What would I change about my boyfriend?
And not in the mushy, O-my-god-he's-perfect-in-every-kind-of-way sense. Because let's be real, he's humanly flawed and definitely not perfect. He has ways of doing things that definitely get on my nerves. But what took me so long to realize is I shouldn't strive to change him. Instead, I want to challenge him. And although these words have only subtle phonetic and semantic differences (change is actually in the word challenge), it is all in the subtleties.
You see changing someone is like saying you want to snap your fingers and have a few quick tweaks so they better fit your expectations. If you want to change someone, you lack a certain acceptance in the first place. It's like saying I love you, but let's alter a few things... That "but" implies love in conditional circumstances. That is not the type of love I want to offer.
When my boyfriend Mac and I started dating over 5 years ago, I thought he was amazing, but soon thoughts of, "what I would change" crept in. Seeing others' relationships on social media subconsciously set a structure of expectation. And before I knew it, I had this unspoken list of "things to change" dangling in my mind. This list soon morphed into a cookie cutter mold of who I wanted him to be. The Bible-reading handsome boyfriend that surprised me with flowers for no reason and agreed with all my viewpoints... (sound familiar??) And before I knew it I unfairly imposed these expectations on him, making it clear that there were things I wanted him to change to be with me. And he tried to meet these expectations. But the thing is, it was never enough for me. I know it came from all good intentions, but as I read back on old screenshots of messages, I couldn't help but cringe. Least to say, I'm glad I've moved past that.
And somewhere in between a transition from change to challenge happened. Now I can honestly say there is nothing I want to change about him. Because that would take away the "Mac-ness" of Mac. But, I do want to challenge him to grow to better himself, work towards his goals, and have a positive impact on the world around him, because stagnant and complacent relationship is soon to burn out. For example, if I don't agree with one of his opinions, I may challenge it by telling a personal story of my own, instead of trying to change it by saying "I'm right, you're wrong." Sometimes I will challenge his super-plain cuisine palate by enticing him with a piece of sushi and having my family encourage him to try it at dinner (What bf can say no to your dad?). On a more serious note, I may challenge him spiritually by texting hime a bible verse I came across or inviting him to come to adoration/mass with me. Or I just may ask him how he is and what he is struggling with. Challenging someone does not equate to change, although that may be the end result. Challenging someone means encouraging change on their terms, not yours. It is not a means to an end that implies conditional acceptance. It is sense of empowerment rooted in genuine caring, not selfish expectation. And that subtlety makes all the difference.
But seriously Mac, don't change.
OK, besides maybe when you are a backseat driver ;)