“Don’t go in to a relationship thinking that the person will change.”
“Don’t expect someone to change for you.”
“Don’t think that they’ll change because they love you.”
I have heard all of these statements (and more!), and frankly,
1. Relationships are built on the foundation of selflessness and forgiveness and grace.
With any and all types of abuse aside, there really aren’t exceptions to people not changing for their relationship / significant other.. unless they are simply selfish and unwilling to better themselves.
In a world where we are taught that “if they love you, they will accept you for who you are”, I say “if they love you, they will challenge you to be a better version of your self, and love you along the way”.
Yes, there are unhealthy expectations, like “I want him to always be affectionate with me” or “I want her to play video games with me”. These are unreal, based solely on the fact that not all humans enjoy being affectionate 24/7 or playing video games.
But on the other hand, there are healthy expectations – such as maintaining a budget, taking care of our bodies (skincare routine, yoga, going to the gym), learning how to cook, or (my personal favorite) learning how to communicate. Oh now that’s a fun one. Especially for new couples. And it’s also a good example of “changing”…
At the beginning of every relationship, lots of information and details are shared. Most of them are done from excitement or simply having conversational rabbit trails. But after a certain period of time together (this is different for every couple), there will always be that moment of disagreement, head-butting, or even feelings being unknowingly hurt. This is where communication comes in. And not just how you communicate, but how your significant other will receive it. If one half of this couple is very assertive and expresses their thoughts very boldly and straightforward, the other half may take it as a harsh reprimand or as a deal-breaker due to how they receive this information. And thus begins the “communication conversation”. In a healthy relationship, that conversation would end with both partners being willing to adapt to the others’ preferred way of communicating – due to their personality, sensitivity and skill of understanding. This is a perfect example of changing for one’s partner. It is not an unhealthy ask. It is an adaptable change for the good of the relationship.
2. Changing for someone and for your relationship takes time and effort. Learning about the other person, their likes, dislikes, love languages, best way to communicate, their preferred way to process things, etc. all comes with time. But you also need to pay attention. Couples are usually formed by two opposite individuals who, miraculously, are attracted to each other and want to do life together, and sure, the honeymoon stage is a thing.. but cultivating a healthy relationship takes intentionally focused effort over time.. and a lot more give than take. Finding that healthy balance is something you will probably be doing for the rest of your lives together. Why? Because people change. Sometimes unconsciously, sometimes intentionally. But either way, being someone’s partner means accepting and loving them throughout their journey. Seeing and acknowledging their changes is vital too – not only to encourage them, but also to challenge them.
And I’m going to say it again: a healthy relationship cultivates growth.
3. When you and your partner communicate to each other: what makes you feel certain types of ways, what makes you feel loved, what makes you irritated.. these should not be listed as complaints or accusations. Rather, they are ways of letting you know what needs attention, what needs to be corrected, or what would benefit your relationship most and create a grander future for the two of you together. Take time to listen and discover how you can love your partner in and through a way that they communicate with you. This will not only affect your relationship, but also your self. And what better quality to have in your significant other than to be challenged by them to be a more refined version of you?
4. I read a quote somewhere recently that said “The most important thing you should know about relationships is that a healthy one won’t hurt”.. and again, I disagree. Why? Because a healthy relationship doesn’t just blossom from two individuals loving each other. A healthy relationship takes work. It takes messy work. Hard conversations will have to be had. Triggers will need to be identified. And major, major trauma will be unearthed. These are all good and necessary. But it will hurt. And if you have been blessed with a partner who understands the depths of these relationship growth spurts, then you will both realize and see the need for: change. Relationships have a way of bringing things to light that you never thought you would have to deal with. It will bring out character traits in yourself that you didn’t even know you had. It will get messy. It may even get ugly. But the beauty of healthy relationships is that trust and dependence on your partner to love you through those uncomfortable times. Yes, they may call you out on your shit and be like “hey that’s a problem”, but trusting that they will do so out of love and be willing to help you in whatever way you need them to.. now that is something worth fighting for.
Your partner can’t change you. But they can help you address areas in your life that need to change. And when you acknowledge your faults and shortcomings (which is never easy), the intentional growth can start to happen. You can and should change for the person you love, but first, you need to change for your self. It will not only benefit you, but also your partner and your relationship together.
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