As a species, we’re the masters of adapting. Simply put, if we’re not evolving, we’re dying. Looking back on my last three years at Brown, I can say with certainty that I’ve grown up a great deal. All my friends have, too. There’s no question that people have the capacity to mature. But in romantic relationships, is it worth it to stay around, waiting for someone to change?
To explore this question, I want to go back to the beginning. Before I was even born. My mother spent ten years waiting as my father fed her excuses…He was too young to settle down. She wasn’t Jewish. He didn’t know if he’d ever get married. It wasn’t the right time. He wanted to see other people. Needless to say, my mother suffered a great deal. But as she recounts, he was the one. So she stuck by him, hoping, praying, coaxing, manipulating, and waiting for him to change.
And he did change! The dad who I know today is completely unlike the man from my mother’s stories. He is a sweet and loving husband. After 25 years of marriage, they are deeply in love.
People change. This is the story that I grew up hearing.
But was it worth it? Though the ending was sweet for my parents, the process was terrible for my mother. I think about her friends then – did it sicken them? Watching her pathetically run back to some man who couldn’t appreciate her? How much of her 30s – when she could have been having fun and meeting other men – did she spend crying over my father in secret?
I recently gave someone a second chance. I had been involved casually with this person…and then I fell hard for him. I stopped wanting “just sex” and wanted other things – to hold his hand in public, to keep a toothbrush at his house, to meet his parents. He told me it wasn’t the right time. It hurt. A lot. So I left.
Then this person came back into my life. He called me, left me messages, begged for me back. He needed to see me, he said. He had made a huge mistake. He wanted to be with me, seriously. My pride told me to stay strong. But there he was, saying everything I had once wanted him to say. I wanted to believe him. I wanted to believe that people change.
Guess what? He didn’t change. We met up, he got drunk at a bar and left me standing there, feeling like an idiot as he hung out with his friends. Even after all the begging, he still couldn’t treat me as more than a hookup. It made no sense but it taught me something – I can’t change anyone. This guy will always be as I met him on day one – selfish and immature. I don’t need to waste my precious time waiting for him to grow up.
Here’s the bottom line: You can give all the second chances you want. In the end, the investment may not pay off and you may find yourself having missed out on bigger and better (and less complicated) relationships. Sure, people change. But don’t stick around for it, baby. It’s ugly. And it will leave you hurting and bitter. Instead, pick up your dignity, keep your standards high, and continue that great search!
Got questions for Heather? Email her @ firstname.lastname@example.org