Self-Responsible Relating — Your job, even in relationship, is to figure yourself out — not fix your partner. Besides, why are you with someone who is broken?
In This Moment
OK, so we’re making progress! Almost all our stuff is in storage, and we’re narrowing down the dates for our next trips. Even with all our prior trips, still too much crap. The tossing continues!
I was into my online reader the other day, and noticed an article by Kelly Deils.
The author was quite angry about some stuff she’s read — which could be called “woman blaming.”
The gist was, she’d seen two articles, and both “suggested” that if a man in a relationship is misbehaving, the woman is doing something wrong… is somehow empowering the “bad” behaviour.
She had two great points:
- A woman cannot change a man by being more feminine.
- A man cannot change a woman by being more masculine.
And then, this one:
- No one can change anyone who doesn’t want to change.
OOPS! If only she’d stopped after “anyone!”
And then, quasi-redemption!
We can’t change other people, we can only help them with the process if they want to change, and if a dude doesn’t want to change there is no force in heaven or earth or between your legs or your ears that will make him do so.
We don’t want to whip through the third bullet point, though. Contained therein is a big problem. When I read, “…change anyone…” what I see is this idea:
“Women are inherently enlightened, and therefore are in relationship to help their partner change, “if the man wants it.”
Here’s part of a comment from a reader of the above article:
“I’ve spent years educating myself about the opposite sex and learning Man Training 101, convinced it was all somehow MY fault, but at the end of the day there is only so much that one partner can do if the other one won’t step up. And that goes both ways.
To prove a point, my ex husband is now unemployed and homeless 7 years after we split, living in a van on his mum’s drive. He refuses to help himself even now. I have him a glimpse of the good life but he ruined it. His issues were too ingrained and he refused to even attempt to deal with them and guess what – you can’t do it for them!”
Well, of course you can’t do it for them! The point: it’s not your job. Your job: keep your nose on your side of the fence, and work on your own stuff.
One person, in the comments, (and I know, you’ll be surprised 😉 the lone male voice…) wrote:
“There’s absolutely nothing a woman can do to fix a bad man (or vice versa for that matter) – they just have to get it in their heads themselves and your only options are to either sit it out and wait for them to grow up or bail.”
It begs the question: if you’re so enlightened, what are you doing in a bad relationship? That’s why my back goes up over the sub-plot of the article.
The article writer (a 20-something) mentions that she’s now dating an older man, because they’re either more mature, or easier to spot if they are defective. Same song, different key.
My problem with this is the universality of the comment. The way out, of course, is to only choose to be in relationship with people who are on the same page as you. This has nothing to do with age.
But really, my back goes up a tad when I read the “Man Training 101” kinds of comments. I’d like to suggest that men and women are equally screwed up… the only difference I’ve noticed in all my years of working with people is that women tend to be a bit quicker to go for therapy.
Relationship screwups are a two-person dance
In other words, what’s missing in the article is this:
“Wow! Did I ever miss the warning signs! My partner always exhibited a reluctance to growth, and I just sat there, either demanding change, or “trying to persuade him.” I need to admit to myself that I got into the relationship thinking: He’s really not right for me, but I can fix him!”
Of course it’s easier to see the flaws of others. It’s hard work to work on (or even acknowledge) our own flaws.
A relationship is not the place for therapy, or (wo)man fixing. It’s a meeting of equals, for the purpose of mirroring. This means that I hold up a mirror for Darbella to see herself, and vice versa. Not advice or fixing.
Sure, the women in the above article and comments (eventually) saw the light and got out. Good for them. Now, they need to take a moment and fully and deeply acknowledge, “I married him!!!” Not so enlightened, eh?
I say all of this from experience. While Darbella and I have been together since 1983, this is my third marriage. I’ve been through the “I can change her” bit. I got over myself, and found someone I wanted to be with, and who has always appeared, to me, “Wonderful just as she is.” I grew up.
I wrote about this in Find Your Perfect Partner. I devised a way to figure out, while dating, whether the person you’re considering is a “fit” for you, or not. In my other books, I’ve provided all kinds of tools designed to keep you focussed on working on yourself, not losing yourself trying to fix another.
So, as to the above article, I of course agree with the writer: It’s not a woman’s fault if her partner is a jerk. Her self-examination point is simply, “How did I sucker myself into this?” And vice versa.
The only job any of us have is endlessly working on ourselves, figuring ourselves out.
Getting into a relationship doesn’t change this, although it’s easy to get into partner blaming as an excuse to escape the heavy lifting of self-examination.
No relationship book (including mine!) will help you fix another person. Your job, in relationship, is to learn how to get yourself under your own control, as you reveal yourself to another.
Simple. And difficult.