So what do you think?
Do people change? Really change? In ways that matter?
It’s a philosophical-ish question that comes up often when talking about relationships. Usually, when one person is considering severing a relationship.
I’ve participated in or observed the same conversation more than a few times. The general equation goes something like this:
- “I can’t live with this person as they are” + x = y
- Where x= “People don’t change,” y = “Therefore, I have to end the relationship.”
- Where x=”He/she’s really changed this time,” y = “Therefore, I’m sticking it out. Stop bugging me about it.”
Since this conversation is usually pertaining to a person who represents a significant relationship in the life of the theorist in question, x is obviously a pretty important variable.
I don’t pretend to know the answer with any certainty, but I will give my unqualified (but experienced) opinion.
People don’t change, but they do grow (sometimes). When it comes to personality, temperament, and other things that equate to basically the “operating system” of a functioning human being, I don’t think people change substantially.
But they do upgrade to the latest stable version. Sometimes.
They become a better version of themselves. They become more functional. They get healthier. Sometimes.
The problem with that answer, though, is the “sometimes.” Because people who are twisting in the wind over the “do people change” theorem don’t find “sometimes” helpful. “Sometimes” doesn’t dictate a value for y, namely “What on earth do I do about this painful relationship?”
“Sometimes” still requires that you answer the question “what am I going to do about it?” instead of assuming the answer depends on whether or not the other person can or will stop hurting you. The buck stops with you in deciding the course of the relationship.
If x != “People don’t/do change,” and instead x = “I’m willing to stay and see if this person will grow/I’m not willing to stay and see if this person will grow,” then y is all on you.
Which can be pretty darn scary.
Or pretty darn empowering. Take your pick.