Can People Change? The Ten Change Requirements

Can People Change?

Interesting question isn’t it, and don’t tell me you’ve never asked it before. Think for a moment. Ask yourself, “Have you really changed over the years?”

Chances are you’ll say something like, “Yes, in some ways, but not in others.” Now ask yourself, “How many people do you know who have really changed over the time that you’ve known them?” Chances are you won’t think of many. I’ve noticed over my years of consulting that people are far more likely to credit themselves with the ability to change than they are others.

Of course, for some, not changing is considered a sign of strength. Staying constant shows stability and reliability. Why make unnecessary changes? Perhaps it’s an expectation we have living in a world where truisms like, “Change is inevitable” and “Change is constant” abound. We’re expected to be able to adapt, learn, grow, and at times, we’re expected to be able to eliminate unwanted habits and behaviours and replace them with more desired ones. So maybe the question should be, “How many people do you know who have changed after saying that they needed or wanted to?” That's a better question because you likely know people who have fervently promised to change, especially while in a time of crisis such as the potential loss of a valued relationship or a job. You may be one of them.

The question of whether people can change is an important one in personal relationships and in the workplace. Is someone addicted always "an addict"? If someone has hurt and betrayed you, can they change or is that just who they are? Should you ever trust them again? (See also my Hub about rebuilding trust.) At work, performance appraisals and evaluations would be rather pointless if people weren’t able to make use of the feedback that they were given. Of course, there are people who do claim that these exercises are pointless, and that the trick is to get the right people straight away rather than wasting time attempting to force square pegs into round holes. Along the same lines, there are people who claim that the key to a successful marriage is simply to find the right person. But, easier said than done, and haven't we all been "the wrong person" at different times in our lives?

The question regarding the possibility of change is complicated by the fact that people argue over what constitutes real change. Is a change in behaviour a significant change, or are changes in thinking and even personality what’s needed to qualify for “real” change. After all, people do seem to fall back into old habits, especially when they’re trying to change for somebody else. How long does a change have to last in order to count as a change?

Sufficient self-help and motivational instruction books have been written about this topic to denude half the world’s rainforests. Enough already! I’m going to answer the question once and for all. Think of it as my contribution to end Global Warming.

YES, people can change, BUT only some of them and only some of the time. From my experience, there are 10 key factors required for people to change. The more any of these factors are missing, the less likely it will be for change to happen. In order to change people must:

1) Be aware of the need for change

2) Want to change

3) Possess a sense of curiosity

4) Have the ability to self-reflect and be self-aware

5) Be open to feedback (the absence of defensiveness)

6) Know what specifically needs to change and what will replace it

7) Understand how to change

8) Receive constructive feedback throughout the change process

9) Be given emotional support and encouragement throughout the change process

10) Gain some kind of personal reward (reinforcement) from having changed

If all, or at least most, of those factors are in place for people, change is indeed possible. The longer the change lasts, the greater the likelihood of the change becoming a part of who they are, and then they won’t have to keep concentrating on maintaining it. But you can see from reading this list why change can be so difficult to achieve.

The two factors of them all that seem critical to the capacity to change is the presence of a sense of curiosity and the ability to self-reflect and be self-aware. Some people have an innate curiosity about the world and that greatly aids them in making changes. It could be argued that generally we all start off being curious and then many of us seem to lose it, but once lost, curiosity seems very hard to retrieve. I strongly recommend managers include job interview questions which invite candidates to share times when they’ve thought about their thoughts and made a belief change or a change in their way of thinking. Self-aware and self-reflective people are for more likely to be able to adapt and make tough personal changes.

An Executive friend of mine claims that only 10% of people are capable of real change. He figures it’s much better to find out what his people are good at and have them focus on that, rather than waste time and resources trying to change them into something they’re not. That’s a good strategy especially if you have the Human Resources available to fill in the gaps, but perhaps not always possible. And as many of us have found out, simply popping the right person into a personal relationship doesn't always work either. Sometimes they're the right person in some ways and the wrong person in others. And sometimes "right people" come with flaws or weaknesses or make mistakes.

If it’s critical to you that you or a person you’re relating with make some changes in order for the relationship to work, (either professionally or personally) think of all the factors that need to be present for change to occur. Consider the advice of my friend, and the possibility that you need to accept that the person you’re dealing with may not be a good fit, or perhaps is a great fit in a role with different expectations.

On the other hand, knowing and applying the requirements for change can make it much easier for people to create the changes they want (if that’s truly what they want).

If you found this article interesting or even helpful, I'd appreciate it if you thanked me by clicking onto the Google ads on this page which will give me a tiny tip!

For more assistance call Theo Selles, M.Sc. 647-686-0116 or visit my website www.integrityworks.ca. Straightforward solutions to complex problems

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Comments 58 comments

Karabo 4 years ago

I want to change because i need to,i've been a bad wife n i need to change to turn my life around


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Theo Selles 4 years ago Author

I hope my article will help you. Good luck.


anon 4 years ago

Thanks for that. My boyfriend seems to have changed since he met me. He was horrible to some of his ex's. He does have anger issues and is doing an anger management course. He seems to have all the factors to change and he deals with his anger a lot better with me when i make him angry then he ever has before.


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Theo Selles 4 years ago Author

You need to be VERY careful about this. Your boyfriend (as do you) need to understand that HE is responsible for whether he becomes angry or not. No one MAKES someone angry. If he can't control and be responsible for his own anger, and if it is your responsibility whether he becomes angry or not, it is just a small step to say that you are responsible for what he does when he is angry.


