Addiction to Getting Others To ChangeBy Dr. Margaret Paul
March 25, 2013
Are you focusing on getting your partner to change to avoid a painful choice that you might need to make?
If you find yourself often focused on healing others or hoping you can get others to change, it is likely that you don't think of this as an addiction. I define an addiction as anything we do to avoid taking responsibility for our own feelings. When you are focused on getting others to change, or hoping others will change, is this a way for you to avoid taking loving care of yourself? Are you trying to fix others and get them to change so that you don't have to learn to take responsibility for your own feelings?
Judy finds herself caught in this addiction:
"What do you do when you are so focused on a partners growth? You can see they are in pain but they are not willing to look at themselves. How do I stop having hope they will?"
Judy, what will you have to deal with if your partner doesn't change? What are you avoiding feeling by being focused on your partner? What will you be faced with if your partner never changes?
These are the questions to ask yourself. You need to come to terms with what is true for you. Here are your two choices:
Can you accept that, since your partner is not interested in personal growth and is willing to stay in pain rather than face him/herself, he or she is not likely to change?
- If you cannot accept this, are you willing to leave?
These are the only two choices available to you. Getting your partner to change is not a choice that is available to you.
If you decide to accept your partner, then you need to focus on taking loving care of your own feelings of sadness, loneliness and heartbreak when you see your partner in pain – without saying anything to try to get your partner to change.
If you decide you cannot accept this, then you need to leave and take loving care of your feelings of sadness, loneliness and heartbreak over the end of the relationship.
As you can see, in both situations you need to learn to take care of your own painful feelings. This is likely what you are avoiding by focusing on your partner's growth.
I suggest that you practice shifting your compassion from your partner's pain to your own pain. When you are focused on your partner's pain but not on your pain in seeing your partner in pain and being unwilling to do anything about it, you are abandoning yourself. You are rejecting your feelings by focusing on your hope for your partner to change. The pain caused by your own self-abandonment is likely the underlying issue of your unwillingness to let go of your hope. If you let go of hope, then you need to face your own self-abandonment that may be causing much more pain than your partner's pain.
I know how very hard this is, as I used to do the same thing. It seemed so much easier for me to try to get my husband to change than to face the reality that his unwillingness to learn and grow was not acceptable to me. It seemed like there was no good choice. I either needed to accept something that was not acceptable to me, or I needed to leave, which I REALLY didn't want to have to do. So I kept putting off knowing that I needed to leave by focusing on trying to get him to change.
I finally did leave, and I can't tell you what a relief it was to no longer be a witness to the pain he was causing himself by his lack of loving himself. At the time it seems to be the lesser of two bad choices, but it turned out to be a very loving choice for me.
Judy, only you can decide what is the most loving choice for you.
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Become open hearted and willing to learn and choose to be with those who are also open. When two or more are gathered with a willingness to learn about love, there is the deep joyousness of connection.
By Dr. Margaret Paul