Anyone who has gone through personal changes — be it habitual, lifestyle, or mindset — knows all too well that it’s not easy, let alone becoming a brand new person with different goals and outlooks.
Yet it’s not uncommon that, in the dating world, people expect others to change overnight — for them, no less — and suddenly become everything they’ve ever wanted.
Here’s a simple example.
You hit it off with someone new. They tell you they’re scared of love and not ready for a relationship.
In your mind, it’s a challenge that you can overcome.
You convince yourself you’re the exception — your beautiful relationship will make them realise that love is not so scary after all and dive all in with you.
They have many hang-ups that potentially need working through with an experienced therapist, which cannot be resolved by you or your relationship with each other.
In the end, they’re never able to commit to you and you’re left heartbroken with millions of what-ifs.
Another typical example is when you stick around with a partner, not for who they are, but for their potential, while you live with them and know that they’re doing the same things day in and day out. Or when you take an ex back after they promise you they have changed within weeks or days.
Different scenarios, same outcome.
It’s not going to happen.
How do I know? I have been there — on both sides.
I’ve been the person who expected others to change for me, or changed myself for others. I’d be in denial about our inherent differences, wistfully thinking that we could “compromise” and “make it work.”
You’d think changing for someone might be easier than expecting someone to change for you, but it’s delusional at best.
Throughout the years I was dating in my early twenties — the age that you’re supposed to evolve the most, no one successfully changed for me and I could change for absolutely no one. We had nasty break-ups and traumatised each other in the process instead.
The real changes only came when I hit rock bottom and had no other choices but to live my life differently.
In other words, I changed when I knew why I had to change, I wanted to change, and I was committed to changing.
That awareness, willingness, and commitment transpired into actions and disciplines.
I didn’t get to where I am by waiting for a miracle or doing the same things every day.
I needed to do something novel— things that scared me, challenged me, pushed me out of my comfort zone — from the little things that shaped my days to the big things that altered the course of my life. Consistently, over months and years.
I didn’t just become more mature over time as older folks often say to the youngsters — I actively took actions to transform myself in the direction of my choice. I made myself emotionally ready and well-equipped for a healthy relationship because that was what I wanted.
It was A LOT OF WORK and it was HARD.
See, a person doesn’t just go from being emotionally unstable and unsure about themselves to being secure and loving their life overnight.
If they continue to do what they’ve always done — same lifestyle, same environment, same perspective, and so on— they won’t change in meaningful and significant ways.
You can’t make them change just because that’s what you want. They have to want it and commit to it themselves.
Another caveat is that even if they do change, it might not be the changes you want to see in them.
It’s because they’re their own person, just like how you’re your own person.
Give yourself and others permission to be whoever you are and stay true to yourself.
If the shoes don’t fit, don’t try to force it — take them off and walk pain-free.
“My mother told me relationships are like shoes: No matter how beautiful they are or how much you love them, if they don’t fit there will be pain with every step.”
— Karleen Chiu
On the bright side
When you’re firm on your feet and meet someone happy with their life, and they happen to be compatible with you, wonderful things can happen.
Being together will feel natural and easy because you’re right for yourself and each other. You won’t have to expect them to change; instead, you’ll wish that they would never change.
And what’s more, when you’re right for yourself, being in a relationship will stop feeling like such a pressing matter. You will understand that it’s a part of life — it’s only as necessary as the positive value it adds to your life. As long as you prioritise your well-being and happiness, you can’t go wrong.