What if we stopped trying to change our men?
American psychotherapist Sally Watkins knocks a hole in our fantasies about the ideal man and suggests a key to being in a happy couple in real life!
It’s almost second nature to want to change your man. But what if we’re all barking up the wrong tree? The myth of the “perfect” man persists and he has a hard time as a result! There’s a strong possibility that you are (still) trying to change your man so that he resembles some age-old “Prince Charming” fantasy, and you’re not alone!
It’s totally normal, even if many of us do actually admit that it doesn’t achieve very much. In her book “Change Your Mindset, Not Your Man1,” American psychotherapist Sally Watkins explains why we are constantly trying to change our men, and offers ways of joining the club of girls who are happy in love.
Men and women – it’s all changing!
Our grandmothers would no doubt frown at our demands these days... You just have to look at the situation a few years back (no more than five decades), to see that in our era, a large part of the motivation for coupling up or getting married has been smashed into smithereens.
Women have real financial autonomy now and we can draw on our own funds to support a family or treat ourselves to whatever we want to buy. We’ve gained the right to different pleasures, including the pleasure of being in a couple... for love. We are smack-bang in the middle of a revolution which is rewriting all the established rules.
Today, women don’t draw inspiration from the now obsolete model given to us by our grandparents, but instead substitute it (unconsciously) with a fantastic ideal, persuaded that the “right man” can fulfil all our expectations simply because we have chosen them. The first months might show this to be the case, but after this we generally become disenchanted rather rapidly!
In fact, behind all our ideals and attempts to change the man in our life, are our mad fantasies (ever present) of kissing the frog and turning him into a prince. Only here, “In the real world of imperfect, real people (you as well as him), you have to get used to the idea that your man cannot conform to this fantasy,” our expert insists. Otherwise you risk a multitude of deep rifts and disatisfaction occurring in your world.
Demands to change fall on deaf male ears
You may think that by explaining your needs to him and all the things he does that annoy you in detail (socks rolled in balls all over the place, that irritating habit of gluing himself to his mobile when he gets back from the office, not even giving you a backward glance etc.), he will bend over backwards in order to change just for you! But no.
The more you try to draw his attention to these things, the more surprised he seems and he’ll generally show a total lack of comprehension when you talk to him about it. “Most of the men I see in relationship sessions remember only that their wives complain a lot,” Sally Watkins reports. And why are their wives complaining? They’ve forgotten why!
- Sally’s advice: Stop complaining and leave him as he is! According to Sally Watkins, it’s the only way, “...of liberating yourself from the heavy task of changing him and at the same time liberating yourself from your need to transform him!” Instead, you should concentrate on your new objective, to actually be the change that you want from the world... In short: the only person you can actually change is you!
Step one: accepting men for who they are
- The classic scenario: You wish, quite rightly, that your man would treat you with the love and respect you deserve, and if he doesn’t, you are horribly disappointed. Navigating your way through frustration and sadness, your first reaction is to blame him.
- Plan B: Choose to accept the situation and come to terms with any disappointment or pain you might have felt. You should instead try to rationalise your man’s reactions, and admit that these are actually in keeping with his personality and his background. “Accepting the situation as it is,” signifies no longer putting pressure on him and expecting him to do things in order to improve himself. Sally Watkins criticises a certain disposition for wanting to control the situation, and advises women just to let go.
Step two: getting into a positive mindset
- The classic scenario: This mania to want to change the other person sometimes comes with a certain propensity to see certain aspects as negative points. He hasn’t noticed that you’ve been to the hairdresser’s; he forgot your anniversary, yet again... However, expressing negative emotions will not get the results you want, and worse, sometimes doing this can even aggravate the situation.
- Plan B: “What do you think will happen if you try another tack and comment on the positive things?” our expert asks. He got your favourite chicken curry takeaway last Friday night. He put up the curtains you wanted in the sitting room... Maybe you can try emphasising the good points and his positive contributions, even if this means making a little extra effort. After all, this is the model of management adopted by many businesses...
And after all, isn’t a successful couple similar to a successful small business that you need to invest in?
1 – “Change Your Mindset, Not Your Man: Learn to Love What's Right Instead of Trying to Fix What's Wrong,” Sally Watkins, Adams 2009, £9.99.
Copyright © 2011 Doctissimo
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