Before we begin, let’s just clear the air and state that no relationship should start out as a charity project. If you jump into a romance with the entire intent to change a person, please stop what you are doing and give your sanity—and him—a break. You’re not doing anyone any favors.
With that out of the way, there is some cause to rethink the relationship advice, “Don’t expect to change him.” While maybe a well-meaning phrase dished out to new couples, it oversimplifies in its one-size-fits-all solution. The thing is, the right guy will change for the right reasons. And don’t sell yourself short: You might be one of the most powerful motivators.
Yet how do you know he’s changing for real, and it’s not just a fake-out? Here are a few signs that his change is probably legitimate.
01. He shows remorse.
One of the most telling signs that change is really about to occur? Remorse.
“Remorse is not just sorrow for an action, or getting caught at something they should not be doing,” shares Monte Drenner, a Licensed Counselor, Master Certified Addictions Counselor, Life Coach, who has more than thirty years in the field. “Remorse means the individual has deep and painful regret for their action,” Drenner says. Drenner explains that change often occurs when the pain of remaining the same exceeds the pain of changing. Having remorse for a past action is often a sign that the pain has passed that threshold.
02. He listens and asks questions.
The guy who is ready to make a change won’t be defensive, says Karen Koening, MEd, LCSW. “When you speak with someone about changing, he or she doesn’t get defensive but asks specifically what exact changes you’d like to see happen.” Let’s be honest, the guy who gives your feelings and perspective respect, rather then spending his time defending his actions, is much more likely to be able to take the steps necessary to change his behavior.
“The key is if the other person takes a request seriously and acts accordingly,” adds Jeffrey Von Glahn, Ph.D. Glahn explains that a sure sign your guy is serious about making a change is if he checks in and asks, “So, how am I doing?”
03. He is motivated by more than just you.
While you might be the catalyst for the change, don’t assume that the change is just about you. That’s actually a good thing. Dr. Josh Klapow, Chief Behavioral Scientist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and host of The Web Radio Show, shares that “Motivation is influenced by our partner, but your partner is never the primary driving force for change.” He explains that no one has the power to influence us so much as to have us make permanent change. “That is both scary and very empowering.”
Drenner illustrates this in his own personal experience. “My wife may have been the agent of change, but once I was properly motivated, I made the changes for me.” Yet that needn’t lessen your role. “She inspires me to be a better man and therefore makes change very rewarding.”
04. His actions improve—but slowly.
Actions certainly speak louder than words, but remember that real change doesn’t happen overnight. If you’re in it for the long haul, you’ll need some patience, and maybe some distance to provide space for the changes to take root. “In the beginning the change may be big and then revert back for a short while,” Klapow warns. But, if the changes are happening slowly, it’s a sign that they’re real, not superficial. “Change comes only with time, consistency and observable actions,” Klapow shares.
05. Your gut is telling you it’s real.
When it comes to matters of the heart, your instincts often react faster than your brain. “Trust your gut . . . if you think your significant other is just saying they will change but are not . . . pay attention to those instincts. . . . They are often right!” Klapow says. “If it’s just an act you will see the cracks in the performance if you are looking for them carefully. . . . People usually have tells that they are not making the changes they promise to make.” He shares that the key is to look for incongruities in actions, thoughts, and feelings.
06. You’re in it together.
Although he needs to be individually motivated, this doesn’t necessarily mean this is an individual effort. Depending on the change, the going can get rough, and support is key. Stacey Green, Author of Stronger Than Broken - One Couple’s Decision to Move Through an Affair shares “We need to realize that we can grow together. One of the signs that a person is changing for the better is that the relationship between the two of you continues to feel strong and not static.”
Even with all of these markers for true change in mind, it’s important set realistic expectations for yourself. Depending how deep an issue goes, the longer it might take to resolve. Klapow adds, “The more ingrained and entrenched, the more difficult it is to change and the more likely you are to drift back.” So before you make your ultimatums, be real, and think about what you’re really in for.
Photo Credit: Drawn to the Image