Photo by Nicole Garcia
“What can be more futile than wanting to change someone else”?
One of the most difficult issues I’ve faced while working with clients is failing relationships. It’s common knowledge that 40 to 50% off all marriages in the US end in divorce, and subsequent ones terminate at an even higher rate. Another and far more alarming statistic reported by the World Health Organization (WHO) is that 30% of all women have suffered some form of domestic violence in their lifetime.
What is it that makes maintaining healthy relationships one of the most arduous tasks for most humans? The challenge mainly comes because there is another individual involved. Working through our own struggles is demanding enough; but when two people need to make changes for one purpose, it complicates the efforts on many and various levels.
As I’ve stated on several occasions, we truly only have the power to change ourselves, and relationships, by definition, always include other people. The bottom line is that a good way to reach success is for each person individually to reflect on the changes and transformations they can make and only hope the other is as willing to do the same.
One of the worst relationship traps frequently happens to those who are the most caring, kind, and genuinely compassionate people. They constantly show consideration for others and have no hesitation with volunteering in other community-building activities. Their nature compels them to help people and it’s nearly unfathomable for them to consider taking advantage of other people. They look for the best in others and want to nurture that from anyone they meet.
It would stand to reason that this kind of person would be the perfect partner in any relationship. And for the most part, they are. I do, however, want to add a word of caution for these wonderful human beings. Because they are so giving they can also become prey to manipulative people.
Those who look for other’s potential are also ready to help, and when they see something that’s not right in others’ characters, their sincerity wants those individuals to see the error in their thinking. If they happened to be in an intimate relationship with someone like this, they’ll go to great lengths to facilitate and expedite that change; often trying to love that person into amending their ways.
Sometimes these loving people fall victim to devious, calculating, and narcissistic people. It happens because their love is so genuine and it’s nearly impossible trying to imagine anyone not feeling the same. Manipulation is a word which has no place in love’s vocabulary for them and they want badly to believe their partners deem exactly the same.
Unfortunately, the egomaniacal have learned how to play the game all too well. The caring person will default to kind actions. The self-aggrandizer puts on whatever façade is required to provide a glimmer of hope. It’s sad that in a moment of perceived kindness it’s nothing more than a wretched attempt of control. Relationships exist solely for the purpose and promotion of their egos.
There are countless variations to this story. Sometimes they come on quickly and others may take years to come to light. It’s always heartbreaking to see kind and good people become stuck in these situations. What makes it more despondent is their own natural inclination to be kind further entraps them in these swamps of misguided love.
The manipulator has instincts which hone and refine their soul-destructing schemes. They innately know the optimal way to keep that person around is to confuse them and crush their self-esteem. Situations, which to any other onlooker would squarely place the blame on the controller, are contrived and machinated to deceive the caring one into believing they are at fault. The only time any wrongdoing is admitted is to bait the other person into thinking they want to or will change. Any belief in hope – no matter how small – will keep that tiny fire of hope alive.
My heart goes out to these amazing people. It is a terrible thing to be manipulated because of your own love, kindness, and good intentions. Fortunately, there is hope. This kind of relationship is not impossible to escape. But it’s one whose grasp is not easily broken.
The first step is to remember, “the only person we can truly change is ourselves.” This, again, is difficult for the person in this situation because the positive aspects of their own personality don’t need to change. They love unconditionally. Well, except for themselves.
People who exude this type of love for others may feel it’s not important or essential to show it to themselves. As long as they can help and love others, this will suffice for any love they may feel they require. Their selfish partners periodically “throw them a bone” to keep them harnessed on their false leash of love.
When I work with my clients, one of the techniques I use is to tell them a story about someone in similar circumstances which plays on their empathy toward that person. Hopefully, they’ll realize the person they are hearing about is the victim they’ll see in the mirror. Next, I’ll engage in a series of questions intended to help them make the logical conclusion that it’s time to show themselves and express self-love.
When you see a friend in a similar situation and want to voice your objections about their relationship, it never helps to be angry or argue with them. What you can do is show them love and plead with them to get help. Believe it or not, this kind of help is rarely possible from a friend and should be dealt with professionally. Perhaps, you can pass this article along to them. Real change will happen when they can change the way they think about themselves.
My thanks to my friend Nicole Garcia for the beautiful picture. It’s Red Rock Canyon; just a short drive outside of Las Vegas. I look forward to your comments.