Can People Ever Really Change?

A recent female caller wondered if she should stay with and even marry a guy who spent the full first year of their relationship being violent.

I immediately said, “You’re a grown woman.  If you want to play Russian Roulette with your life you have the right to do that.  Please, though, have your Fallopian tubes tied so that you can’t bring any babies into this situation to either be hurt directly or indirectly by a messed up, violent home-life.”

She wanted to know if people can change.  Well, the correct answer is….YES!  Of course people can change.  When people are motivated and disciplined and committed to being, thinking, and doing things differently, they can most definitely evolve in a positive direction.  It does take time and simply acknowledging the need for change is not (contrary to popular thought) 50% of the problem.  You all know that’s true because every one of you remembers making a New Year’s Resolution – which clearly acknowledges a need for change – and even a plan….which just evaporated with time and ennui.

Therefore, in the context of this woman’s call, a person prone to violence is not one who is going to make a quick change.  The caller wanted to know if there was hope that in the future…no matter how distant…that he could be different.  Well, sure – IF he makes the commitment and is committed long term to whatever it takes to change his way of looking at the world, intimate relationships, and his own identity.

An interesting fact is that when people do make such profound changes, they rarely are interested in the people who wanted them when they were less positively functional, as they recognize that it takes a less functional person to be attracted to same.  Said in a bit ‘o different way: emotionally healthy people, even though they may protest love and compassion, just don’t commit their lives to a recalcitrant, unwilling to change, difficult, or dangerous person.  It is because of their own sad inner dynamics that they find solace in being involved with an unhealthy person…it makes them feel needed or puts the responsibility for their unhappiness somewhere else or is simply a place to hide from the threat of not being capable of a good life.

This particular caller thanked me for my advice…I asked her to tell me what my advice was; she said, “I don’t want to play roulette with my life.”  I gave her kudos for making a healthy and good choice.  I also told her that she’d feel stupid for the time already spent, lonely for the company, scared of being alone, and more…but that this decision was still a healthy and good choice.

You see…she is the one in her life she had the power and the necessity to change; focusing on him was just a way to hide from that.

I love the beginning of happy endings…and that call was one of those.