In any new relationship, you’re on your best behavior. No tasteless jokes, no drunken, loutish conduct and no foul body odors. Life is good—lots of sex, lots of restaurant meals, and lots of laughter when you tell the same five jokes over and over again because they’re the only non-dirty ones you know. Your relationship is perfect. And more importantly, you’re perfect in the eyes of your woman.
Then, as time goes by, you relax a bit and start to let the real you come through. You start spending a little more time apart and more time with your buddies or you do something like start smoking more when she’s around. Whatever it is that you’d normally do. Big problem.
Now, instead of thinking you’re the greatest thing since sliced bread, your girlfriend is bugging you to clean up your act, only you don’t know what the problem is since you’re just being your natural self. What gives with her? Why is she trying to change you all of a sudden? Didn’t she realize that your apparent perfection was just an illusion, a ruse to capture her heart, then life would go back to normal?
No, she didn’t. Silly her. She thought that how you presented yourself in the beginning was the real you. That’s the guy she fell in love with and she wants him back. With a vengeance. And she’s prepared to fight to make it happen. The only thing standing in the way of her dream man is you—in all your sweating, scratching and belching glory. So she does what any determined woman would do and turns into a nagging, bitchy shrew whose one purpose in life is to transform you into something you’re not. And you have no one to blame but yourself.
Ironically, women want their men to change while men want their women to stay exactly the same. Because the need to be part of a couple is so strong for most women, they often settle for second best and then try to take that diamond in the rough and polish him into something he’s not. That’s where the trouble begins, since you’re most likely very happy just the way you are—because if you wanted to change, you would have done it already on your own.
As determined as women are to have the man of their dreams, men are just as determined to leave well enough alone. So the harder a woman tries to make a man change, the harder he fights her every step of the way. This constant power struggle over who will win is the root of many relationship breakdowns.
And so the whole cycle begins again until you finally find a woman who is either so worn down from years of dating that she will take whatever she can get, beer gut be damned, or she has wised up enough to know how to make you change into what she wants while making it seem like you’re doing it by your own free will.
This is not to say that some change isn’t a good thing. Change means growth, so if you’re 40 and still getting fall-down drunk every weekend with the guys, how much have you really accomplished in life? Maybe, instead of automatically dismissing your girlfriend’s attempts at getting you off the couch for some exercise or monitoring your fat intake while you inhale your seventh burrito, you actually take her opinions into consideration and start listening to what she’s been trying to say to you. Could she actually be onto something after all?
Nobody can make you do something you don’t really want to do and to force the issue is just going to piss you off. She understands that. But consider this—if a friend told you to clean up your act, would you listen to them? If so, then maybe this need to change is valid, but you just don’t want to hear it from her.
Keep an open mind and consider her point of view, even just for a little while, and you might just realize that she really does love you and simply wants to ensure that you’ll be around for the long haul, not self-destructing on Big Macs and Budweiser while she’s left to raise the kids alone after your massive coronary.
Women like to have fun as much as the next guy—they just look at the big picture and realize that the roller coaster has to stop sooner or later and real life has to begin. Of course, she knew who you really were before making the big decision to commit to you, either by marriage or moving in together, and she loves the whole package—but she just wants to polish it a bit here or there. Don’t be so stubborn that you refuse to make any changes at all. Remember, she’s just trying to increase her chances that you’ll be there to grow old with her—she’s not trying to be your mother.
Are there things you don’t like about her? Of course there are. Do you expect her to be perfect? Hopefully not. And she doesn’t expect it from you either. But if you passed yourself off in the beginning as a something you’re not, don’t be shocked if she expects you to live up to your end of the deal.
More than any other quirk in the male psyche, the inability to listen is what drives women absolutely nuts. And as a man, you have the remarkable ability to block out anything that makes you feel anxious—and listening can be unnerving since listening could lead to change.
Don’t confuse changing for the better with being controlled though—asking for a slightly different behavior is a far cry from demanding a total personality overhaul, so before you dig in your heels and staunchly refuse to budge an inch, understand exactly what she wants from you. Then, if she has a valid point, you can decide whether or not you want to make the adjustment. Each change you make will bring you that much closer to being the real live man of her dreams. And who wouldn’t want to be Prince Charming?