If you have seen the fantastic-ness that is ‘Bridget Jones Diary’, you will recall the tug-of-war between Bridget, Mark and Daniel that encapsulated the entire film. She was being pursued by the playboy Daniel whom she knew existed some red flags but ultimately she believed was fixable. Mark, from her eyes, was a bore. And so, she took Daniels’ bait, only to learn the truth down the line and end up falling for Mark. You will surely remember Bridget saying to Mark, “you like me just the way I am”, repeating something he said earlier. This entire relationship web is a stereotypical insight into dating.
I remember listening to a speaker talk about the biggest difference between men and women in the dating world. In short, this speaker believed that “women choose men for who they could be while men choose women for who they are.” This speaker went on to note that women should realize that it is not their job to change a man, nor should they expect to be able to do so. They also noted that men seem to be okay with who a woman is but only after putting considerable time upfront finding a woman that will meet his needs, much to the detriment of causalities along the way. In case you’re curious, this speaker was a woman.
11 years and 500 clients later, I have some things to say about her theory.
For starters, there is some truth to it. After all, if most women were to look at a men and make the snap judgment that he is exactly as presented, is, there would be very few courtships and lots of single ladies, none of whom would want men to ‘put a ring on it’. Women want the entire relationship PIE (Physical, Intellectual, and Emotional) and all three rarely come out enough to enthrall and intrigue women during the dating process. Still, they are taken by the charm or the wit and figure that the rest is a work in progress.
As well, men want relationships that are simpler, more predictable. In this, when they find someone that they get and who gets them, they do not want to let go. But it takes a while to get there and there’ll be fun and frustration along the way.
These are basic antidotes about relationships and the sexes. Overly basic for that matter. Now let’s throw in some divorce and confusion, just to keep you on your toes of course.
“The Bermuda Triangle of Advice”
On one hand, we tell women to quit trying to change men. On the other hand, we tell women to put more effort in salvaging the marriage, this since 80% of divorces are filed or initiated by women. On the third hand, we tell women to be themselves, demand good treatment, and not settle. I’m curious, how is anyone to make sense of this Bermuda Triangle of advice?
Let’s say that Sally is married to Rick and is tired of his short temper. She wishes he would take a chill pill more often than he cares to do and yes, he has been short tempered since they met. But, something drew her to him despite this shortcoming. According to hand one, she must refrain from trying to change him. According to hand two, she should really try and make it work. According to hand three, she should be who she is and not change for Rick.
So what happens if his short temper leaves her miserable? Should she leave him since staying with him would violate hand three even though leaving would violate hand two? Remember, she married him warts and all, perhaps hoping that his short temper would eventually be replaced by increased patience, awareness, and respect. And, if we are to follow popular theory, he married her because he found someone who understood him and him her. In other words, he knew of his temper issues and he knew that she knew.
The blunt perspective of some people may be that she is to blame for marrying a short tempered man only to try and change him. Another perspective is that she should figure out ways to deal with his temper since there are other things about him that she loves. I have a different view and it applies to people far beyond Sally and Rick. Allow me to explain it under three short headings:
1. Bait and Switch: Let’s acknowledge that any partner can tone down, shield, or hide their less attractive features only to fully display them once a marriage has been consummated. In this, expecting Sally to have known the extent of Rick’s temper issues is both unfair and naïve.
2. The Vow: Rick being self-aware of his temper issues, while noble to some degree, should not prevent him from honoring the views he took at the alter. You know, that whole thing about loving, honoring, and cherishing his bride-to-be? If this meant anything to him, he would find ways to curb his temper and minimize the impacts it has on his bride.
3. The Focus: Perhaps Sally made a mistake in marrying Rick. It aint the first and it won’t be the last time that anyone, man or woman, has done that. But so long as we are focusing on her mistake of marrying him, we are ignoring or lessoning the behaviors that are giving her pause: Rick’s behaviors.
The moral of the story is this: We should not be blaming women for trying to change men and start holding men accountable for how they act.