When Someone You Love Won’t Change (or listen)

Someone posed an interesting question to me the other day. 

It went something like this: If someone you love does things that hurt you over and over despite you telling the them repeatedly how you feel about things, what do you do? 

That’s a good question and there is no easy answer. For some people change is difficult or they simply don’t get it. Some may not truly care enough to make the effort. 

The most important thing to realize beyond the basics (which you can find here) is that another person’s behavior doesn’t say anything about you – it speaks only about them. 

If someone treats you badly, it simply says that they treat people badly. It absolutely does not indicate that you’re unworthy of being treated well (an extrapolation that will leave you blaming yourself for someone else’s behavior, which you can’t fix & leads to hopelessness). It says that maybe your loved one has some underlying issues, poor priorities, bad attitude, or is inconsiderate. It doesn’t say that you are bad, unworthy, not enough, or unimportant.

As tough as it may be, not taking this sort of situation personally is the best ticket to not being pulled down into a pool of self doubt and pain. It isn’t personal, because it isn’t your behavior, it is theirs. It’s about them. 

Once you’ve done all you can with words, look at your boundaries. For example, if the issue is a friend who cancels plans a lot, stop making plans with them. If it’s someone who doesn’t communicate their desire to spend time with you but does expect you to make time for them short notice, stop complying. It is hard to say no to people we love, but allowing a pattern of hurtful behavior to continue may hurt worse. Setting and sticking to some boundaries may be a more effective means of communicating with this person than simply telling them something – and then continuing to go along with the behavior. 

Yes, all of this will still leave you with hurt feelings and the pain of someone you care for ignoring your feelings or wishes. There is no magic cure to help that. 

Nurse those feelings by accepting the relationship for what it is: difficult. Determine what’s ok with you and what isn’t and stick to it. Remind yourself, “This person’s behavior isn’t because of me. I don’t have control of their actions and they don’t have control of mine.” Repeat it each time you feel the pang of pain or guilt about the boundaries you’ve set, etc. Surround yourself with people who are supportive and do care and listen! Delve into your own *thang* – spend time on finding out what you enjoy or doing what you enjoy, caring for yourself, planting flowers, sprucing up your home, rooting for your favorite athletes or sports teams, taking day trips, anything that is for you. This helps reinforce your own self worth and boost your happiness – two things totally in your control! 

Happy healing! 

Whitney 

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