“The first problem for all of us, men and women, is not to learn, but to unlearn.”
~ Gloria Steinem
I had a boyfriend once with this trait that drove me absolutely bonkers—basically no matter when or what we were eating, he’d scarf the food down in a matter of seconds.
This was particularly bothersome when I had spent a significant amount of time cooking and it appeared as though he didn’t even take a moment to taste the deliciousness of it. A few times I caught myself staring at him in utter shock and disgust as he finished his plate without me having even taken a bite. According to him, he couldn’t help it. He claimed that when he was in grade school he’d have to wait in line every day to get his food and then he’d only have five minutes to finish it all and thus a lifelong habit was formed.
What bothered me the most was that it was an obvious habit and habits, no matter how entrenched, can be fixed. What perhaps couldn’t be altered was his stubbornness; he didn’t want to change that habit and so it continued.
I learned that it’s not that people can’t change—it’s just that they don’t want to. Or, in other words, change comes from within. Only upon self-reflection and the self-realization that there exists some particular devastating flaw, a flaw that makes no one else around like them, will change happen. See, that boyfriend’s eating habits only affected me, it was my problem; I had to accept it or move on.
Want Changes? Ask These Three Questions First.
1. Is this an undesirable habit or a personality trait?
Recently, I had an issue with a new guy (a guy who eats his meals at a moderate pace thankfully) and I was discussing said issue with my best/longest friend. It was one of those situations where I needed someone who had known me most of my life and could tell me if this particular issue was just a deep-seated personality flaw of mine or “normal.”
We decided it was normal enough and she said that I needed to figure out what I could live with. Could he, for example, work on fixing a learned habit to better compromise with my needs and if yes, was that enough, or did he possess certain personality traits that were actually not compatible with me in the long run?
I realized that what she was asking me was “could he change,” and if not, “could I?”
But that wasn’t the right question. Of course we could, if we really wanted to, the question really was, would we?
Regardless of whether or not the problem seems to be a learned habit or an inherent trait,
it’s not the issue at hand, but whether the two people actually like each other enough to work together to fix it in some way.
2. Is the issue big enough to end the relationship?
Let’s say, for example, Zack and Kelly live a city apart and only see each other on the weekends. During the week Kelly likes to check-in with Zack to see how things are going. Zack rarely responds, not because he’s busy, but because he doesn’t like to. Finally, Kelly starts to feel unappreciated and calls him out on it. Zack apologizes for making her feel bad but doesn’t want to feel forced into communicating.
Do they compromise or do they go their separate ways because they have such alarming differences in communication style?
If differences in communication were the only major issue within the relationship and they both cared for each other and wanted to continue to grow together than it’s a simple problem with a simple solution. They compromise.
If on the other hand, one of the parties didn’t know what he or she really wanted and wasn’t willing to do the work than the relationship is doomed to fail.
3. Is there anything that can be done on your part to compromise? Do you want to?
Many times when we think we want someone else to change it’s because we actually want something in our own lives to change. That change might just be a minor adjustment or a major switch, but either way it’s important to investigate further.
Even though it could be painful, sometimes the most revealing aspects of ourselves come through when a relationship fails. It’s upon the reflection that we see what we actually need and desire and know better how to get it in the future.
What did I discover? I discovered that my needs were not getting met and it would be better to figure out how to fulfill those needs alone, to change the situation, instead of expecting someone who didn’t really want to put much effort into strengthening our relationship to try to change. And I’m healthier because of it.
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Editor: Bryonie Wise
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