Brandon Chau 4 years ago

Does this pertain to how people think and their preferences on things as well? I grew up in a segregated home with a lot of tension and always seemed to be bullied when I was a little kid and I feel like that has had an effect on my self confidence and trust towards people. Lately I have been trying to have a different outlook on life and blame my past for how I am now, but it is hard. This effects my daily relationships with people and really does not give me a chance to connect to friends and family on a genuine level. I guess I put on a good front because people always say that I talk a lot and have a lot of friends, but I don't feel it. I would love to hear you input on this. THanks


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Theo Selles 4 years ago Author

Hi Brandon,

What a great self-reflective and honest letter. Thank you for writing it.

Yes, I do believe that these principles apply to changes within people. I've done a lot of writing and talking on bullying, and was bullied myself as a child, so I appreciate where you're coming from. You might be interested in reading a Hub I wrote about building trust as well.

Think of thoughts as behaviours that we have control over. Often people don't think of thoughts that way, but if you think about it, you can choose what you think. This is at the heart of Cognitive Behaviourial Therapy, and perhaps it would help if you found a counsellor experienced in it to assist you in your efforts to change.

Don't ever let someone (either from your past or present) have power over who you think you are and how you feel. When you were young perhaps you took to heart the hurtful things that people did and said, and maybe that shook your confidence in yourself. Understand your past, think of the negative messages you received from others then, and replace those messages with new ones based on what you know about yourself now. It can be hard, but it can also be very rewarding.

I admire you for your efforts to change your life and how you feel about yourself and others. What you are trying to do is very possible to achieve and I wish you all the best in doing so. Let me know if I can help in any way.

You can do this. Build in the elements of change from my article and follow the trust formula in my trust Hub ("How to Rebuld Trust: A Simple Formula") and you will see results. (Let me know what you think of that Hub, by the way. I'll bet you find it useful.)

Take care,

Theo


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Theo Selles 4 years ago Author

Sorry, I see I made a spelling error. The title of my Hub on trust is: "How to Rebuild Trust: A Simple Formula". That Hub takes a complex topic and boils it down to some very basic simple components. Enjoy.


Brandon 4 years ago

Thank you Theo Selles. I will definitely check out your hub for that. I go through years of ups and downs always coming to realize how much my past can haunt me the more I think about it and the more I live my life the more time I waste thinking about it. I have been recently learning how to focus myself so that my emotions don't go there but it is hard. Figuring out your life by yourself is not too easy so I have been journaling so that I can keep track of where I am. BUt I like what you said that thoughts are behaviors we have control over. I never saw it like that before and so I will try that. I am 25 right now do you think a person at that age can really change or do you think that that is old already. Lately I have been doing a lot of positive self talk so that I can alter my mind to convince that I am confident. I just started it so Ill see where it takes me. Thank you so much for your input. Are you a psychologist?


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Theo Selles 4 years ago Author

Hi Brandon,

Thanks for the note.

Twenty Five is hardly too old to change, in fact it's a great age to learn and grow. You are young enough to have abundant energy, and you have lots of time to exlore different ideas.

As for positive self-talk, that works, if you go beyond just the verbal part. I always say that self-esteem is earned and you can't just talk yourself into it. For example, if you are someone who doesn't care much about others, doesn't give much back to society, and doesn't do much with your time other than watch TV and play video games, you likely won't have high self-esteem, no matter how much you tell yourself that you're a good person who should feel good about himself. A part of you would always know that you were bullshitting yourself with your "positive self-affirmations."

But, if you thought about the values you have and what you stood for. If you identified principles to live by (like kindness, effort, honesty, compassion, humour etc.) and then made a conscious effort to live by them, and you checked in with yourself and others as to whether you were doing so, you would gain self-esteem because you in fact earned the right to it. And, you would be more likely to recognize the negative putdowns of others as crap because you would know differently about yourself. You would have good reason to feel pride and confidence and you'd be stronger and better at resisting the influence of people who call you names or treat you badly. Does that make sense?

(I'm a Family Therapist.)

Theo


Brandon 4 years ago

Yes, I understand Theo. That does make sense. I am actually a very active person in my church community and go to school full time for marketing management and work full time. I however always feel feel a sense of detachment from others and feel like I am not enjoying life as much just because I don't feel connected to the people I am around. Im not sure if it is just in my head or if it is just how I was raised up. I lived with a step father in the same house that I had not talked to for 8 years because of tension in the house. I never grew up with a real dad and feel as if I feel a sense of emotional detachment with others. Does this stem back from trust? Thanks


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Theo Selles 4 years ago Author

Hi Brandon,

There's a book about this that I recommend you read. It is: "Awakening from the Deep Sleep : A Powerful Guide for Courageous Men" by Robert Pascik. You can order it through Amazon. I don't know if Hub Pages supports links in these dialogues but here's the link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0062506501?tag=theguideto...

I can't answer your question for you about whether it all stems from trust, but clearly if you've been hurt and have learned to protect yourself by closing yourself up you may have established a way of relating to people that keeps them at arms length. Love and intimacy are amazing, but they come with risk. The more you open up to closeness the more you allow yourself to be vulnerable. Both the risks and rewards are high and we all need to determine for ourselves if the rewards are worth the risk. I personally believe that they are but I can't decide that for you.

I suggest you give that book a read and get back to me if you wish.

All the best.

Theo


melissa 4 years ago

Hi Mr. Selles, I had a long discussion with a friend about people and the definition of change. She believes people can only evolve and grow, not actually "change". That their behaviors may change but them as a person only evolved and grew. She said people always have it in them to change behaviors, beliefs etc. But them as a person only evolved never changed. Something else about people and layers...Any thoughts? Thank you! I really appreciate it.


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Theo Selles 4 years ago Author

Hi Melissa,

Thanks for reading and for the note. Sounds like it was an interesting conversation.

I'm not sure about the distinction your friend is making between growth/evolution and change. To me, any difference is change. We change as we grow and age physically and we have the opportunity to grow/evolve/change in wisdom/awareness/behaviour as well. Some of us seem more equipped to do so, and some of us are more motivated to do so.

