Can Women Change Men... And What Happens When They Do?
The other day, my girlfriend was upset with me again and creating drama. This is to be expected, as she's a high energy, energetic girl with a lot going on right now; I understand and commiserate. This is how it is with women and drama. But there's one thing she was trying to do that irked me somewhat.
She was trying to change me.
To any man out there who's ever had a girlfriend before, you probably know what I'm talking about. Women universally want men to change. It's only in those rare moments during the honeymoon phase of the relationship -- usually the first 90 days or so -- that this doesn't go on.
You also get a brief reprieve following a major capitulation, but this doesn't last and only breeds more struggles in the long term.
In any event, there's a famous quote about marriage by the eminent physicist (and philanderer, as it turns out) Albert Einstein, which we can pretty easily extrapolate to relationships of all sorts. What Einstein said was this:
"Women marry men hoping they will change. Men marry women hoping they will not. So each is inevitably disappointed."
Hmm. Guess they should've given him a Noble prize in humanities, too.
Why Do Women Try to Change Men?
It's as old an issue as any other in life: the efforts of women to get men to change, and that age old question, "Can women change men?"
The short answer is, "No, not really, but that doesn't stop most women from trying."
Just the other day, after helping my girlfriend do stuff and deal with drama all week, I got a text message from her saying that she and my ex-girlfriend agreed that I need to be less selfish.
To an extent, the problem is my fault. I've let her spend too much time with me, which has led her to start seeing me as more of a long-term provider type, and she's upped her expectations. Now she pushes constantly for me to start acting more like her ex-boyfriend, whom she frequently admits to never having had any strong feelings for and breaking up with because of that.
Sounds like a great role model she recommends I aspire to emulate.
I'm somewhat annoyed by it, but I understand and am being as patient with her as I can be. I've seen this behavior to one extent or another with every girlfriend I've had: inevitably, girls want you to change.
What do they want you to change into? Typically, it's whatever you aren't.
The nice guys get told they should be more exciting and sexy like the bad boys are.
The bad boys get told they should be safer and more reliable and attentive like the nice guys are.
Every time I talk about this with women too, I get the same answer. First it's:
No, all my friends are dating/married to amazing men and they're SOOO happy.
then a few days later they come back to me and tell me:
My friend Jessica just started crying to me and telling me how her boyfriend doesn't do ANYTHING around the house and he NEVER listens to her and always goes out and disappears for the night and doesn't even call her
I just found out my friend Amber's been having an affair with some ugly guy from her work. I don't understand it; her husband's so nice and wonderful!
And then they tell me they guess maybe I'm right.
And then the next day they go back to trying to change me again.
This happens because of a grass-is-always-greener sort of mentality that humans naturally tend to have. Just like single people often wish they could be in a relationship, and people in a relationship think their single friends are so lucky not to have to deal with being in a relationship, so too do women dating nice guys wish they were dating bad boys, and women dating bad boys wish they were dating nice guys.
How many times have you heard a woman say, "Oh, why can't I ever date a nice guy?"
And yet, she's still dating a bad boy. The grass is always greener on the other side.
Acclimation: Enemy of Long Term Relationships
There's something else, though, too, and it's called "acclimation."
One of the wonderful things that makes life so adaptable is its ability to acclimate to all manner of situations. Studies have shown a period of roughly 18 months for most humans to acclimate to major life changes. Among other things, they've found:
- When you become fully paralyzed, within 18 months you've returned to the same level of happiness or contentment you were at prior to your paralysis
- When you win the lottery or otherwise suddenly come into large amounts of money, within 18 months you've returned to the same level of life satisfaction you had prior to your windfall
Those are some pretty startling statistics if you've never seen them before. We humans are remarkably adaptive creatures. Even a major buzzkill like total paralysis or a major advancement like tons of money only creates a temporary mood change, and we're able to go on living our lives without riding emotional highs or lows forever.
Unfortunately for relationships though, this same principle of acclimation to all things holds true here as well.
I meet a lot of guys who've struggled with women all their lives, and their one dream is to find an amazing, special girl, and give her the world.
What happens when they finally get her though? Well, typically... after a while, they start getting a little restless, and realize there's a lot more they haven't experienced in life yet. They got what they thought they wanted, but once they had it, they acclimated to it. And then it wasn't all that amazing anymore.
Similarly, many women think that all they want is to find that wonderful, amazing man who sweeps them off their feet and whisks them away to the land of happily ever after. And then they get married, and settle down and... they realize that sitting on the couch watching TV in suburbia together isn't as much a dream come true as they thought it would be.
They start to realize why the movie ends when Cinderella rides off with Prince Charming, and why you don't instead sit there and watch the next fifty years of their lives together.
People acclimate. If a girl is with a great guy who takes care of everything for her and makes her feel completely safe and secure, that's nice at first, but eventually she gets used to it, expects it, and starts to feel bored and long for some excitement and emotional turmoil.
If a girl is with a bad boy who brings a lot of passion and excitement and emotional turmoil into her life, eventually she gets used to the good emotions, gets tired of the bad ones, and starts to long for some tranquility, safety, and security.
And then, either way, she starts pushing for you to change.
At first, it's a little bit. A few small suggestions here and there. "Maybe sometimes you could try doing this," she'll suggest. "Or we can do that," she might say.
Then the suggestions become a bit more insistent. Then they turn into demands. Then upsets and violent drama.
Then a breaking point is reached; she gets incredibly upset, and you either put your hand down, or capitulate. Either way, if handled appropriately, she gets really nice for a while, and is satisfied. If handled clumsily or insensitively, she gets fed up and walks out.
