Monday, November 9, 2015

3 Rules To Guide You When A Loved One Changes

It seems to me that a large collection of humankind are afraid of the differences in each other. People are afraid of change. People are afraid of loved ones changing. Too many times I've heard stories of people who leave their spouse because "they changed". I've heard stories of families disowning a member because they left the family's religion of choice, or went against all of the family's set of core beliefs. We get scared because this new difference means the person isn't what we always thought they'd be, and if they're not, then do we really love them, or have room in our lives for them anymore?

Because this has been something I've noticed for most of my life, and also had a lot of deep thoughts about, I want to address this now. So, here are my rules on accepting our loved ones when they change. I'm saying when because it will happen, maybe small, but it will. You cannot go through life unchanged. Things happen that we must go through that will forever leave you changed. 

Rule 1: Assess the reality of the change, and what it means. 

Look at the situation for what it is. Is your loved one making choices that can bring danger or harm to you and your home? Is having them around going to hurt you in anyway? By hurt, I don't mean, "Yes it pains me to see that they aren't Christian anymore." I mean, is what they're doing against the law? Does it bring dangerous people around your home? Is it harming you? Are they stealing from you, or lying to you constantly or being mean? 

These are important assessments because all too often, the changes are not necessarily dangerous or harmful things. Did you love them because of what they did, or because of who they are? 
For example: You're the parent of a child who has decided they don't want to belong to your religion. While this may sadden you, because you had always hoped they would turn out to be devout followers of your own faith, this doesn't mean they are bad people. Look at who they are currently. Are they breaking laws, and causing harm? Or are they still contributing to society, and being a good person? Are they maintaining healthy relationships, and are they still respecting you? You just may find that what scares you isn't scary at all. It's just the unknown, and as you keep your heart open to their changes, you will form a bond with them that can't be broken. You will receive respect, trust, and have a great relationship with your child and possibly future grandchildren.

Rule 2: Get to know the new them, because they're trying to as well. 

Sometimes life throws curveballs at us, and for whatever reason, we change drastically. This can be scary for those around us who are used to us being who we were. If this has happened, don't toss up your hands in despair and say, "Well, I loved her, but she changed, so now I can't." That is defeating language and will ruin things from the start. Instead, think of it as an opportunity to fall in love with that person all over again. See what this new version of them can teach you, and bring to the table. I'm willing to bet that they are struggling to learn who they are as well.  I'm also willing to bet, that you'll find something great about them, and be able to love the new them.

When my mother died, I changed a lot. A part of me would never return because you can't go through something that hurts that bad and not come out a new person. It was scary, and then exciting. I can't imagine what I would've felt, if the entire time I was grieving my mother, and my old self, I was being pushed to return to homeostasis immediately. My husband was patient, and often did his own thing while I found my center again. Because of this patience, I'm excited to find the new me, and get to know her. I haven't had to feel guilty for learning who I am or for the ways I've changed. 

Rule 3: Keep an open mind, and an open heart. 

I've always believed the old saying, "You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar." The reason this rings true in my heart is this -- rarely does anyone react positively to a negative action. If you hound, and push your loved one to be who you want them to be, instead of who they are, you will not have a good outcome. Love is not in that equation. To truly beget positive outcomes, you need to include love. You need to give love.

Explore the newness of their changes. Ask them about them, still show an interest even if what they do now isn't something you're used to. You could even try to take an interest in a new activity of theirs. Show them that despite their changes, they are still a loved one. Show them that their value doesn't lie in what you want of them. They are valuable because they exist. Show them that you are willing to let them grow and morph into whatever they choose to become as they get through the rigors of life.

This doesn't mean be a pushover if their changes are harmful. This means you can love at arms length if you need to. This means you can set your boundaries, and still love them. This means you will be open to change, because your day of personal change will also come. Embrace the newness and adventure of change. It is inevitable for us all. You just might gain some great experiences you wouldn't have otherwise.

So, dear friends, remember to keep an open mind, heart, and arms for the people you love as they grow and change and you'll find that the changes weren't so bad after all. You just might even prefer the changes. That would be something wouldn't it?

How do you handle things when a loved one changes? What else could we add to this? Please share your stories, insights, comments below. I'd love to hear from you and get insights on this topic.

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  1. This is such a great, important post, Lana! After we moved to Georgia, I wasn't me at ALL. I am so thankful that Tom was so decidedly patient and empathetic. He helped me along, but he let me help myself. He didn't try to fix me, or "wish I was back to the old me"... he just gave me the time I needed to come back out of my depression and find acceptance in the new situation and the struggles that came with it. I think it's a important for anyone to hear, but spouses especially. They're the person you're with for life.. they see you change and develop through all life's turns. So from the start you need to be with someone who's ready to take that on. Well said, friend. Love it.

    1. It really is true, and it's hard to be you when everything that made you "you" is in another state. It's all new, and different. I'm glad you have someone who understands you! Thanks for you comment!

  2. Hi Lana! This is a very thought-provoking and insightful article, and I found it at the right time for me. You make many valid points, and some of the things you said encouraged me to see a certain difficult situation from another perspective.

    It's a pleasure to visit your blog, and you write very eloquently.

    Best wishes,

    Saba x

    1. Saba, thank you for your comment. I'm glad you were able to look at things from another perspective! It is very hard to do. I fail at it regularly, but when I am able, I feel like it changes everything.


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