I'm not sure about her comment about people being layered and how that relates to change. Maybe we do grow like trees or onions, every once in a while adding a layer. I like the idea of us learning to reflect upon our different layers and performing mental surgery on them to adjust/change who we are. We are an interesting species in that we can time travel; we can revisit key past events like abuse and reinterpret them from an older and more knowledgeable perspective. In doing so we can change our ideas about ourselves and the world we live in. We can learn, for example, that we were not responsible for the abuse we endured and that we do not have to live with shame and that we are lovable and worth being protected. In that way we change ourselves and we might trust loving others and change our behaviour accordingly.

Personally, I believe that we can change for the worse or for the better. Hopefully the change we initiate and embrace is one that benefits both ourselves and others. Whether you call that evolution, growth, or change doesn't really seem to matter to me.

What do you think?

Theo


Brandon 4 years ago

Thank you for all your input Theo. I will take everything that you said into consideration and look up your books. Your words were much appreciated.


Leah 4 years ago

Hello Theo,

My name is Leah, and I am the very person who had the discussion with Melissa about this topic. When she told me about the thread that was started, I could not resist visiting your page to explain on my perspective a little further.

I will begin by stating that my opinion is based on the denotation of the verbs “change” and “evolve”, which are “to make the form, nature, content future course, etc., of (something) different from what it is or from what it would be if left alone” and “to develop gradually” respectively, according to dictionary.com. I believe people go through experiences, situations and circumstances that will shape behavior and accentuate personality traits, but the fundamental aspect of that person’s identity is a constant; if you reflect upon the last five years of your life, can you say you are a different person? You probably have more experiences, different aspirations, goals achieved, but that very core of who you remains the same.

To take your example of a tree: yes, a tree’s leaves will change and adapt to the season, but if one was to cut a tree and examine the core of it, the origin is the same. In fact, one may see the rings of time grow and evolve from the point of origin. The tree’s exterior may change with time as it adapts to it’s environment, but the fundamental part of the tree is resilient and built upon. In this analogy, ideas, actions and behaviors are like the leaves that are subject to environment, circumstance and the ebb and flow of life. However, it does not negate the tree is the tree it was as a sapling, which can be seen upon it’s death.

In my perspective, to believe that I change is very limiting and makes my experience as a human inconsequential. To say that in five years from now I will not have the identity I have makes the actions I do today seem meaningless; what good is it to do things when it doesn’t matter, because inevitably the person I am will cease to be the person I was? I like to think that I will always be the child who found more use in breaking her toys because she derived more satisfaction in understanding the mechanics of it rather than accepting what she saw. My choices, experiences and path in life have branched from the core that was evident in the young girl that became the woman I am. I find more beauty in thinking that people are a culmination of experiences and growth than to think that one’s identity is fragile enough to succumb to them.

Thank you for reading this, Theo. I hope this gives more clarity on what our debate was about.


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Theo Selles 4 years ago Author

Hi Leah,

Thank you for writing so thoughtfully. I think between the two of us we have covered the interesting debate over what constitutes change very well. I'll leave it to other readers to weigh in. Hopefully they will.

All the best.

Theo


mary 4 years ago

I was married for 30 yrs to a man who done his duty and provided but was emotionally absent and rarely intimate with me. He had affairs. He learned as a child that sex equated secrecy and was wrong/dirty. He lied a lot as a defence. He is now with a long term mistress - not his first - whom he also lied to for yrs. They do not live together and he is not pushing for divorce. Is it likely that now he has left the marriage he will remain a faithful, intimate and committed partner to her? He still

forms friendships with female co-workers which is how his affairs started. I suppose what I really want to know is if the real problem is that he was trapped in an unhappy marriage to me and that caused him to lie, have affairs, and avoid intimacy. Your insight would be much appreciated.


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Theo Selles 4 years ago Author

Hi Mary,

Thanks for the note.

No one's unhappy marriage causes them to do anything. No matter how unhappy you might be in a marriage, you are still responsible for your own choices.

He is making choices which may be based on conscious thought or unresolved unconsious issues. Either way, neither you or his mistress is causing him to make his choices.

He could choose to get help and deal with his issues rather than continue to use them to justify his poor and hurtful choices. Whether he does so or not is up to him, not you or anyone else. Will he be faithful now? That's entirely up to him?

I hope that helps.

Theo


mary 4 years ago

Thank you so much for your prompt feedback Theo. I know that you are right and we are all responsible for our own choices and behaviour patterns. It has taken a lot a therapy and painful insight to accept that I chose to stay in such an unfulfilling relationship rather than rage, blame others, and continue to repeat the same old mistakes in hope of a different outcome.

I guess the only one I can change is me so I am trying to focus on my own life now. Even with the benefit of insight and determination it is hard not to fall back in to an unheathy default setting hard-wired in childhood.

My father used me to meet his own needs then switched his "affections" to my little sister when I was no longer able to - hence my own unhealthy sexuality and pattern of choosing rejecting and distant partners who prefer other women. Its not all about me.

I have certainly changed since my marriage broke down because I have had to. Its a work in progress.

Mary


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Theo Selles 4 years ago Author

Hi Mary,

Thank you for sharing such a personal and wise letter. I admire you for your courage and your willingness to get the help that you needed.

I'm sorry for the pain you've suffered. Know this though, people can do terrible things to you, but you can heal and rise above your past and your circumstances. You have nothing to be ashamed of from what your father did to you, and you are not broken or damaged for the rest of your life as some would have you believe. Your life, like everyone else's, is indeed a work in progress, but don't let anyone, from your past, present or future taint it or take it away from you. Your life is yours to keep, protect, and cherish. I wish you all the best.

