There's an old adage: "Men marry women wanting them to never change. Women marry men hoping they'll change." Of course, neither one is fair nor realistic, but it's a saying for a reason: There's some degree of truth in it. Men don't want women to gain weight, get old, get preoccupied with children, or lose interest in sex. Women want guys who were never romantic to become so. Who were never ambitious to become so. Who were never this/that/take your pick to ... become so. It's amazing that people get married at all, but I guess hope springs eternal. Take the case of Julia, who married Mathew hoping he'd turn from a stoic, uncommunicative guy into someone who could have the important emotional conversations when needed ...
As written about in The Huffington Post, Julia tries to engage her husband in some much-needed discussions about his lack of hygiene and messiness, but always runs smack up against some variation of: "You knew this about me when you married me."
When she tries to get him into counseling, he replies, "I don't believe in marriage counseling."
Finally realizing not only that Mathew wasn't about to change but that he had no inkling of even trying, she divorced him. She said:
You know, Mathew was right. He was pretty close-mouthed and close-minded when we dated and when we got married. I just didn't want to see it. For years, I hoped that he would change. I thought that my love would be enough to motivate him to open his heart. I realize now how blind I was to his dark side. It's not as if he prevented me from seeing him clearly. I just didn't want to see his shortcomings. I was such a romantic back then. I believed that love conquers all. I'm wiser now, and have learned the hard way what I must have in my life.
It's all well and good to say, "You should love your partner exactly as they are," but the problem is that you often don't know how your partner is until you've been together for a long time. Those bad hygiene habits may not have existed on the honeymoon.
But Mathew's tight-lipped inability to discuss issues was there from the beginning, Julia -- like a lot of people in love -- just assumed that he would open up over time. Perhaps it didn't even bother her, or attracted her, in the beginning. Often what we love about someone in year one is the very same thing we can't stand in year 15. (Or year two!)
The lesson? Don't let love, sex, chemistry, attraction, or a desire to get married and have babies blind you to the essential personality traits of your partner -- those ones he has most likely shown you from date number one.
Don't come up with "fantasy scenarios" about how he REALLY is, or why he might be a certain way. If a guy is uncommunicative, say to yourself the truth, that he's uncommunicative. Leave it at that. Don't think, "He's uncommunicative but only because he had a hard childhood and I'll make him forget that ..." or whatever. Don't romanticize it either. "He's quiet, just like strong men in romance novels are ... I know deep down he's got a lot of thoughts and emotions going on."
Go by what you are seeing, not what you're hoping to see.
At least that way, you know what you're getting. Maybe you can love your quiet guy anyway. Maybe you can't.
People do change. Some change in the extreme. The problem is, you can't control if, when, and how a partner might change. Only he or she can do that.
Have you ever tried to change your spouse? Do you think people change and under what circumstances?
Image via Tobyotter/Flickr