I know, now, that many different paths lead to the squandering of relationship with another person. I don’t believe I learned them all, but I think I know a few of the top ten, anyway. I took some time, today, to think about what I believe is the easiest of all those paths — the attempt by one partner to change the other. Throughout my marriages, my primary task seemed to me to remake him into my idea of a good husband.
When two people enter into a relationship, they have many expectations of the other. I had many expectations, I should say, because my attempts at relationships were always cluttered with unreachable expectations — expectations of the other, not of myself. I never did mature enough to understand that I could not change anyone. I acted like a six-year-old child, who wants what she wants and refuses to consider that no might be the answer.
The changes I expected my other to make were all in line with making him less like himself, and more like what I thought he should be. And I never figured out, until well after I swore off relationships like marriage, that my mistake was to marry a person who wasn’t already who I wanted. That seems like such an easy instruction to follow — but I didn’t understand, nor do I think I ever wanted to. I believed I was in the right, and when, in spite of all of my efforts, he refused to become who I wanted him to be, I blamed him and left, angry and frustrated on the outside, heartbroken and wounded on the inside. I considered my inherent unworthiness the problem, and never considered that I was the one rejecting the other because he wouldn’t change to suit me.
I knew and understood this a couple of years ago, but I was unwilling to admit to myself that I was at fault. But a vital part of the change I’ve experienced over the last years is to forgive myself, and until I admitted my grave mistakes, I would never achieve that forgiveness. I believe self-forgiveness will be, at least for me, a lifetime effort. Every minute of the life I am living now offers new understanding into new levels of mistakes for which I will forgive myself. This is a humbling experience, to say the least; but with every understanding I gain, I can move a little forward, because I have forgiven my past.