Sincerely,

Theo


Elisabeth 4 years ago

Thank you for a great post! This gave me some faith in that I can change, even though I was beginning to lose hope. I think I will get up and try again with your advices :)


danielle becker 4 years ago

So me and my boyfriend ate getting married but for some reason i started thinking about the things in the past he has done like lie and tlk to girls. But Thats months ago and now he treats me like a queen. But why all the sudden am I thinking about things I put in the past? Could he really have changed and I'm just over thinking?


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Theo Selles 4 years ago Author

Hi Danielle,

I suspect that you are feeling more vulnerable with the marriage approaching. Your vulnerability would naturally lead you to worry more about being hurt. You'd be more likely in that state to be searching for danger signs.

Having said that, there's no way of me knowing whether your boyfriend has changed for good or if he's just on his best behaviour temporarily. It is possible that he has changed. How many of my ten change factors would you say apply to him? The more factors in play, the more likely the change is real. Why not have him read my article with you and see what he has to say?

The two of you could also read another of my Hubs, "How to Rebuild Trust". Read them together, have a non-attacking conversation, and you should get the answer you need. A "Red Flag" would be if he gets defensive, is unwilling to read them with you, and doesn't understand why you might be worried.

I hope this helps.

Take care.

Theo


Paul Stride 4 years ago

It's interesting Theo. I have been painfully aware throughout most of my life that change is necessary and constant. Yet it is, often to our detriment, the very thing we put off till another day.

A failure to face these moments have cost me dearly.

Kind Regards,

Paul Stride


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Theo Selles 4 years ago Author

Hi Paul,

I can relate. Sometimes I've found myself having to react to change when I should have been the one initiating it. I get comfortable and I get afraid of change and that has cost me as well.

Thank you for the vulnerability and bravery of your comment.

Theo


not quite sure what to do. 4 years ago

my boyfriend broke up with me saying that i hurt him and said thati needed to change if i ever wanted another chance. i had low self confidence and wouldn't talk to him when i was angry. i never once even thought about cheating in fact i never even had friends when he would work i would be with my father until he got off.i have changed alot in the two months since weve broken up but he refuses to let me show him how even if we talk all the time he still wants to take time and build a friendship first. he also drinks and when he drinks he kises me pulls me in and tells me its going to be okay. i recentlly asked if i was going to get hurt waiting for him and he said he honestly doesn't know. i feel my change i know ive changed and i guess my question is do i wait and hope for the best or do i shut the door and move on like he seems to have done.


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Theo Selles 4 years ago Author

Oh, I am so sorry about the pain you are feeling. You're in that terrible limbo love hell, caught between hope and despair. Missing him and seeing him and not knowing whether to heal or hold on.

No one can or should tell you whether you should close the door. You know that's your decision alone to make. No one can ever tell you whether to stop having hope.

Still, there are some questions I think you might consider asking yourself:

1)What do you think about how you didn't have friends while you were dating him? Was that healthy and wouldn't that set up too much dependence and put pressure on your relationship?

2)Is it making it harder for you to be friends with him right now? What do you think of him saying that he can't be your boyfriend and then kissing you when he's been drinking? Is that fair to you and your heart?

3) Have you thought that perhaps it might be better for you to have some space from him for a while? Maybe that would clear your head a bit and help you build a bit more independence. Practically speaking, if it's all about him noticing change, how could he clearly notice a difference in you if he's still seeing you? Sometimes change isn't noticed by people if they see a person often (just like people don't notice how tall their kids are getting if they see them every day but relatives will exclaim about the difference when they see them after 6 months).

I know this is excruciatingly hard for you, and the thought of not seeing him would be very hard to take, let alone the pain of being separated from him and missing him so much. But how are you going to grow your self-confidence if you don't grow more independence and if you're always trying to prove yourself while getting mixed messages from him?

I wish you all the best and I hope you feel better soon.

Theo


Garrett 4 years ago

How about someone who cheats in every relationship they've been in? Or a person who is never happy no matter how hard their partner tries? Will this person always be this selfish? Will they continue this pattern throughout their life or do they eventually change and quit acting like a spoiled little brat? Why the heck do I love a woman like that? There are so many beautiful single women available... Why is it all I want is her? We've been broke up for 3 years now and I still want her. It consumes my life.


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Theo Selles 4 years ago Author

Man, if people could really choose to love the people they SHOULD love rather than the people that they do, I'd have been much happier at different times in my life!

Who can say whether your cheating selfish love interest will ever change? That's part of the problem isn't it? Holding out hope, maybe even thinking your love will save her. Thinking that you could show her how to love by how you love her and maybe even catching tantalizing glimpses of the change and love you hope for.

Is it love you feel or obsession? Some would say that at times there's no difference. Is it love or are you addicted? Again, some would claim that there's not much of a difference. Maybe the key thing to do is make this a matter of respect. You may love her, but you likely don't respect her. And can you respect yourself if you are with someone like her? Maybe you could accept that you do in some way love her, but that's not enough. Maybe you could allow yourself to grieve and let go.

Don't make the mistake that I've often made. Don't try to save someone and don't confuse intensity for love. Love is much more than that. "Love is patient, love is kind..." Love is also giving and reciprocal. So maybe in the end, you do want her, but wanting isn't the same as love either.

Grieve and let her go if you can, my friend. We can all die any minute, and the time and love you're wasting on her is time you'll never get back. Easier said than done, I know. I wish you well on your painful road ahead. I'd tell you that it'll get better over time if you let go, but that likely doesn't matter much to you now in this moment. Oh, and remember, love is not about possession either. She's not yours to keep.

All the best.

