Think of a time when you were first dating someone you eventually went on to spend some life path time with. Ahhh, remember the heady days of the romantic stage, fondly known as the honeymoon period. He/she could do no wrong, you noticed every little detail about the way they walked, talked and dressed and you positively brimmed over with pride and lust and maybe a sprinkling of early love! Your body was feeding you with love hormones and everything was just rosy in nest heaven.
Then one morning you wake and roll over to find that your honey isn’t looking quite so hot and the dialogue starts in your head. “I really must tell him to get his beard trimmed”, “long chest hair really isn’t in these days, it’s so 80’s!”, “not that tie-dye shirt again!”, “I really don’t like that deodorant he uses”. Now, part of you is shocked at how you really didn’t see this before but the other half is saying “well the little changes will make him better”…..but better for whom? Maybe he likes long chest hair, tie-dye shirts (now that’s a tough one….lol) and Brut deodorant!
Now I will write my observation, gentlemen that it seems to be us girls that need the perfection infection ointment more than you do, but c’mon I know you have made a little tweak here and there, eh? One of the biggest things men complain about is the frustration of being pressured to change in some way. But we all know that chasing around trying to change image or behaviours to suit others’ happiness is NOT the answer because it never stops.
A friend of mine and I have laughed many times about how we needed our partners looking hot to trot and a bad haircut or a flabby body or Primark clothing just ain’t acceptable. Another friend who I used to work with would break up with a guy if he was wearing the “wrong” watch or the “wrong” socks. It is funny but can be an OCD when it gets that out of order!
I KNOW you have been there, so as you sit there tittering, think about the subtle little things that have crept up on you both where you have felt totally compelled to make a change request to your other half. We have ALL done it. I admit it is hard not to. I find myself justifying subtle requests to my boyfriend even now. Thankfully he is so comfortable with himself that it is a choice he knows he has to honour himself every time whether it feels good to make a change or not. Good for him!
There are degrees though. Image change requests come in various forms from completely new hair cuts and wardrobes down to a minor beard trim or change of lipstick colour perhaps. Behaviours are harder because they are often ingrained and change requests on that level can and will irk at childhood and past wounds and only the right dialogue can sort it out.
So if your partner is trying to change you, what can you do?
My number one answer would be, take time to be with their comments and see how it feels to you. Does it suddenly make you feel deflated or if you admit it, yeah they have got a point and maybe even the change would be good! Maybe I do need to look at my wardrobe or think about spoiling for a few less rows. If you resist every time you will only make it harder. Now I am not saying go on change to suit your partner but feeling the inner stirrings of intuition you will get a hit of whether it feels good or bad.
If you constantly reject your loved one’s comments then maybe you do need to look a little further within and ask yourself, where does this come from? Is it helping our relationship if I do this? If you constantly change at every uttering of your partner then again, self inquire. Many people will blame others for showing them stuff about themselves and simply refuse to learn whatever lesson is there to learn. Fine, we all have free will apparently (I could contest that one though!) so we can make it difficult or easy. It’s a choice. Everything on the surface is like an iceberg, deeper meaning is always present. You have every answer inside of you, but getting involved and engaging in the dramas of the mind will never afford you the space to be still and simply notice.
If you really want to keep your image nuances and certain attitudes, because it feels ok with you, then boundaries are important. It’s OK TO BE YOU and so with gentle and kind dialogue you can thank your partner for their comments, or use the dialogue technique I offered in a past blog. This will keep your relational space healthy and your identity and personality in tact. Win / win!
Every person you have ever met or spent time with is a mirror for you and the way you deal with that can be a good experience every time if you choose. It’s just your story and perception that can make learning either bad or good. Think about it. Stories are just that and oh boy the mind is full of them. How often have you simply observed the inner dialogue of the mind on any given day and marvelled at your mind’s ability to whip you here and there and get you to believe and emote from its incessant ramblings.
When we believe the stories then we are caught in a movie that can swing out of control very easily. So for example, when your beloved says in a lovely way “darling I really think this colour shirt suits you not that one” watch your story…you may think “why oh why does she insist on disagreeing with me” or “hey yeah she’s got a point I do look good in this”. See? It’s all stories really, so keep open in every moment and observe your minds urge to jump to negativity. Byron Katie, a prominent figure in the field of awakening human consciousness, has a process called The Work which will help you blast through the stories that keep you suffering. http://www.thework.com/index.php
And if you are the one with a mild or acute dose of the perfection infection, what can you do?
I am not one to dish out practical dos and don’t because my belief is that all ailments of this kind start from within us so…
Observe yourself. Notice and become aware of the underlying thoughts and feelings that build into words that flow out of your mouth before you have had good time to understand what is happening at a deeper level. Be still and feel it wherever it arises in your body and stay with it until is passes. The law of nature is impermanence, whatever rises, passes away and that goes for emotions. Whenever you feel urges or feelings, however good or bad they appear to be, they always disappear eventually. Watch yourself and see that we are simply blended with nature just as every animal or plant.
Respect your partner’s boundaries. The quality of your communication in terms of words and body language is all important. One thing many people struggle with in life is being able to be fully authentic, and that can’t be born if you are constantly trying to make changes to your honey. Allow them to invite you in. Imagine a boundary around someone’s property. You wouldn’t leap the fence and run amuck in the garden un-invited, now would you!
Try a little self acceptance. Look at where you are constantly trying to make YOU perfect, because the infection starts and ends within. You may be nagging yourself at all angles about how you look, dress and behave with others without realising it and oh boy that’s tiring! A heck a lot of energy is expended through self talk, doubt and being inwardly harsh. Give yourself a break! Notice your tendency to self berate. Inward dissatisfaction nearly always appears as projections onto your loved one.
Find some joy in everything you say and do. The dance of your relationship can be an easy one if you always approach your beau with an intention to love and honour them every time you communicate. I think we all try and alter our partners in someway and probably always will. Some things will improve and feel great and some not. I liken these idiosyncrasies in life to the rich tapestry of learning that comes our way. There is learning in every moment of every day, that’s Earth school for you. So you can ruin it with negative stories or have regular “ah ha!” moments and marvel at the wonders of what life brings you. It’s a choice.
Lastly I believe that living with the mind is a task of gradual and life long mastery. It will try to sabotage you and tell you what’s not right and what you should do in every situation. Not easy when you think that it lives in your head (apparently)! The collective mind once created world wars and kept humanity chained to misery, but gradually we are learning and changing and dropping into our hearts more and more. Think of times when you are touched to your deepest place by someone or something and in that moment how the mind seems irrelevant, because you feel enough love to fill the Universe.
For your amusement and finally...at the time of writing I asked my boyfriend to cast his keen eye over this article, because I value his opinion on what I write about. I was packing boxes at his flat and all went very quiet for a very long time at his laptop. With curiosity I went to see what he was doing only to find him ‘mmmming’ and ‘errrrring’ over some changes that he thought might be useful....we both fell about laughing. I rest my case.