This tends to be very difficult for men to understand, as men don't have the kinds of competing interests that women do. Women always must struggle between the desire for a man who makes them feel safe, and the desire for a man who makes them feel alive. And, as much as you can pull out all the stops and try your best to be all of what women want, in the long run, you'll always end up more on one side of the equation than the other.
Because of acclimation, people get used to what you bring to their lives -- no matter how amazing -- and then long for more.
Thus the saying, "You never realize what you have until it's gone."
This is simply how it is with people -- women and men.
What Happens If You Change?
Something really bad, that's what.
At an instinctual level, women know that men don't change. And they don't respect the men who do.
Yes, you'll hear the girls who say, "Once we got serious, Pete became such a great, stable boyfriend and he's so loyal and good now!"
It's status-jockeying. It has nothing to do with her actual feelings about the guy.
One of the things women do that I've always found interesting is status-jockey by commenting on their man. Men do it too with women, but to a far lesser extent. You'll hear things like this from women:
- "I'm so unlucky. William only cooks for me three times a week. The rest of the time I have to fend for myself!"
- "Harry bought me this computer for my birthday. Isn't it great?"
- "Clevon got me these earrings, but they're only sapphires. I told him I wanted diamonds. The man doesn't listen!"
It's bragging, often veiled in a "complaint" as if to say, "Look how good my man is... but I expect even better!"
And it has nothing to do with a woman's actual feelings about a man, so pay it no mind. An ex-girlfriend of mine used to brag about me heavily, even as we were going through a nasty break up. She still used me to status-jockey among her coworkers, since the break up was going on behind the scenes instead of being something public.
But back to if you change.
So what if you capitulate, become everything she says she wants you to be, and change?
At best, you end up feeling trapped in a relationship where you aren't able to be the man you are, as you struggle to please the woman who dictates who you are. At worst, the very woman you changed for becomes put off by your acquiescence and the relationship falls apart.
Never, ever change for a woman. Or for anyone else, for that matter, besides yourself. You should only ever change into something that YOU, in and of yourself, want to become.
Yes, sometimes women change men. But the outcome is almost universally bad... for both parties.
Combating Change Requests
I'm going to assume that everyone reading this blog is going to align himself more in the vein of the bad boy than the nice guy, for reasons pretty clearly lain out in the posts linked to earlier on those dispositions: women just are more attracted to, more loyal to, and treat bad boys better than nice guys (though, actually it's best of all when you combine both worlds and become a genuine man).
So let's say you're more of the wild stallion type and your girl's taken up the task of trying to break you. We'll talk about the actual breaking process a little more in-depth in the upcoming article on domestication, but for now let's say some of the following is going on:
- She's telling you you need to do this, this, and that
- She's telling you you're a bad guy and other men are so much better than you
- She's getting moody and upset and cold at times, sometimes seemingly for no reason
First, when you're getting this, make a mental note that you need to set clearer expectations from the outset of the relationship.
Also, make sure you're not contributing to the problem -- are you frequently reinforcing good behavior from her, complimenting her on things she is or does that you genuinely like and appreciate, and giving her at least a little attention? If not, this lack of appreciation is likely part of the problem.
That said, your approach to change requests needs to be, effectively, twofold:
- Listen to what she's saying, repeat it back to her, and make sure she understands that you understand
- Then, let her know you are the way you are
Don't say, "I'll never change," as this frames things in a negative way. Instead, state firmly, powerfully, and decisively exactly what kind of man you are and what you aim to do with your life. Women respect a man who knows who he is, and they lay off trying to pressure a man who's clear and absolute in his personal vision for himself.
Remember, if you show weakness or uncertainty, you open the door. You must be strong and absolute in who you are and what your life is like and what she can expect being with you. No attempts to sugarcoat it or make it sound nicer than it is; she'll see right through those.
Here's an example of the kind of communication I'm talking about:
Girl: "My ex-boyfriend used to cook for me and clean the apartment and give me massages and wash my hair for me. You don't to any of those things!"
Guy: "First off, I'm not your ex-boyfriend. Second... I'm a man. An ambitious man. My number one priority is on building businesses and leaving a legacy and doing great things. I can't be your girlfriend or wife. And you wouldn't want me in that role anyway, I'm horrible at it. I'm the type of guy who goes out and goes to battle and makes waves in the world and wants to come home to a woman who's soft and warm and makes him feel respected and appreciated.
"I know sometimes it's hard with me, and I really do want you to have everything you want. If you want to be with a man who can devote a lot more time to you and do lots of little things to please you and be very considerate and sensitive and still be a good and successful man you can be proud of, you can of course have that kind of man. You're an amazing woman and you can get whatever kind of man you want. I don't think you'll be happier with another man other than me, and I think we can do great things together, but I don't ever want you to feel like you're trapped being with a rigid, inflexible, uncompromising man like me, because you aren't. If you choose to be with me, I think you're going to end up having a life that's far better than the ordinary, but that's for you to choose and decide and make your mind up on."
This is the kind of communication that tells a woman you are dead serious about not changing, that you know who you are, and that no amount of pushing and compelling by her is going to change you into Mr. Nice Guy.
At the same time, it also reassures her that she's part of the picture for you, and that with you, great things are possible.
Every woman wants to be part of an adventure, a legendary story. And by opening up the lines of communication and letting her know who you are and what she can expect with you, you help her to stop feeling doubt or uncertainty about you and instead include herself with you and your cause.
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