Theo


Garrett 4 years ago

Thanks for the quick response. You are right when you talk about respect. Sometimes I've wondered if its more of an obsession instead of love also. Grieve and letting go is the best bet. I just need to get the idea out of my head she'd change for the better. People are who they are and its out of my hands. I had a friend tell me not to look for things I want in a woman, but instead look for the things I don't want in a woman. No one is perfect. Thanks for your site and awesome advice.


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Theo Selles 4 years ago Author

You are very welcome.

Take care and good luck. I hope you find someone right for you.

Theo


Jessiemo27 4 years ago

Hello Theo,

I have found your article and your comments following the article to be very inspiring. I have been in a relationship with a man who has control issues. He gets very upset when he doesn't have control over a situation and he also does not like to be told what to do, in almost any circumstance. Let me just say that he has never been violent with me or threatened me in any way. He seems to be this way as a result of his upbringing, where his step dad treated him very badly and disrespected his mother on numerous occasions. We have recently broken up due to the fact that my opinions cause him to retaliate and I am not the type of woman to put up with that, especially having grown up with such behavior with my parents. He claims that me leaving him was a huge wake up call and he truly wants to be a better man and he wants to go to couples counseling at our church to help him along his journey of change. We have known each other for years and it was also the first time I have ever seen him cry, not to mention in public. If he grew up with such behavior, is it less likely for him to change and not be so defensive in terms of anyone "telling him what to do"? I am only 20 and he is 22. We have great chemistry and we always seem to find our way back to each other through all of our tough times over the years. I don't want to give up on our relationship, but I also don't want to be naïve. Regretfully, I made the mistake of venting about him to my family upon our break up, and now getting back together with him would be somewhat embarrassing. I don't really know what the next step should be for me.

I look forward to your reply,

Jessica


Ross Calvin 4 years ago

Mr. Selles, thank you for this post. I think I may have learned more reading the comments than in the initial post and I think that's great! You are truly a person of integrity and it shows in how you manage this blog. Thanks again.


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Theo Selles 4 years ago Author

First of all, thank you Ross. I appreciate your kind words. I'm glad I could help. Life's tough sometimes and we need to support each other.

Hello Jessica,

I just now have received your letter. It was marked as "spam" and I wasn't notified of its arrival. So please forgive my late reply.

I am glad that you have the strength and sense of self-worth to ensure that you are treated with the respect you deserve. It must have been difficult for you to end your relationship given how much you care for him. A few things came to mind for me as I read your letter:

First of all, you didn't do anything wrong when you "vented" to your family about your break up. That's what family is for; to support you and offer comfort in your difficult times. If the man in question has an issue with that or doesn't understand, that may be an indication of a continued need for control. Be very careful about returning to him if that is the case.

However, if you truly think that you should resume the relationship, don't let a simple thing like embarassment get in your way. But, are you sure that it's embarassment? Is it possible that you are worried that people who have supported you through your difficulties might think that you are making the same mistake again and that you may be putting yourself in harm's way?

Of course it is possible that he may change. You are both so young that so much of life's learning is still ahead of you. However, it seems to me that he should have been the one to read my article and connect with me, not you. Be careful about doing his work for him. Yes, he may now realize that he needs to change, and he may be motivated to do so. But as I note in my article, much more is involved in change than simply wanting to and being aware of a need to do so.

I advise that your next step would be to see if he gets professional help for his family related issues and, if you wish, to be open to hearing him talk about what he is learning about himself and how he is using that awareness to become a different less controlling person. I understand the draw of chemistry, but as you know, much more than attraction is needed for a healthy relationship.

Do not make the mistake of trying to get him into counselling or accepting other forms of help. The more you work on his issues for him, the less he will do so himself. If what you say is true, he needs to heal himself so that he will be healthy for the long term, not just make some surface changes for the short term in order to get you back.

I hope this helps.

Please feel free to keep in touch.

Theo


KB 4 years ago

Hi Theo,

You seem to give great objective advice and that is exactly what I need. I think my husband is being lazy about work. I'm just not sure if he's a motivated person, a "go getter", per say. But I always thought he would be. He does work but I feel that he could do more. I try to be supportive but where do you draw the line between supportive and too nice? I want to be with him but I'm scared he will never be as successful as I want him to be. How can I motivate him to take more initiative in getting things done?

Thanks so much for any help.

KB


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Theo Selles 4 years ago Author

Hi KB,

Thanks for writing.

What does your husband think? Does he think he is lazy? Does he think he does enough? Would he say that you are too work focused and too driven?

Couples frequently get involved in polarized extremes where the more one person pushes a particular position the more the other pushes back in the other direction. Before you know it, they are too far apart to be able to find a middle ground (perhaps in this case somewhere between being "driven" and "lazy") . They become caught in a viscious circle where the more she complains about his lack of work initiative the less he does which leads her to complain more which leads him to do less which leads her to complain more ... and so on and so on. He could get defensive about how he is NOT lazy, and you could get defensive about how you are NOT driven. He could insist that he would do more if you would just stop complaining and you could insist you would stop complaining if he would do more. And all you would continue to do is react to each other.

The trick is not to find out where the circle began (impossible and involves a great deal of blaming and finger pointing) but to find a way to break the pattern.

You should never try to motivate your partner to take more initiative. Doing so makes it impossible for him to take initiative because he's just responding to you. And, you need to stay out of a parent child relationship with him because if you don't, it will ruin your chances of being adults together.

I'm curious about what would happen if you thanked him for the work that he did do, and acknowledged that you and he may be different when it comes to work (not you "better" and he "worse"!). Then ask him if he would like to talk with you about what "success" means to him and to you. You may find out that the two of you have some differences and some similarities in that regard.

Build on the things you have in common and then ask what he thinks might be a good compromise between the others. Have both of you commit to them if they are fair to both of you, and enjoy moving forward free from the circle!

Hope that helps.

