adored, significant, like you belong, more peaceful or something else…? What can you do to help yourself feel this way? This may involve trying out different activities, spending time with different groups of friends, or carving out more time for yourself. 

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?


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