Just The Way You Are

5 Dec 2018

How many of you remember that song by Barry White?

Don't go changing, trying to please me...

I talked recently to two people. Their relationship is not working, because each of them needs the other to change.

Adele says Barry's behaviour - his lack of commitment - makes her anxious. Barry says he cannot commit to anyone who has that level of anxiety: he just can't live with her.

They are at an impasse.

I'm not a counsellor. I'm not a therapist; but I do know that if they pin their hopes of happiness on the changed behaviour of the other, then neither one of them will ever be happy.

I think the beginning and middle of happiness, if not the end, is accepting that things are the way they are, and that people are the way they are.

"What?" you say! Just accept the unacceptable? Just put up with it?

No – I don't mean that at all. Sometimes we must walk away, even if we love that person. We owe it to ourselves, out of respect and love to ourselves.

What I said to Adele and to Barry, was that each of us can only be responsible for ourselves. We can only change ourselves: we cannot change our partner. We cannot change our boss, our sister, our mother or our children. We cannot change our politicians (except by election, and that's not what I meant).

When my husband and I, many years ago now, broke the news of our engagement to my mother, there was a long pause. Then, "I'd like to talk to him, please. Alone."

After forty minutes or so, he returned to me, slightly wild around the eyes. "What did she say to you?" I asked, in some trepidation.

"She told me, in detail, about all your faults."

"Oh?" (My mother loves me. I knew that she would not have done this to be vindictive.)

"She wanted to be sure I knew what I'm getting into..."

And yes, my husband, meticulous; organised; responsible, is married to a woman who is impulsive; forgetful; wildly creative and loving; but undisciplined; forgetful and quite frankly, scatty. Oh, and did I mention forgetful?

Last night I was supposed to take my elder daughter to scouts while he took the younger one to rookie life-guarding. I had forgotten I had a networking meeting booked and the lady turned up just as I was about to leave the house. My husband juggled things so he could do both drop-offs, and never uttered a word of complaint. I know my disorganisation pains him, but he loves me and accepts me – just as I am.

And I love and accept him, even when I am ironing 28 handkerchiefs and eight dress shirts a week. Did I mention I hate ironing?

Neither of us can or will change.

Question: How many psychologists does it take to change a lightbulb?

Answer: Only one. But the lightbulb must want to change.


A Moodscope member.

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