By Omar and Christie
“A change would do you good.” Most of us have been told this sometime in our lives and have pondered its truth. Maybe we need a vacation for a change of scenery; maybe we need a new job with a change in co-workers; or maybe we need to slow down for a change of pace in our busy lives. Change is inevitable, but is it always good? In relationships, changes inevitably occur. Some just happen subconsciously, while others are intentional choices designed to make our partner or partnership happier or stronger, and sometimes less confrontational. These changes can be subtle at first. One person adopts the other’s TV habits, or exercise schedule, or sports team, or proclaims that sushi is now their favorite food (just like their partner – what a surprise). Many of these changes bring value and enjoyment to the relationship by exposing each other to new and exciting activities or unfamiliar walks of life. Changes that improve self-esteem or sense of worth might actually do us good. A procrastinator who enters into a relationship with Mr. “Get Things Done” may trade the habits of being late and half-finished for new habits of being on time and prepared. A new partner may help cut back on using colorful language, or may add community service to a once shorter list of activities that improve the lives of others. A caring person concerned for their partner’s health may influence them to adopt better eating habits, begin true exercise, or increase their physical activity (such as sex, or at least the desire for it)!
But a change doesn’t always do us good. Some changes can damage relationships or one’s sense of self. Sacrificing a long time support group of friends and family to spend time exclusively with Mr. Right makes him Mr. Wrong, if he insists on this change. And Mr. Wrong may not ask his partner specifically to change who they are as a person. Over time, the need to change for him, one small concession at a time, can unknowingly result in large fundamental changes that leave the woman unrecognizable to her former friends. Wednesday nights out with the girls may fade away to nothing, or Sunday mornings at church may turn into sleeping in every weekend. Changes that feel regretful may force the person to choose between pleasing their partner, or pleasing themselves and staying true to their core values and needs. Deciding if the change is worth the struggle, which could be pivotal to the continuation of a relationship, can only be accomplished by the one making the changes.
In order to make this crossroads decision, a woman can ask herself if the changes she is making are one-sided or consensual, made under pressure or autonomous, and if they polarize or strengthen the partnership she is trying to maintain. Are arguments more or less frequent, time together rare or improving, life easier apart from her lover or with him? Does she like herself more or less than she did at the start of the relationship and is it time for a change? Unwanted answers to these questions may mean that it is time to address the looming or present regret and unhappiness, and make a change that is good for both individuals in the relationship. Professional counselors, ministers or objective friends can help talk through this sometimes difficult decision. It may be easier for an outside party to sift through both the positive changes and the unhealthy ones as they examine the relationship and attempt to help the woman in doubt of her choices.
“I cannot say whether things will get better if we change; what I can say is they must change if they are to get better.” ~Georg C. Lichtenberg