The Right Relationship IMPROVES Not CHANGES You
Do y'all remember the movieThe Wedding Planner (Jennifer Lopez, Matthew McConaughey)? If you do, you might recall how Jennifer's character claimed that a telling sign a marriage was on its way to Doomsville is if the couple's first dance was to Olivia Newton-John's "I Honestly Love You". Well, to me, a clear sign that two people who claim they want to share their lives together should pump the brakes as soon as possible is if one of them says something along the lines of, "I hate when my partner does such-and-such, but I'm hoping that will change after we get married." I tend to hear that a lot and, unfortunately, I must admit that, who I tend to hear this from the most are women.
Although it's not my intention to take everyone to church on this topic, I do think it's important for me to share a theory as to why I personally believe that a lot of ladies are hung up on the hope that they will be able to change their man once he actually becomes their husband. I think it goes all the way to the beginning of the Bible when the Lord said that he would provide Adam with a helper (Genesis 2:18). Help means "to give or provide what is necessary to accomplish a task or satisfy a need; contribute strength or means to; render assistance to; cooperate effectively with; aid; assist". But, for whatever the reason, a lot of women think that "help" means to change someone. Yeah, that's unfortunate. It really is. I think it's unfortunate for a few reasons. Let's dive into why.
What’s Wrong with Trying to CHANGE a Person, Anyway?
If you're already reading this and thinking, "What's wrong with wanting to change someone if it's going to make them better in the long run?", you're just the individual I am writing this for—and to. First of all, one of the best ways for me to counter your point is to ask you to put yourself in the shoes of the individual you'd like to change. How would you feel if they felt that way about you? Isn't there at least a part of you that would wonder what was wrong with you being just the way you are? Isn't there also a part of you that would feel anxious and even slightly manipulated in your relationship—like you were being seen as and treated like more of a project than an actual person? And wouldn't that make you want to wait for someone who would love, embrace and celebrate you without trying to actually change you?
Case in point. There is one guy I was in a relationship with for a while who was always trying to get me to grow my hair out and to have different perspectives on certain matters. I must admit that all of the "desires for change" didn't fall solely on him. I semi-hated his sense of style and, when it came to his approach to romance and wooing, I was less than impressed. Then there was how he kissed. Eww. Why did we stay together? At the same time, there were countless things that both of us really liked about each other too (which is why we probably stayed together far longer than we should have). Still, by the time we did actually decide to call it quits, there was a significant amount of resentfulness and pain on both sides.
A part of the reason is because we both spent more time, effort and energy trying to change each other than actually enjoy each other. We were out here trying to alter (one definition of change) each other. We were out here trying to convert each other (we weren't on the same page spiritually either). We were out here trying to revise, modify and correct each other constantly, all the while believing that it was a form of love when really, it was nothing more than a manifestation of our own expectations and egos.
But really—who died and assigned us the role of trying to change each other? Greater than that, why did we automatically think that, just because we weren't exactly how we wanted each other to be, for each other, that anything needed to actually change? Maybe it wasn't us who needed to change, it was the kind of relationship that we were in with each other (hmm…).
A very simple definition of the word change is "to become different". To say that we love someone, but we want them to be different, is that really love? More specifically, do we really love that individual? I'm going to lean towards "no" because if we're consumed with trying to make a person different than they are, while we might love the human Build-A-Bear project that we've volunteered ourselves to take on, we don't actually love them if we're not happy with them…as they are—right at this very moment.
Because a part of what love is about is having a personal attachment and warm affection for who someone is—not when we wish they would be or become.
Does that mean that we should sit back and tolerate the things that we don't like? No. But if it's that deep, why are you with them at all? Rather than using all of that energy to try and change them, why not let them go so that you both can be with someone who complements you better overall?
OK, so does that mean I think that couples aren't supposed to challenge each other, motivate each other and inspire growth and development? Absolutely not. But when that kind of focus is healthy (and non-manipulative), what we end up seeing is two people who are less interested in changing each other and more interested in improving each other. And yes, there is a difference between change and improve.
Why Is It Better to Strive to IMPROVE Someone Instead?
Now improving your partner? That is something that I can totally get down with. The definitions of the word pretty much break down the reasons why. To improve something or someone is "to bring into a more desirable or excellent condition" and "to make good use of". Some synonyms for improve include—advance, better, increase, promote, upgrade (cue in Beyoncé's "Upgrade U" right here), cultivate, elevate, polish, purify and mend. Yaaaaaas.
What I like about all of this is 1) it gives the impression that you already like something or someone, just as they are and 2) what you are striving to do is bring the goodness of yourself to their life in such a way that it won't change their being but take the core of who they are to another level. It's one thing to try and totally alter someone; it's another thing to increase them. See the difference?
Something else that I like about the word "improve" is it keeps the "improver" humble. Take the word "cultivate", for example. To cultivate something requires labor, attention and education. You can't be out here all willy-nilly if you want to be successful at doing it. You have to really study the object of your cultivation. You have to handle it in such a way where you don't harm or damage it in the process. You've got to be willing to put in the time, effort and energy to ensure that it grows—not into what your ego wants it to be but into a greater version of what it was always meant to be in the first place.
