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TO CHANGE, OR NOT TO CHANGE?

My goal in writing this weekly blog is to encourage readers to make some changes that can lead to improvements in the quality of their relationships.  But some people have no patience for this line of thought. Below is a slightly edited version of a discussion that illustrates this view.  Names have been changed for privacy considerations.

The Discussion

open mindEd: I do not understand why adults would care about the opinions of others or why they would want to be with someone that does not want to be with them.  When people don’t like you for who you are, they can go take a hike.

Sue: I don’t think relationship break-ups should be dismissed out of hand. There is much to be said for not jumping from one relationship to another. It is better to grieve the loss and to spend some time alone trying to figure out what went wrong in order to prevent the same issues from presenting themselves next time.

Ron: Some people don’t mind being alone, so if they lose all of their relationships it doesn’t bother them.  But for those who don’t like to be lonely, making some changes can make sense. I’ve seen too many friends rush into a new relationship and repeat history. They end up hurting about being lonely once again but never stop to think about what changes they can make.

Sue: Too many people do not know the difference between being alone and being lonely. They go from one relationship to the next…without thought to the collective damage they do to themselves…and to others.

Ed: I disagree. Nothing goes wrong unless your two personalities do not match. If you broke up, that means you should move on. Trying to change yourself to accommodate the next possible relationship would simply be making yourself dishonest in the relationship and misrepresenting your true self. I have been in relationships in which I had to make a constant effort. It sucked. I am now in a relationship in which I am just myself and so is my wife. We will be celebrating our tenth anniversary this year and we have never had any problems with our relationship. We do not fight as there is no reason for us to fight.

Sue: It’s not about changing who you are.

Ron: In many cases, people who have one relationship after another find themselves dealing with the exact same issues from one relationship to the next. In this case, unless we DO change ourselves, our expectations, or whatever it is that keeps creating the problems that end our relationships, we will not ever know the happiness of a true relationship. There are a lot of damaged people in this world. Nothing wrong with that. Just a lot of people who have to do a lot of work in order to move past that which damaged them, and is preventing them from finding happiness within a relationship.

Sue: I agree with those pointing out the responsibility aspect of relationships. I do think it’s important to get out and spend time around people, get involved in groups and activities. Coop anyone up with nothing to do and they’ll become depressed. But just jumping into a relationship seems kind of selfish, just using the first person who comes along to distract from your own problems.

Ron: I think with any important decision, whether it’s voting, or a relationship, or even researching a given topic, it’s important to be careful and make choices responsibly with care to how they affect others and not just oneself, which is all I think many here are saying.

Some of My Thoughts On This Discussion

There are a few people out there who really don’t care much about having relationships.  They enjoy being alone and if a relationship comes along that they value, this is fine, but if not, this is fine as well.

For the rest of us, having a few valued relationships is up there with fine food and drink.  And if a boy gets used to having his meal served to him by his mother, if she dies, he will soon learn to get his meals some other way.  This new way may not be as pleasant to him, particularly at first.  It may not feel like he is acting “like this is his natural self,”  but in time, it will come to feel more and more comfortable and “natural.”

When we learn a new skill, at first it may not feel “natural” to us.  With practice, the skill soon becomes so smoothly executed that we don’t have to think much about it.  At that point, it does feel “natural.”

Now, there are people who, upon entering into a relationship, come to see that they would have to change so much about themselves in order to make the relationship work that they end up deciding to try to find someone else.  Some of these people find that very soon after the break-up they meet someone that is just right for them.  From these people’s experience, Ed’s comments in the above discussion might make sense.  Ed had decided to end his relationship with some woman rather than making any changes in his life, and he soon found a woman he enjoys being with.  So Ed’s strategy worked for him.  The only thing that Ed is wrong about is that just because this worked out so well for him doesn’t mean it will work out as well for many others.  He seems not to be open to this possibility. Nevertheless, I wish him well.

For other people, efforts to find someone whom they can have a rewarding relationship with may meet with one failure after another.  And for still others, even after a single relationship break-up, feelings of regret may lead to thoughts of “what if?”  These types of experiences can lead them to learn new skills to try out.

Some changes that a person might try out may never come to feel “natural.” When this happens, it makes sense to leave them by the wayside.  But some changes, with practice, may not only come to feel “natural,” but may also lead to treasured relationships.

Well, that’s my post for this week.  I hope you stop by again soon.

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Some people will enjoy reading this blog by beginning with the first post and then moving forward to the next more recent one; then to the next one; and so on. This permits readers to catch up on some ideas that were presented earlier and to move through all of the ideas in a systematic fashion to develop their emotional and social intelligence. To begin at the very first post you can click HERE.

CAN A CONFLICT EVER BE TRULY RESOLVED?
READING ABOUT EMOTIONAL MATURITY IS OFTEN NOT ENOUGH

About the Author

Jeffrey Rubin grew up in Brooklyn, received his PhD from the University of Minnesota and has taught conflict resolution there as well as at a psychiatric clinic, a correctional facility and a number of public schools. He has published articles on anger and conflict resolution and has authored three novels.

2 Comments

  1. Very good message, Dr. Rubin, to “encourage readers to make some changes that can lead to improvements in the quality of their relationships.” Have you thought to incorporate some of the research by Ronald Rohner on parent-child relationships and perceptions of rejection into your posts on this subject? It is very good.

    I heard an hour-long video of Dr. Rohner laying out his theory & research at video at http://canal.uned.es/mmobj/index/id/15728 (you can skip ahead to omit the introduction in Spanish if you are not fluent in that tongue); his web address and email are http://www.csiar.uconn.edu & rohner@uconn.edu

    Most sincerely yours,

    Dr. Robin Lynn Treptow Robin Lynn Treptow, PhD Wisdom for the Body & for the Soul robinlynn1407@mac.com (406) 899-1548 (voice)

  2. Hi Dr. Treptow. Thanks for your comment. To answer your question, I am not familiar with Ronald Rohner or his work on parent-child relationships and perceptions of rejection. In your comment you provided a link to a video. I’ll try to watch it soon. My Best.

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