“Welcome to the neighborhood!” we said as we met our new neighbors last night and immediately tried to change them because they have two big dogs and no fence…
And we thought they should have a fence because we didn’t want the dogs running loose!
Isn’t that we all do to try to arrange circumstances and people so our lives will be okay?
As the two of us talked about the topic of trying to change someone, we both came to the same conclusion…
Through the years, we’ve tried to change (or wished they’d act differently) just about everyone in our lives on some level!
When you see it, you have to laugh but when you’re in the middle of a “thought storm” when you desperately want someone to change–and they aren’t, it’s not so funny.
And this is what we all do.
Take Anita and Todd…
Anita was constantly irritated with Todd because she thought he “spoiled” his grown daughter, Rachael, from another marriage.
This is a second marriage for both Anita and Todd and it had felt as if they’d been sliding downhill for awhile because they were constantly at odds, especially about Rachael and the money Todd gives her.
Anita came to us complaining that not only does Todd give Rachael money for rent every month but she turns around and spends most of it on clothes and makeup–then asks for more because her rent is due!
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Anita was angry and wanted Todd to “wake up” and change but every time she tried to talk with him about it, he either froze and walked away or lashed out at Anita, saying she’d never liked Rachael.
During our conversations, here are 3 insights Anita had about trying to change someone that you can consider as well…
1. Trying to change another person creates anxiety and suffering
When you try to change another person, you are saying that you know better how they should live their life than they do. It creates a superior/inferior dynamic which doesn’t allow for connection.
Anita saw that her pushing Todd into what she thought was best was creating a lot of anxiety, not only with Todd and Rachael but also inside her.
She realized that her constant fearful thinking that the situation shouldn’t be as it is was only making the situation worse.
And her relationships were suffering.
2. When you allow your thoughts to settle, you’ll see something new
Being wound up in thoughts of how you think another person should be only creates more of what you don’t want.
When you allow yourself to let the “shoulds” float on by, there’s fresh thinking underneath all that.
After Anita saw the amount of anxiety she was constantly carrying, she discovered that she really didn’t know what was right for Todd and Rachael’s relationship–even though she thought she did.
3. Take action from that calm, knowing place inside you
As Anita stopped trying to change Todd and Rachael’s “dance” because it no longer made sense to her, Todd noticed the difference.
He began to see for himself that his main motivation in supporting Rachael in this way was because he felt guilty leaving his previous marriage and Rachael so many years ago.
As he had the space to see more for himself, he saw that maybe it wasn’t the best thing for Rachael or for him to keep doing what he’d been doing.
When Todd saw that Anita had backed off with the accusations and how he should act, he became more open with her and they could actually have a discussion about the household budget and spending that they hadn’t had for many years.
The truth is that we may think we know what’s best for someone else, but we really don’t.
We can only see the “story” we’re weaving about what we think is best and see it for what it is–a story.
By the way, our neighbors said they’d planned on getting an electric fence for their yard to keep the dogs confined so our fears were put to rest and all’s well in our little neighborhood…
Or that’s the “story” we’re telling ourselves!