What To Do When Someone Just Won't Change


"When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time."

Maya Angelou


One of the most disempowering positions we can put ourselves in is needing someone else to change in order to be happy. It is so easy to think that if our spouse or sibling or boss would just be nicer or less demanding or more thoughtful we could be happier in the relationship. But this is a terrible trap that gives away all of our power, because we have absolutely no control over anyone else’s behavior. (Our children might be an exception, but that is for another discussion.)


On the other hand,  if we assume the other person is never going to change and remind ourselves that we have absolute control over our own behavior, we can take our power back.


We always have a choice about how we show up in our relationships and how we respond to others, but it’s easy to get stuck in habits and patterns and knee jerk reactions that make it feel like our partners are pulling our strings and pushing our buttons. However, if we can shift out of blaming mode and take responsibility for our side of the dance, we can find our way to better-feeling relationships.


Relationships are dances. It take two to tango. So the next time you feel yourself being pulled into a two-step that doesn’t feel good to you, take a step back and check in with yourself about your own behavior. Do not attempt do this when you are triggered and caught up in the emotion of it. Do it when you have calmed down and can adopt an attitude of honest, non-judgmental curiosity about yourself.


Ask yourself what your partner’s behavior means about you. For example, if you are in a relationship with someone who is not as nice to you as you believe they should be, ask yourself what that means about you. What does it mean about you that you choose to stay in that relationship?


That’s big. It’s a hard thing to look at, but that is the question that will shift you from victim-mode to empowered-mode. When you decide you will not tolerate relationships in which you feel disrespected, you will find yourself in relationship with people who treat you respectfully.


The funny thing is that while we cannot expect people to change to make us happy, sometimes when we change our side of the dance, the other person does change in order to continue the dance. Sometimes, however, we have to be willing to find a new partner who knows the new steps.


Either way, I think Maya Angelou had it right. Believing someone the first time and not expecting them to change will save us from the heartache of wishing for something that will never come true.


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