The only person we can truly change is ourselves.
What a hard lesson this is to learn, right?

And while I truly thought I have worked through my own need to meld someone else into my version of who they should be, I learned the other day that I may still need to work on this. I have a cat, Buncom (aka: Chunky Bunky Big Fat Monkey) that I love more than life itself. He is my sweet boy. He (and his brother, Biddle) have been with us from the time they were 10 weeks old. And while he is the sweetest cat and biggest baby, he is also a very naughty cat with a bit of a crazy streak. A classic Jekyll and Hyde. It took him two years to stop freaking out when our sweet dog, Xena, entered the room. He acted as though it was the first time he was seeing her… Needless to say, he is very special and very funny to have around.

But the fun stopped when we found a sweet cat, Elsie, wandering our neighborhood. After many attempts to find her home, we realized that she simply didn’t have one. We took her in and thought that she would become a part of our family.

Buncom didn’t agree with this. He absolutely hated her right from the start.

For many months, he has made her life a living hell. He stalks her, attacks her, and is obsessed with ruining her life. We have to separate them at night, and she has learned to stay awake during the day while he is sleeping and sleep while he is awake. However, there is some overlap when they are both awake, which is when she is attacked.

We have tried everything to discipline him: scruffing him, time outs, ignoring it in the hopes that he would mellow out over time, etc. Nothing works. If anything, he is getting worse.

I learned once and for all the other day that I simply can’t change him. As much as I would love for him to love Elsie (or at least be okay with her – or at least hate her and stop attacking her), it simply is not going to happen.

He is not going to change.

I made the mistake of holding him to try to redirect his attention away from his obsession with stalking Elsie. She jumped up onto the chair, and he is so afraid of her that he freaked out to run away and ended up scratching me really badly.

That is it. I learned my lesson. He is not going to change.Thankfully, my mom has agreed to adopt sweet Elsie – she will have a home where she is no longer tormented on a daily basis – or ever for that matter.

And I know this is a bit of a silly example, but it applies to people as well.

I have known many people (myself included) who have stayed in relationships far longer than they should have simply because they truly thought they could change their partner.

It simply doesn’t work. And it ends up causing you (and the one you are trying to change) pain and grief and resentment and heartache (and scratches in my example).

Imagine how you would feel if your loved one were trying to change a part of you. I can imagine that it would hurt deeply to feel that their love was conditional: “I’ll love you and be with you if you do this, act like this, stop being this way, etc.”

People do change – but not because we tell them do. They change because something internally clicks and they realize that they want to live differently – act differently. If they do decide to change simply to please you, the resentment and hurt that they feel because of this will eventually wreck havoc on your relationship.

Figure out why you want to change this person. Assume that they will be exactly how they are for the rest of their lives. Can you live with this? Can you reach some sort of compromise? Can you adjust your own thinking somehow to be able to come to terms with this part of them?

If not, it may be time to reevaluate the relationship. It may be time to leave. I am a firm believer that our relationships should not be struggles. And if this wanting to change your partner/friend/loved one is tearing your relationship apart, you can choose to either change the way you see the situation or remove yourself completely from it.

Work on changing yourself. Put your energy into something that is real and fruitful and positive.

I know your heart is in the right place. I know you want the best for your loved ones. But I also know that putting energy into trying to control something that is impossible for you to control will only cause you pain and heartache. Letting go of the impossible aim to change others will save you a lot of heartache (and scratches) in long run.

Author's Bio: 

Jodi Chapman is the author of the inspirational blog, Soul Speak; the upcoming book, Coming Back to Life: How an Unlikely Friend Helped Me Reclaim My True Spirit; and the bestselling Soulful Journals series, co-authored with her amazing husband, Dan Teck.