My morning routine begins by pressing play on my Rihanna Spotify station. Somewhere between brushing my teeth and “Go Go Gadget, Flat Irons!” I convert into the uber fabulous Crystal that I prefer to present to the world. This morning Beyonce’s “Upgrade You” shuffled into play. And it got me thinking about the changes we try to provoke in our partners when we’re in a relationship.
In her Beyonce growl she sings, “Come harder, this won’t be easy
Don’t doubt yourself, trust me you need me”
And in my head, I’m all “I know right! They need us don’t they, B?!”
Because I am an educator slash law student slash former make up artist, I am by nature a serial “changer”. I would get myself into these relationships where the guy had “some assembly required”, all the pieces are there, waiting to be put together, some to be used and some “extras”. For instance, maybe he is smart. I know he’s smart. He knows he’s smart, but for whatever reason he’s never sought a college degree or maybe just didn’t complete it. And because I believe in higher education, I begin, “Hey, I was thinking maybe you should look into going back to school. So I looked up a couple universities with accelerated degree plans and it turns out if you start now you can have your degree in two and a half years. I printed out the info for you, take a look and let me know what you think.” Then I walk away, as if the choice is his, knowing full well I will bring it up again if that application isn’t in the mail in a week or so.
I convince myself that I will help him see the light and encourage him to ascend to some level of greatness. And because I am so incredibly optimistic, I believe he can and he will. This would become my approach on pretty much every area where I feel he could use some improvement. Going to church, wearing more quality labels, getting him to travel more, convincing him that a tea party at the American Girl store would be a better destination than Chucky Cheese for his daughter’s birthday, getting him to eat at more exclusive restaurants, convincing him that a tee shirt and jeans are not a complete outfit, and trying to make a color scheme out of his mismatch furniture.
With nothing to guide me, other than a pictorial instructional page (the image in my mind of how he should turn out), I labor and cultivate and motivate and encourage, I drain myself. I realize trying to change someone, especially an adult, is hard work! And so now that I am single, and after reading this I am sure you are saying “maybe you should be”, I have realized that sometimes the only way to change your partner is to change your partner.
Here’s a piece of genius advice I give myself and I now offer you. If you want a man who wears designer clothes, date a man who wears designer clothes.
*drops microphone, exists stage left*
Don’t be a highly ambitious woman dating a less ambitious man, and then complain to him about it. That’s what you chose! If you’d prefer your mate be more put together, to plan more, don’t date a guy who flies by the seat of his pants. And this is not to say you will ever find a mate who has it all together. We all can benefit from an extra push to try something new or challenging. But at the end of the day, there is not a mother on Earth who spent 9 months carrying her child, laboring to bring him into this world, for him to come out to be who YOU want him to be.
Here’s the thing, there are those of us who get a thrill out of the “Ikea Mentality”. We, myself included, love the sense of gratification and accomplishment that comes from assembling something from the bare bones. And then there those who prefer to walk into a store, pick a sofa, wait for it to be delivered, and placed into our living room looking just as it did on the showroom floor.
But I believe the most effective balance is the “Walter E. Smith Approach”: You go in, you pick a design, you individualize that design to your taste with a new pattern or color, you pay a whole lot to get the quality you want, but that is about as much effort as is required. In dating, pick a person with the foundations that are most important to you, and only you can determine your deal breakers, then serve as motivation and provide encourage in the areas that need improvement by being an example yourself and through your support. I believe a clear indicator that you are in the wrong relationship is if the other person is bringing out the worst in you, instead of the best. If you find yourself consistently complaining, or suggesting changes, then it is probably more challenging for him to be in the relationship with you than it is for you to be with him. Don’t over exert yourself trying to build a man from scratch. It’s not your responsibility! That was already taken care of by God and his parents.
Generally, woman and men want the same things out of relationships. We want to feel loved and respected. Not like we are inadequate or not good enough. A rich and rewarding relationship is a two way street, and trust me I’m going to be angry if a man tells me I need to lose weight, but I am much more receptive to the man who says “Your jeans are starting to fit you so much better ever since you stopped drinking soda.” Trust me, I will never drink another Tahitian Treat again! To that end, men are often easily encouraged and a woman’s approval can be a powerful motivator. Let go of the small stuff. Honor him in front of people. Commend him on being a good man, if he is one. And get out of the relationship if he is not. The consistency of your praise about what he is doing right will drive him to excel to even greater heights. It is a universal emotional trigger that pushes us all toward greatness, not because someone else wants us to, but because we all enjoy the feeling we get when someone tells us, “well done”. So after you sing his praises what do you get for all your efforts? A man who genuinely adores you, shows true affection towards you, and puts you ahead of everything else in his life with little to no assembly required.
If you dreamed it, God has already built it.
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