And so, when you're trying to assist in cultivating an actual person, there first needs to be a mutual agreement that both parties want to improve (some folks do, some folks don't), then there needs to be communication, respect, patience, love and good timing that goes into the cultivating process. There also needs to be the understanding that not only one person needs to improve—both do. Otherwise, why is either in the relationship to begin with? And what all of this does is create a safe space where no one feels pushed, controlled or unappreciated. It makes both individuals feel like their partner wants to see them win, not change.
Improvements in relationships are dope. Two people out here trying to change each other…is not.
So, take a moment and ponder. If you're currently in a relationship, are you out here trying to change your partner or improve them? Are they trying to change you or improve you? The first word is uncomfortable and a bit insulting, if you ask me. The second one speaks of partnership. Bottom line, a healthy relationship improves two people while an unhealthy one focuses on trying to change folks all of the time. I know the kind of relationship I desire, moving forward. What about you?
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- How To Stop Trying To Change Your Partner, Do This Instead - xoNecole: Women's Interest, Love, Wellness, Beauty ›
Different puzzle pieces are creating bigger pictures these days. 2024 will mark a milestone on a few different levels, including the release of my third book next June (yay!).
I am also a Professional Certified Coach. My main mission for attaining that particular goal is to use my formal credentials to help people navigate through the sometimes tumultuous waters, both on and offline, when it comes to information about marriage, sex and relationships that is oftentimes misinformation (because "coach" is a word that gets thrown around a lot, oftentimes quite poorly).
I am also still super devoted to helping to bring life into this world as a doula, marriage life coaching will always be my first love (next to writing, of course), a platform that advocates for good Black men is currently in the works and my keystrokes continue to be devoted to HEALTHY over HAPPY in the areas of holistic intimacy, spiritual evolution, purpose manifestation and self-love...because maturity teaches that it's impossible to be happy all of the time when it comes to reaching goals yet healthy is a choice that can be made on a daily basis (amen?).
If you have any PERSONAL QUESTIONS (please do not contact me with any story pitches; that is an *editorial* need), feel free to reach out at email@example.com. A sistah will certainly do what she can. ;)
This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
There’s nothing quite as humbling as navigating adulthood with no instruction manual. Since the turn of the decade, it seems like everything in our society that could go wrong has, inevitably, gone wrong. From the global pandemic, our crippling student debt problem, the loneliness crisis, layoffs, global warming, recession, and not to mention figuring out what to eat for dinner every night. This constant state of uncertainty has many of us wondering, when are the grown-ups coming to fix all of this?
But the catch is, we are the new grown-ups.
As if it happened without our permission, we became the new adults. We are the members of society who are paying taxes, having children, getting married, and keeping our communities afloat, one iced latte at a time. Still, there’s something about doing all these grown-up duties that feel unnaturally grown-up. Enter the #teenagegirlinher20s.
If there’s one hashtag to give you the state of the next cohort of adults, it’s this one. Of the videos that have garnered over 3.9M views, you’ll find a collection of users who are overwhelmed by life’s pressing existential responsibilities, clung to nostalgia, and reminiscent of the days when their mom and dad took care of their insurance plans.
no like i cant explain to her why i had to buy multiple tank air dupes from aritzia #teenagegirlinher20s #fyp
The concept of being a 20-something or 30-something teenager is linked to the sentiment of not feeling “grown up enough” to do grown-up things while feeling underprepared and even nihilistic about whether that preparation even matters.
It’s our generation’s version of when we ask our grandmothers how old they are and they simply reply with, “I still feel 45,” all while being every bit of 76 years old. In this, we share a warped concept of time while clinging to a desire for infantilization.
Granted, the pandemic did a number on our concept of time. Many of us who started the pandemic in our early or mid-20s missed out on three fundamental years of socialization, career development, and personal milestones that traditionally help to mark our growth.
Our time to figure out and plan our next steps through fumbling yet active participation was put on pause indefinitely and then resumed provisionally. This in turn has left many of us hanging in the balance of uncertainty as we try to make sense of the disconnect between our minds and bodies in this missing gap of time.
Because we’re all still figuring out what the ramifications of being locked away and frozen in time by a global pandemic will have on us as a society, there really is no “right” way of making up for lost time. Feeling unprepared for any new chapter of life is a natural rite of passage, pandemic or not. However, it’s important to not stay stuck in the last age or period of life that made sense to us because self-growth is the truest evidence of personal progress.
So whether you’re leaning on your inner child, teenager, or 20-something for guidance as you fill the gap between your real age and pandemic age, know that it’s okay to grieve the person you thought you would be and the milestones you thought you’d hit before you ever knew what a pandemic was. If there’s anything that the pandemic taught us, it’s that we have the power to reimagine a better world and life for ourselves. And if we tap into our inner teenager as a compass, we can piece together our next chapter with a fresh outlook.
Sure, we’ve lost a couple of years, but there are still some really amazing ones ahead.
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