Creative Strategies For Getting Your GF/BF To Change

Evan Marc Katz recently wrote a thought provoking post called, Can he Really Be A Good Guy Who Just Got Scared And Bolted, Or Am I Right To Wonder About The Strength Of His Character? In it, a woman named Dee Ann described a guy she dated for a month that she had an awesome connection with. The guy disappeared, no explanation, no contact, poof. Two months go by and the guy contacted Dee Ann out of the blue, apologied profusely and stated that stress caused him to disappear. They eventually start dating again. She wrote to Evan seeking advice and wondered about her man’s integrity.

I was really surprised, because the gist of EMK’s advice was that people don’t change and Dee Ann should consider moving on. I disagreed and I had a really strong reaction to the post. I’ve written before that I think people are adaptable and capable of making huge changes in short amounts of time. For me, the bottom line is humans learn and grow, people want to change, and every single person is capable of improving themselves. Most of the time we just don’t know how. The idea that people can change is why there is a multi-billion dollar personal development industry, a multi-billion dollar fitness industry, and why people seek dating advice online, because they want to figure stuff out, stop making mistakes, and get better.

Besides that, I find the thought that people don’t change depressingly pessimistic, and I hear it all the time about guys especially. I mean, we do dumb stuff, but we’re not freaking animals. If Dee Ann takes the hater’s advice and ditches the dude, I think it moves us one step closer to the notion that our mistake-prone boyfriends and girlfriends are disposable objects. Your guy made a mistake? Ditch him, get back on, find a better boyfriend. Find a perfect boyfriend! Well, guess what: there are no perfect boyfriends. We’ve all fucked up at some point. Ladies, you’re not going to escape unscathed either, because you have all made mistakes, too. Every single one of us gets a chance at redemption.

One of the commenters on EMK’s post suggested testing his character in some way to ascertain if he’s really interested. I think that’s a great idea. Firstly, I would sit the guy down and give him a stern talking-to. Then, I would create some kind of test to gauge his interest and reveal his thoughts and feelings. If he passes the test and you get a good read on his character,  stick it out. Here are several ideas:

1. Tell him that you’re going to date other people for a certain time period, say 2-3 months, during which he can only have a platonic friendship with you. If the mutual interest still exists at the end of the stretch, and he’s being cool, then trying dating again. Alternatively, you can leave out the dating-other-people part and simply tell the other person they have to be a good friend (no sex) for 2-3 months to pass the test. I call this the Purgatory Test, and it will drive most guys nuts. Sounds rough, but hey, the dude blew it so he needs to take his licks. How he reacts will be highly character revealing.

2. The offender is required to read a good relationships book (or books) and write a thoughtful book report on it. Then the person has to present it to you. Sounds totally gay, but you know what? I’d wager you can’t read 5 Love Languages and Eat, Pray, Love without having a couple of lights come on. This is particularly effective if the person doesn’t normally read. Yeah, that’s right, I said write a book report.

3. The person has to go on a vegetarian diet for 30 days. Use cautiously, because this is extraordinarily painful and will cause hallucinations.

4. The person has to perform volunteer hours at the institution of your choice. This is pretty hardcore and I would suggest doing it together. Plenty of opportunity for growth here.

5. The person has to join a gym and exercise 6 days per week for 1 month straight. This is only effective for folks who don’t normally go to the gym.

There are five ideas for breaking someone out of their comfort zone and spurring change. What else can you think of? If you’re going to try a creative solution, be sure that the crime fits the punishment. I say instead of ditching perfectly good people who makes mistakes and do dumb stuff, which we all do, find a creative solution and help the both of you out.

  • dadshouse

    People can grow and change, and but if someone up and leaves without word for two months – lose him! That’s not treating the relationship as disposable. HE treated her as disposable.

    I agree people can change, but let him work out his changes on someone else. Who’s to say he’s got it all worked out? She should have enough self respect to move on and know another great guy will come along.
    .-= dadshouse´s last blog …Planning a First Date is So 2000 and Late =-.

  • Holly Hoffman

    I do believe that people can change, but the odds that this guy is in the process of undergoing a change at that particular moment are smaller than they are larger. It’s this ability to ignore our gut instincts that get women into situations they should’ve seen coming.

    Having said that, I think your test #1 is great. After being seriously jilted last year, I made this the test for ALL men. (Except I wasn’t seeing other people at all… but I digress.) Lots of guys asked me out and I told them I wasn’t dating for another three months, but I wouldn’t mind being friends. ::poof:: They vanished.

    Except one. He still wanted to hang out. And was totally cool with keeping it platonic. We live together now, and we have the kind of relationship I only dreamt about.

    I would like to point out that when I told DD this on her blog, you poo-pooed my idea. The same one you’re advocating here. 😉
    .-= Holly Hoffman´s last blog …Recipe for Conformity [Guest Post] =-.

