"I walked away because you were busy finding faults in me, while I was busy overlooking yours."
Why is it so easy to see red flags in other people's relationships, and so difficult to see in our own? Why do we see the potential of what he could be, rather than the reality of what is? Maybe it's because we receive messages like this one I received from 5lovelanguages.com:
One of the commonly held myths of our day is that "people cannot change." The thinking goes: If he has been unfaithful, certainly he will do it again, no matter what he promises. If she has mismanaged our money for five years, she will continue to do so. Accepting this myth leads to feelings of hopelessness. Libraries are filled with accounts of people who have made radical changes in their behavior. St. Augustine, who once lived for pleasure and thought his lusts were inescapable, radically changed and became a great leader in the church. People can and do change, and often the changes are dramatic. Don't give up on the person you love
So what is this message telling us to do? See the red flags as a challenge and not a warning? Live with the belief that if we love hard enough, we will stop his abusive behavior, cure him of his heroin addiction, or make his penis larger?
I believed that I could change my ex-husband's abusive behaviors. I headed the advice above. I saw the good moments in my ex - the few times he sent me flowers, the sentimental birthday cards, and the rare occasions he initiated sex - and thought it all justified the constant criticisms, put downs, and finger pointing. When his words and actions became more hurtful, I tried loving him harder. I offered more understanding. I apologized for "taking (his words) the wrong way", for putting the forks in the wrong side of the dishwasher, and for calling my parents too much. I prayed with him and for him. He said he wanted to change, and I believed that too.
Eventually, I felt depressed and hopeless; for nothing I did worked. I tried to escape, and my ex threatened to take my children from me. So instead of leaving and calling his bluff, I tried harder and loved harder, becoming more depressed in the process. I cried a lot. I didn't want to be alive.
Then one day, it hit me! No matter what I did, I couldn't change him. And it wasn't my fault. Nothing I could do would change him. He was responsible for himself. It wasn't my job to fix him, and it was out of my control. The moment I accepted the truth "I cannot change people", I no longer felt hopeless. I felt free. Free from his control, and free to enjoy being alive.
Believing what 5lovelanguages.com refers to as a "myth", did not lead me to hopelessness. When I started believing it, I stopped feeling hopeless. It may seem like I disagree with the advice. I don't. Aside from the fact that I think the content about Love Languages is useful and integral for communication in a healthy relationship, I also agree with the email, but not in the way they may have intended. You see, they are right - "People can and do change, and often the changes are dramatic." However, we are responsible for our own change. I have changed tremendously. I am emotionally and mentally stronger, I am secure and confident in who I am, I know that I am powerless over others, and the love I have for myself has grown exponentially. Learning to love myself (is the greatest love...according to Vanessa Williams) is what gave me the power to change. So take the advice of the email and "Don't give up on the person you love." But make sure that person is you.
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