Lately, I've been really busy finishing up my dissertation (I know, it's exciting!). This has subsequently caused me to not have much time for blogging. But I have been reading a lot of research about relationships (as per "finishing up my dissertation"). Yesterday, while searching for some research on gender communication, I came accross a brief snipet in a book entitled "Exploring Gender Speak: Personal Effectiveness in Gender Communication" by Diana Ivy and Phil Backlund that struck me. You see, I've been wanting to do a series of posts about "dealing with change" over the last few months, but I just can't seem to find the time. These few paragraphs reminded me about this back burner goal of mine. I thought I'd start off this series of posts by giving you those wise love words by Ivy and Backlund:
Consider this stereotypical belief in romantic relationships, "I can change this person. I know he/she has faults, but I can fix those faults." This is such a part of relational folklore that, even though your friends will warn you that you can't change a person, deep down inside you might be saying, "I'll be the exception; I'll be the one to do it." Family communication expert Kathleen Galvin (1993) describes this phenomenon in relation to the early stages of marriage. She contends that "in the beginning, couples frequently make allowances for behavior that isn't quite acceptable because new spouses focus on what they are getting, and differences seem enhancing. Later, differences become annoying and call out for resolution" (p. 95).
How do you feel when you know another person wants to change you or change your relationship? The tendency is to resist the person's attempt or to view it as one person's power play designed to exert control over another. Consider an example. Anthony and Amy are in the middle of the powerful, exhilarating emotions that exist in a romantic relationship. But the intense romantic feelings subsided for a bit for Amy before they did for Anthony. She didn't care for Anthony any less, but she just wasn't so caught up in the "emotional rush." Anthony was really bothered by this change in Amy; he tried several ways to recreate the initial level of feeling. Amy didn't want to and really couldn't change her feelings. The more Anthony pushed to get things back to the way they had been, the more Amy resisted; she soon began to resent Anthony's pressure. It wasn't until Anthony stopped putting on the pressure and relaxed enough to accept the change in Amy that Amy regained some of her positive feelings about the relationship. They didn't return to the early phase, but they did attain a new level of closeness.
The importance of acceptance in this type of relationship cannot be overemphasized. Having complete confidence in another person is a great feeling, and it's quite disconcerting when your confidence in the other person is lacking. One of life's paradoxes is that real change in people seems to be possible only when a person feels completely secure and accepted in a relationship. It seems that each of us wants to be accepted for who we are. It is within that acceptance that we can change to please ourselves and improve the relationship.