Theo


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Success For You 4 years ago

I agree Theo that the desire to change or recognition of the need for change is paramount. There's an old leadership expression, " All improvement is change, but not all change is improvement. In my consulting practice, I emphasize this a great deal. I enjoy your writings and will follow you more often...Aynn


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Theo Selles 4 years ago Author

Thank you, Aynn.

It was generous of you to freely offer your compliment.

Theo


Rob M 4 years ago

Theo,

Recent events have caused me a lot of soul searching and at 47 one wonders whether it is possible to have true change, especially when people you trust and love are doubting you, understandably.

Your 10 key factors I found confronting and motivating. I put them in an email to my best friend, wife and lover (the same person of course) and wrote how I really felt about each point in detail. We're at a crossroads, and the emotional trauma that she has caused me recently is a direct and justified response to many years of me making really bad choices, being a bad husband and father, and failing her. She's not perfect, nobody is, but compared to me she's an angel and a fantastic mother and wife.

These recent events have stressed me more than anything in my life, and while I had a lot of initial resentment, anger, ...., I now look back and know it was really necessary. All sorts of emotions, anger, jealousy, selfishness, arrogance etc etc, they are all part of the journey and I passed through them all in what seems like the blink of an eye but yet they took an eternity. At every point, I realised that the only true constant thing was that I did actually love her, but never truly let her know. Living in a comfort zone is the same as living in a gaol (jail). She also loved/loves me and has put up with me for so long, but now the crossroads.

So these recent events, the arguments, the anger, the erosion of trust, cause a lot of stress. I can't eat, can't sleep, she's the focus of every thought I have and the nature of our situation means I have extra responsibility while she travels. They say once something is seen it can't be unseen, and I've truly seen what I've done, what I've become and what it has caused to those I love the most - and with any consideration for them let alone my own self respect and self esteem this cannot be left un-addressed. No more powerful agent for change, it's a complete epiphany, change in mindset, challenging, scary but absolutely imperative.

So your 10 points was very helpful to me, in a way that I can't express properly in words, makes me well up. It took a long time to detail my response to each point and I hope it is as valuable to my best friend as it was to me. I answered them all and while I know there is a lot of work to do, I know that your 10 points caused me more introspection, more soul searching and more critical thinking of where I was at and where I need to be.

At 47, I really feel the need, the want, the drive and the desire for true change, and I know it's happening. Even if things don't work out, and I'll work hard and tirelessly at them working out, the need for change is not dependent on a current situation or outcome, it simply is needed or it isn't, you either need to change or you don't. And I *need* to change, for my loved ones, and for myself. If all else fails, its for myself, because I despise what I was and I know I can do so much better, so much better.

There's lots of sites I've read in the last few weeks and taken something useful away from, but your 10 key factors were a key part in my journey and my process, wherever it leads.

A really genuine thank you Theo. It seems like hardly know the person I'm changing into, but if feels so good.

Rob


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Theo Selles 4 years ago Author

Hello Rob,

Thank you for your letter. It seems genuine and heartfelt. I appreciate you taking the time to write it.

I especially liked how you detailed a response to each of the ten points. Doing so shows a commitment to actual change that simply talking about it would not. For each point, detail behavioural "proof" of what you have done and what you will be doing. Break each into tangible goals that can be actually seen/experienced by others, and invite them to give you feedback as you work to grow. Doing so will help move you from "talk is cheap" to actual lasting difference.

I wish you well, and I truly hope that things work out for you and your best friend.

All the best,

Theo


Rob M 4 years ago

Hi Theo,

I really hope my wife and best friend sees it that way. I've probably smothered her and she doesn't see or believe the change. This isn't a journey I wan't to take alone, even though I'm fully committed to do it regardless - I want her to be my partner, critic, support, anything, but to at least be with me because she stands to gain so much. She's the reason this has happened (because of what I was and what I'm recovering from so to speak), and while it would be easy and cheap to say she's to 'blame', from where I see things this is such a necessary thing that she is to 'thank' even though the journey has been very painful. Whether she realises it or not, she's responsible for my awakening, my growth, learning, change that is making me a far better person. I believe that, it feels so right.

It sounds so melodramatic, so over-emphasised, I'm a cynical person myself, but what else can I say. Emotions run high and while it feels so good to be on this path there is the fear that she won't continue to be by my side to finally reap the benefits of all her years of patience with me, being unworthy of her grace. I really hope that she allows me to show her how things can be, rather than it just being for the benefit for the 'next person', because I can't imagine anyone after her ... after all the soul searching she's the only person I want to be with and I'd simply do anything to prove my love and my commitment to change, and I will. I hope it's enough ...

As for the 10 - I have a long an embarrassing but necessary list of changes that need to happen along with what they mean. It's embarrassing and hurtful and confronting, but incredibly necessary and I hope ultimately rewarding and fulfilling. I'm way past caring what people think about who and what I am or was - I care that people realise I have self respect, can take criticism and can learn and change to be a better person. I wish I'd been here years ago ...

Thanks ... Rob


Theo Selles profile image

Theo Selles 4 years ago Author

You are welcome.

I appreciate your honesty and I hope you won't pressure her due to your new-found insights and motivation.

I suggest you read my Hub about rebuilding trust. Perhaps that would be helpful for both of you. Let me know what you think.

