THE COLUMN

Issue No. 47, November 11, 1995


NO CHOICES

IVAN HOFFMAN

We never have the choice to change anyone else. Of all the options available to us in any relationship, whether the relationship be one of romantic love, friendship, or otherwise, trying to change the other person is simply not one of those choices. (For readability sake only, let me refer to the "other person" as "he." It works both ways.)

We are limited to two options only: (check one)

  1. we can either accept him for who he is at that moment; or
  2. we can leave.
Attempting to change him creates conflicts not only in the relationship generally but in him specifically. He has a great deal invested in who he is. Whether or not he likes who he is does not matter because even if he dislikes himself and claims he wishes to change, he still has all of his life invested in the definition he has created. By forcing him to choose between who he knows and who he does not know creates further conflict. Most of us find it scary in the extreme to step out into the unknown about anything and so, if there is pressure on him to change the essence of who he is, it is likely that something has to give and it probably will be the relationship.

And even if the relationship does not end, he will never feel comfortable because he knows, even if he does not acknowledge it, that she is not accepting him for who he is. "If she really knew who I was, she wouldn't want me to change," or something like that.

And she will never be comfortable either for it is something inside her that is causing her to want him to change. "After all, if he loved me he would change," or something like that.

As a result, there can never be any intimacy between the parties to the relationship.

As a result, there can never be any intimacy between the parties because he is not allowed to be who he is. And if he cannot be who he is, then she cannot be who she is either since she is constantly doing battle within herself about who she is and the reasons she cannot accept who he is. So neither he nor she can ever really connect with the other because neither is being who they are.

But there is also a spiritual reason why we have no choice to change the other person. (And to be politically correct, "the other person" is now called "she.") The individual destinies that brought them together were based upon who each was when they met. If he interferes with her destiny by trying to make her be someone she is not, then he is, at the same time interfering with his own destiny because their two destinies are linked together. They need to find a place of balance and harmony and can only do so when each is free to be who they are, no matter how painful that course of conduct may be.

Of course, the immediate response is that if each remains who they are, then the relationship may break up. But that is choice 2 above. If the relationship dissolves in some form because neither one wanted or was able to change, then that is what the universe wanted for each. Each needed to lose the other in order that each one's destiny could be fulfilled.

Now, this does not mean that either cannot, by their example, offer to the other options to change. If, during the course of the relationship he or she elects to change, based upon the example of the other or for any other reason, then it is because it is his or her destiny to do so. But there is no interference with destiny because the choice to change was voluntarily. In such an instance, it was his or her destiny to meet the other and change themselves because it was a free, harmonious and balanced decision to do so.

We can only lead by example.

© 1995 Ivan Hoffman


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