LIVING WITH WOMEN
 

TRYING TO CHANGE A WOMAN


WAYS TO GO


Two paths open

when the light of reality

begins to dawn on illusions

of romantic love:


One may then set about

to try to change a lover

to fit more in keeping

with private desires

or, when faith is sufficient,

dare to begin accepting

another as revealed

on the longer way to love


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Although it may well be genetically proper for a woman to continually try to change a man, after, but not before marriage, to make him fit more acceptably into serving her genetic needs, I do not think the same holds true for men and our wives.

A male's wiser option lies, I think, in trying to love a woman as she is–in the agape sense of the term. Over time I have come to see real love as comprised of three major attributes: acceptance, affirmation, and freedom. To truly love a woman, in this understanding, is, first of all, to openly accept her as she presently presents herself–that is, to openly acknowledge without negative judgment her manifest traits.

This does not mean, of course, that you actually like everything about her, or even that you might not delight in significant changes; but it does mean that in daily living, in the moments of your encounters with her, your energies are devoted to openly taking her as she now is, carefully avoiding diverting attention to trying to change her in any way.

Instead, I find it better to give energies to developing one's own skills and artistry in maximizing satisfactions to be found in meeting her in presently positive ways. Paradoxically, real changes in a mate are far more likely to occur based on a foundation of current acceptance than on even the most devoted and diligent efforts to trying to change her.


Obviously there are certain changes one may reasonably seek to bring about in a spouse, such as, gross irresponsibility in matters which effect both partners (e.g., money making and/or spending); household chores, physical health; paying bills; illegal activities; unhealthy addictions to drugs or alcohol; sexual acting out; physical abuse; self-destructive behavior; snoring, etc.

This, however is not about such wide-ranging attributes or behaviors which do seriously effect the success of any relationship. Rather it is about an often wider range of lesser traits or habits better seen as: irritations, disappointments, "bothers," "needed improvements," offensive attributes, things I wish she would do or ways I wish she would be; absence of traits admired in others (e.g., one's mother and/or other lovers).

Examples in specific relationships might include: matters of personal hygiene; degrees of cleanliness; lack of, or excessive shows of affection; avoidance of being sexual; puritanical sexual attitudes; judgmental habits; being critical or unappreciative; high social expectations; dislike of personal friends, hobbies, or expectations of personal changes before approval is given; bitchiness (habitual complaining).

I interrupt this train of thought to note my prior conclusion that the first of 3 major attributes of agape ("real love") is acceptance of a loved one as they now are rather than as I wish they were or think they might be. This comes before #2, affirmation and #3, freedom.

Relevant here is my opinion that accepting versus trying to change a person is but the first step in truly loving another person. At issue here is distinguishing traits which seriously effect oneself in a community property marriage relationship from simply offensive attributes which do not truly undermine the marriage or have actual destructive consequences on oneself.

Acceptance means standing consciously present with an offensive trait fully in awareness without trying to do anything about it–that is, trying to change it in any way. Such acceptance doesn't mean that you like the trait, or that you would not be delighted if it changed more to your liking; but it does mean that these private feelings are held as your own, without being spoken or allowed to influence your open acceptance of such a trait.

When acceptance is expressed well, a wife may not even recognize a trait's offensive nature; or, if so, she feels "it's still alright with my husband."

Negatively speaking, acceptance means without any negative judgment. Even if, for example, a wife knows that her husband doesn't like a certain attribute of hers, she doesn't feel "put down" about it, or that she must hide, pretend to be different, or try to change it herself. She may think: "I am aware that he wishes I were different, but I also know I'm still okay with him as I am."

But if a husband does openly accept a trait he wishes were different–in accord with this first phase of agape, what is he to do with the personal energy generated in perceiving the trait itself?

The nature of natural perceptions includes creation of energy in the process of perceiving. These energies are typically dissipated in negative judgments, criticism, smouldering resentment, rejection, and/or devoted efforts to change them in a spouse. But with acceptance, when these typically familiar reactions are stopped, the same associated energies are left, as it were, "free floating." What then is a husband to do with them?


PARADOX OF PECCADILLOS


Past any major attributes of behavior which seriously undermine the stability of a relationship and do indeed call for artistry in efforts to change (e.g., those enumerated before), most of the lesser or personally offensive traits which I suggest to be best dealt with by acceptance, may be summarized as peccadillos–that is, individual attributes or modes of behavior ("personality traits") likely to have long existed long before in the life of a wife.

Most of them have little if anything to do with a husband himself, except that they "bother him" and he wishes they were different. Mostly, from a wife's perspective, they are just a part of "the way she is."


Now to the paradox part. As strange as it may seem to the eyes of logic, smaller peccadillos are often but the tip of an iceberg of vastly larger, concealed (repressed), aspects of oneself. Even though they may reasonably seem like small things ("Why am I so bothered by such an insignificant attribute?"), in reality offensive traits–either things done or not done, may be keys (or clues) to un-faced or unresolved problems within oneself.

The psychological rule of thumb is: Most traits in others which bother me are a reflection of some repressed aspect of myself. In other words: we are commonly offended by traits in others which in some-as-yet-unrecognized way reflect un-faced parts of ourselves. Easier to be bothered "out there" than to deal with matters "in here." "Putting down" on others, in this case, one's wife, is temporarily easier than "letting up" denied aspects of oneself.

It is as though the bothersome traits of others some-psychologically-how reflect or mirror deeply hidden and often consciously denied, traits in myself.


ACCEPTANCE AS IS


One further clarification of acceptance as contrasted with trying to change, which I so easily forget is this: To accept a wife is to accept her as she perceives herself to be, rather than some imagined potential one may see in her, some way she might be, versus now is in her own deeper mind. Even if your images of her are closer to actual reality than those she holds of herself, still true acceptance involves suspending your opinions in favor of accepting the way she views herself, e.g., smart/dumb; pretty/ugly; strong/weak, etc.

Such acceptance becomes particularly hard when a wife's view of herself is very different from her husband's perspective, e.g., when she sees herself as dumb, while he thinks she is smart; or when she thinks she is unattractive in contrast with his "thinking she's pretty."

Accepting a wife as-she-sees-herself does not mean agreeing with her when you don't–that is, lying about a different perspective; but, and this is the critical point: It does mean standing openly present with her self-view even when you think it is wrong, without trying to change it, e.g., to convince her of her error ("You're not really dumb," or, "You're certainly not unattractive").

The Don Quixote/Dulcinea stance, in which a man devotes himself to a woman's potential self rather than her current view of who she is, is, though idolized, contrary to the stance advocated here.


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