Theo


Rosalie 3 years ago

Dear Theo,

I recently broke up (sadly, but mutually and amicably) with my boyfriend of three years. Within the relationship I would either feel euphorically happy or devastatingly sad. Often when we had a problem, he would walk out of the house, refusing to talk through the issue calmly. On a couple of occasions during fights he got quite emotionally and verbally abusive. (He never, and *would* never lay a finger on me). He has bipolar and ADD and consequently, his mood swings could be a bit nightmare-ish and I ended up feeling like I was walking on eggshells around him. I know most couples fight, but good couples fight well, and he was incapable of this. He's defensive, stubborn and not very self-reflective. He is thirty years old. For many reasons, I don't think he's "the one", but I love him, and hate the thought that if if *if* we wanted to, we couldn't give it another go down the line. I desperately want him to change because in many ways, we were perfect for each other. He is going to therapy currently... I wonder that if down the line, if we wanted to get back together, he'd be open to therapy to particularly address the issues I have mentioned in this post. I don't want to think of him as a lost cause...


Theo Selles profile image

Theo Selles 3 years ago Author

Thanks for sharing, Rosalie.

You haven't asked me for anything so perhaps the best thing would be for him to read your post to learn more about how you feel. It's tough, isn't it, to be in love with someone who is very possibly not the right one for you, and may, in fact, not be what is healthy for you? I hope things work out for him in therapy, and for you and your heart.

Theo


Sophie A 3 years ago

Theo,

I stumbled upton your post while searching for answers...As well as your post on rebuilding trust.

I'm in a similar situation as the woman above, except in my case he did put his hands on me. I realize now that as perfect as our relationship was, there were a lot of issues that needed to change on his part. I ended up leaving because I new if I didn't, things would never be different. I guess with the time that's past, and me telling him the things that he's done that I'm not okay with...that I could never go back to a relationship like that. He says he would do anything to fix things and get his family back. I know I can tell him all the things that need to change in order for us to even begin to move forward, but I also know HE needs to be the one to take initiative and seriously DO something, rather then say he's going to change because he knows what he did wrong. I've been going around in circles because I don't want things to change now because it looks nice and then things go right back. I always knew before where my limit was with giving chances.....but this time, it's been really hard. What if he does change? How many chances does someone deserve? If someone makes one really bad decision that lead to all these other problems in our relationship does that dictate who they are? I know my family wants me to have nothing to do with him because they saw how unhappy I was and are being protective and feel he's not going to change and doesn't deserve any chances. Also, I know alcohol has played a huge part and something that needs help and to be addressed. It can be a sensitive topic, what would be the best way of approaching this?

Thank you for your time, it is much appreciated!


Theo Selles profile image

Theo Selles 3 years ago Author

Hi Sophie,

Thanks for the letter.

I gather he is just talking at this point about his willingness to change and asking you what he needs to do in order for you to give him another chance.

It strikes me that if he has a drinking problem and that he has physically assaulted you he would already know some of what he needs to change. Also, I am willing to bet that you have in the past told him what you are/were unhappy about. Obviously noone can tell you if someone else is going to permamently change or how many chances someone should get, but I would suggest that his changes will be more genuine and longlasting if he doesn't rely on you to now tell him what to do.

Personally, I would be much more likely to trust in the possiblity of change and open to giving someone another chance if they came to me and told me about all the changes they have already made and told me how they accomplished them (therapy, books, personal growth programs, open-hearted discussions with friends) than if they just talked about their willingness to change. I'd want to know what they've changed, what is different about them, how they would handle similar situations in the future, what they understood about where their issues stemmed, how much they could now understand about how much they hurt me... If they can't do that, it's more likely to be about their need, their loss, and their good intentions. Sadly, once people get what they need, those good intentions often seem to fade.

Does that help?

Theo


MidgeH 3 years ago

Hello Theo

After reading your article and all of the responses, I felt compelled to write to you myself. I am in a 4 1/2 year relationship. We have lived together for 3 of those. 6 months ago..this is the person I wanted to marry and spend the rest of my life with. Today, we are on day 3 of a week long separation with no contact on my request. I am generally happy in the relationship. We get along well, for the most part have the same views and goals, discuss the future and agree on the majority of our major beliefs (ethics, religion, marriage, children etc.). This is the first relationship where I can truly be myself - the good and the bad. The problem is he will not be intimate with me. Fort he past 2 years we have probably had intercourse 5 times. I have tried numerous different ways to help initiate but all have failed. You can imagine what this rejection does to a women - let alone anyone. I have explained to him how this has effected me...yet, 2 years later there has been no change. I know I can't force him to be intimate with me...but at the same time, I feel I deserve a relationship where I am with someone that wants to be with me. I do not know if there are deep routed sexual issues on his end as he said there are none. But he did have this same problem in previous relationships. He has not had many partners, was a late bloomer at age 23 and for the remainder of his time relied on pron. We have had some issues with him seeking porn instead of physical contact that we tried to deal with with a therapist but was unsuccessful as he did not want to go anymore and said he would handle it on his own. Since, we have not had any more run in's with porn, but we are still not intimate. We are now at a cross roads where I can not take it anymore and have asked him for a week break to sort things out. So, can people change in this respect? or what would you suggest?


Theo Selles profile image

Theo Selles 3 years ago Author

Hi Midge,

Thanks for the note.

This is a complicated issue, as it typically is with men and sex. Yes, it's something that people can change, but all the change rules I listed apply, especially the need for him to want to change.

There are any number of possible issues going on here, including physical ones. He'd need to go to his doctor to rule these out. There are possible psychological issues that could be at play and a Sex Therapist could do an assessment for those. The Sex Therapist could also do an assessment of your relationship overall to determine if there are issues present that are getting in the way. When you refer to "run ins with porn" it led me to wonder if he feels inhibited by you in terms of what is and is not considered "off limits." The Sex Therapist would hopefully open communication between the two of you so that you could both freely discuss your ideas, hopes, fantasies, turn ons etc. Increased verbal intimacy might lead to increased physical intimacy.

You did mention seeing a therapist, but you want one who has sex therapy training. And, if he chooses to not work with the therapist, he needs to be able to "show his work" to you, rather than simply avoid whatever discomfort he may be feeling.

