This week’s question comes from Amanda in Brooklyn. She asks:
“I’ve only been dating someone for a short time but he is already trying to change me. Almost every day he points out things that (in his opinion) I should change about myself. I like who I am and don’t feel I should have to change for anyone …but I really like this guy. He mentioned that I haven’t been myself lately and he’s right. The more he points out our differences, the more I seem to pull away. How do I address this and do you think that there is any way to make this work?”
My opinion is, if someone is trying to change you the moment that they started dating you, or within a short time of the relationship, something is definitely wrong.
First of all, why is he trying to change you? If he started dating you, he should have liked you the way you were to begin with. Personally I believe that if they’re trying to change you, then that’s a flaw with them as a potential romantic partner. On the other hand, there is always the potential they are stating things that really do need to be changed in you.
The latter has sometimes been a case in my history. There have been times where someone came in and started explaining to me the different things that needed to be changed, and I realized after some time that they were right about those things and I started to change them.
Now, it isn’t an easy process, and these really are lifelong changes, not just short term solutions to make someone else happy. If you’re changing just to make somebody else happy it’s just not going to work and the changes aren’t going to stick.
So my advice would be that if the person is trying to change you this soon into the relationship, even though you really do like this guy, it probably isn’t going to work. The best solution in that case would be to end the relationship now and try to be friends.
The last thing you want is to have to maintain a relationship where you’re not yourself, and maintain a certain facade around him while acting differently around your friends and the rest of your life. I think Jen will have some more insight into this and I feel like on this topic we’re going to agree pretty well but let’s see what happens.
Also weighing in on this question is Jen Gargotto, author of MsMorphosis.com, a self-improvement blog for modern women and author of the e-book, Navigating Dating: A Single Woman’s Guide to Dating Without Losing Herself.
Frank is right, we do largely agree. One of my favorite relationship axioms is the old idea that “the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.” More than anything, I really think that relationships are hard enough, and I just can’t see it working with someone that we don’t 100% adore from the start, especially in that fantastic beginning stage.
However, thanks to my current relationship I’m surprisingly more flexible on this topic than I would have been a year ago. When I met my current boyfriend, I absolutely adored him, but, there were certain problems.
He’s younger than me, and he’s quiet, and I didn’t feel like we were connecting in ways that I needed in a romantic, intimate partner. So, always being one to quickly pull off the band aid and move on, I tried to break up with him. I basically explained that I thought he was a fantastic person and didn’t want to begin a relationship filled with nagging that broke him down.
I explained that on a fundamental level I don’t really believe that people change, and there were just certain things happening (or, more often than not, not happening) in our relationship that I wasn’t ready to learn to live with.
His response shocked me. Usually a very quiet and almost passive guy, he fought back tooth and nail for one long evening. He wanted a chance. To him, the things I was asking for (mostly things relating to a closer, more gentle and communicative relationship) weren’t changing who he was (since, as he rightly understood, I adored the man he was – just not how we were communicating or growing together).
He argued that I was unfairly assuming that those things weren’t in him, when rather – he argued – those were just habits and sides of himself that he had never cultivated before. To him, the idea of the things that I was asking – we be closer, more connected, kinder to one another – were exciting “changes” and things that would only make his, and our, life better.
Although it felt crazy to me that someone wouldn’t instinctually know that that’s what I wanted and we needed, it was interesting that he really felt blindsided and had no idea these things were bothering me or expected of him.
In the end, he was definitely hurt by the ways in which I made him feel inadequate as a partner, but was very excited about the potential our relationship could have with those changes. The difference was almost immediate, and although we still have occasional stumbling blocks our relationship is brilliantly effortless and strong.
It’s also created a deep fountain of gratitude on my end, since I know how hard and mindfully he’s worked to make this a relationship that fulfills my needs.
The main difference between our situation and yours is your response to his requests. Unlike my boyfriend, you don’t feel like the things he’s asking are fair or exciting potential changes. It feels like he’s asking you to change fundamental things about who you are, rather than how you relate to him.
In light of my relationship today, I have really learned that it’s OK (and even a good thing) to learn how to communicate about your needs and change things about yourself in the context of how you relate to one another or participate in the relationship, but to this day I’ve never asked my boyfriend (nor has he ever asked me) to ever change something fundamental about the person he is.
No one knows the nature of these requests, or the way they make you feel, but you. If they make you feel inherently unappreciated for the person you are, then by all means you need to get out.
If they are constructive criticisms that deep down you know will be good for the relationship (and in the long run, you) then enjoy having someone in your life that loves you enough to stick with you while you get there.
One of MMA’s most recognized personalities, Frank Trigg dishes on love and the male psyche in “Ask Trigg – A Dating and Relationship Blog for Women” featured exclusively on ProMMANow.com. Each week the mixed martial arts fighter, color commentator and MMA spokesman gives advice to female readers based on questions they have submitted. Ladies can send their dating and relationship questions to AskTrigg@gmail.com.