  • Lance

    @Holly: I guess I changed my perspective. Voila! Case closed.

  • Honey

    I like that Lance changed his mind, Holly. In addition to being thematically relevant to this post, it makes him damn sexy.

    Although, of course, he already is – I had a dream with him in it last night, and in the dream he was naked.

    I have some nice memories of that :-)
    .-= Honey´s last blog …Creative Strategies For Getting Your GF/BF To Change =-.

  • BigLittleWolf

    Lance, Lance, Lance… dahlilnk!! All this “testing” and “tweaking” that men and women seem to want to do on, to, at, in the vicinity of each other.

    My friend – I just don’t buy into it. (Thus, I have given you my heroine, , in the link above associated with my name (and hopefully here). It is my hope that she may convince you of the need for us to unite against such shenanigans – if not with her brazen brawn, then with her wise words!!)

    People can and do change – dramatically, and gradually. But they need to choose to do so, or be changed by events that occur in their lives. We need to look at ourselves and others realistically, take our time, and ascertain if a potential partner might be good for us and visa versa. Or not.

    As for strategies – however creative (and I applaud your creativity) – to test or tweak or transform another to your taste and preferences? I say NO.

    There are plenty of gems (even if unpolished) who will suit us as they are, and oh-so-much-fun, to enjoy the treasure hunt!
    .-= BigLittleWolf´s last blog …Decision Points: Digital Nation Link =-.

  • Honey

    I don’t know – Jake and I have been together over 3 years, and we still have discussions about things that the other person needs to do/change in order for both of us to be happy. It’s called compromise, and I don’t see how you can have a relationship without it. Or can you give more detail about your point? I’d love to hear it!
    .-= Honey´s last blog …Creative Strategies For Getting Your GF/BF To Change =-.

  • Metal Briefcases

    There is nothing wrong to want to change minor things to make each other happy. There does have to be a limit though. At some point you are trying to change too much about a person. It may get to the point that you may wonder why you are with that person if there is so much you want changed.

    As for the guy who messed up and stopped called the chick….if he seems genuine now he deserves a second chance but he does need to work at rebuilding trust. You can’t simply slide back into a relationship and forget bad stuff that has happened unless it is somehow resolved.

  • Lance


  • Honey

    I agree with this. What do you think is the % of things about the other person that you already like versus what you’d want them to change? 70/30? 80/20?

    After what happened this summer, Jake now limits himself to two drinks on a weeknight and calls if he’s going to be home from work later than 8 p.m. (that’s his standard time).
    .-= Honey´s last blog …How’d You Get That Hickey, Eh? =-.

  • Lance

    Just to keep from going insane, I’d say I need something in the 80/20 range or better or else I’m always fixing stuff.

    If you’ll recall from Dee Ann’s letter to EMK, she didn’t flat-out say that the guy had a major character issue that had to be changed…we all assumed it was because he flaked out. But, it’s possible he flaked out for more-or-less legit reasons and I think it’s an important detail that they only dated for 1 month before the flake-out. Dude, one month is nothing. During that time period I say anything goes.

    On Honey’s point, what if Dee Ann and the dude have a 90%+ compatibility? You could make that conclusion based on how she described their chemistry. That’s super rare and it’s far easier to fix/develop the current relationship versus going back into the wild.

  • BigLittleWolf

    There’s compromise, and there’s the notion that you can change someone.

    Compromise is working out who may do what so the household runs more smoothly. Compromise may be how often you make love, or what time of day / night, because of a work schedule. Compromise may be using less salt because you have high blood pressure, and your partner is worried about you – even though your food tastes like crap without the salt!

    Changing your so-called loved one? That’s either direct or indirect methods of encouraging them to give away parts of themselves that matter to them. Or, for example, if I love tennis but loathe baseball, and my man wants me to watch baseball, listen to him ramble about RBI and even go to games with him – it ain’t happening.

    If I love modern art museums and he’s bored silly going to them, I’m not going to force him.

    Those are easy examples. I’d wreck his time at the ballgame (resentful of time I could spend on things I care about); he’d wreck my good time at the museum.

    Harder examples? Let’s say he loves weekends with his buddies doing “guy stuff” – fishing or golfing. Is it right for me to insist he give up his 4 weekends a year he’s always gone away with those same friends? That’s a change I’d never request. Doesn’t seem right to me.

    I spend hours of each day researching and writing. If he asked me to write less, or spend less time at the bookstore reading, that would hit me where I live.

    In all this – there would have to be some overlap of interests, plenty of shared values, and lots of laughter and chemistry. I’ve dated (and loved) a wide range of types, with varied interests. When it works – it’s because the fundamentals are not pushed for change. When it doesn’t work, it’s because who we are at the core doesn’t mesh, and he expects me to become someone I’m not – and don’t want to be.
    .-= BigLittleWolf´s last blog …Chivalry: Here today, gone tomorrow, ALWAYS in fashion =-.