Here's a good link: http://my.clevelandclinic.org/disorders/sexual_dys...

Take care,

Theo


unsweetenedtea1 3 years ago

I loved your article and clicked some google ads for you. I am addicted to being late. I don't know why but it gives me a rush and keeps life from getting boring. I have been late all my life and it has caused me tremendous social embarrassment and will be bad for my future job. But I always save everything to the last minute and somehow enjoy running to class and scurrying around and making people wait for me. It gives me a "high". I also think I do it to eliminate OCD behaviors that I do before leaving such as choosing the perfect outfit to wear because if I save it to the last minute I dont have time to obsess. Somehow though I still do the behaviors anyway. How can I change? What can I replace this behavior with and what kind of "reward" can I set up for having changed?


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Theo Selles 3 years ago Author

Hello UST1,

Thanks for the note and the clicks.

Sounds like many of the change components are in place for you already, particularly self-awareness. Don't forget to enlist support.

I'm not sure anyone but you can determine what would be a satisfying substitute reward for you. But, what the heck, I'll try!

First of all, is there anyway you can make the rest of your life more exciting so that you won't need to rely on being late for excitement? I'm not suggesting that you replace being late with another addiction, but if your life is boring, maybe you need to examine it and create new interests or hobbies.

Second, have you considered replacing excitement with empathy? What I mean is, when you are late, you impact the lives of people who are waiting for you. Being late sends them a message, whether you mean to do so or not, that they and their time are less important than you and your time. Self-respect and pride in your new-found maturity may not give you the same adrenaline rush, but they come with some very postive reinforcing feelings as well. The reward you get from your own personal satisfaction combined with the respect you'll gain from the people who you used to keep waiting might be as significant to you as the temporary lateness high (which is usually spoiled by ensuing guilt anyway).

What do you think?

Theo


unsweetenedtea1 3 years ago

Hi Theo,

Thanks, you seem to know me without having met me. I found your response very helpful to fixing the excitement addiction. I especially liked the part about replacing excitement with empathy.

I did forget to mention (because I was running late) that I'm such a poor time manager that I feel it's a waste of time to be early (or even on time). I write the best papers when I'm supposed to be somewhere. I cancel social outings, skip class, and dont sleep to study and have gotten away with coming an hour late to exams to study (which further reinforces my problem). I never seem to have enough time and thats why im late. I also hate leaving things unfinished. I feel like I need a concrete plan but I don't know what to include in that.

I'm in psychology and am currently deciding between a masters (counseling) and a doctorate (psyd) and am seriously concerned about the effect this problem may have on my ability to complete a doctorate program.


Theo Selles profile image

Theo Selles 3 years ago Author

Hello again Tea,

There's no doubt that this problem will have an impact on your ability to complete either a Doctorate or a Masters even if only because the tolerance of this behaviour will lessen as you move forward. More importantly, it would demonstrate to your supervisors an issue that would impact on your ability to help others. You're considering going into a "helping" profession, and it's expected of you that you can resolve your own issues. Otherwise you'd be rather hypocritical in your efforts to help others achieve change.

The good news is that you can apply the strategies you are learning about to yourself. What an ideal way to model self-awareness and growth! Play around with the different theories which could explain your behaviour and practice some of the techniques on yourself to see how they work. This may also be a good way of determining if you are suited for the field. Counselling requires people to be authentic. If you can't help yourself, or if you're reluctant to get professional help yourself, perhaps you shouldn't be trying to help others. How's that for motivation?

Theo


unsweetenedtea1 3 years ago

That sure is motivation. Thanks again for your help and I will let you know how it goes!


Theo Selles profile image

Theo Selles 3 years ago Author

Cool. Please do.

Theo


LLambie profile image

LLambie 3 years ago from UK

Interesting article. Self-awareness is indeed very relevant. I think there is a lack of self-awareness in many organizations - perhaps that is a fault with management or perhaps its just something else? Perhaps its the case that self-awareness is often ignored in favor of the ever-popular trait in the workplace of having an abundance of self-belief!

I also like to think that getting people to improve on what they already are is a lot easier than getting people to change entirely. That's the tact I take when managing people.


Theo Selles profile image

Theo Selles 3 years ago Author

Thank you.

I agree with you about incremental change based on current abilities. I think the lack of self-awareness in organizations is due to a general lack of self-awareness in the population.

Theo


Kim 8 months ago

Hi Theo.

I was working in a recruitment industry for almost 8yrs now. After 1.5 years working with them such as clients, applicants, staff.. there is some change happened to me.. I often stubborn, tough talking with colleagues and applicants maybe because of when my boyfriend left me caring alone with our child. I received so many criticism by other people specially in a workplace. After 7 years of working with them, I resigned and move to other place where other people wouldn't know me .. by that... I started to change myself, my attitude, my social life, --then after a year.. I return back to the old company where people used to criticize me. But I decided to work in branch office instead in my old first company so I can still avoid them... And right now.. I am trying to be open my mind to any on going criticism by other people.. still trying to improve things I made myself wrong but most of them still not understand and believe the changes I am trying to be. ----Changes I made.. not to get upset easily.. before I speak I think many times, trying to understand what others capability to do, life style perhaps, but I am still thinking if these are really a positive start to work with other colleagues in a workplace.


Theo Selles profile image

Theo Selles 8 months ago Author

Hi Kim,

I'm not completely clear about what you're asking, but I think you've made a great start to changing. You certainly seemed to have changed yourself, which is really all you can do. Other people's change is their job, and you will just have to let them think whatever they think. The important thing here is to not allow their lack of change to give you permission to change back to the person you were before. It's so easy to blame other people for the times we don't meet our own personal moral and ethical standards. Being accountable to yourself can be hard, but it is very rewarding in terms of your own peace of mind.

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