I met up with a friend the other day. She’s at a crossroads with the man she’s been dating for the past year or so. She wants marriage. Not now, but she wants to move that direction and wants that to be the mutual end goal. At this point, he states he does not want marriage. Now or at any point. They’re in that difficult place where the relationship works, but the objectives of the partnership don’t align.
Having known Brock back in the days when he said he never wanted to be married, she inquired, “How did you get him to change?”
The short answer?
And I couldn’t. At least not in any meaningful and lasting way.
I didn’t make him change. I didn’t ask him to change. I didn’t expect him to change.
But here’s what I did do:
I Accepted Where We Were
I always knew I wanted to be married (or at least something like it) again. But that didn’t mean I wanted to jump straight into commitment immediately. In fact, Brock was always the forerunner on taking the relationship to the next level. And we baby-stepped it from one level to the next. And as we slowly integrated our lives and tore down our walls, I simply enjoyed the place where we were.
I Accepted Him
As with any relationship, as the newness wears off and the pedestal lowers, you discover certain traits and characteristics of your partner that drive you a little nuts. Since none of his quirks were red flags or deal breakers, I worked on accepting them. In fact, I’ve even learned to appreciate some of what can easily annoy me.
I Limited Expectations
I knew that our relationship may not progress to marriage. And I was okay with that. I had no expectations of a wedding or a white picket fence. I simply knew that I loved him and loved being with him. And that the time together wasn’t wasted even if it didn’t result in nuptials. Besides, I had learned about the dangers of expectations:)
I Didn’t Push
I never initiated a “where are we going?”talk. In fact, the only relationship-oriented talks we had were about where we were, making sure that we were on the same page along the way. I was patient as he learned how to be in a serious relationship and, later on, learned how to share a home and a life. I gave him time and space to acclimate.
I Worked on Myself
Whenever I found myself frustrated or disappointed by something in the relationship, I made an effort to examine my own responses (which, no surprise, were often overreactions). I learned that by changing my reactions, I could change the dynamics of our interactions.
And over time, the man that never thought he would be married, not only decided that he did, he also became an amazing and dedicated husband.
But the most important part wasn’t what I did.
It’s what we did.
Because everything that I did that compelled him to change, he also did for me. In spades.
You cannot ever change your partner.
But you can be someone that inspires them to change themselves.
Because ultimately, the only guaranteed way to change a man (or a woman) is to change yourself.