No matter how hard a person is working on self-growth, they are always quick to tell a friend or family member that ‘people can’t change’ or ‘people don’t change’ when there is a relationship in which one person has continued to make numerous mistakes. They assume that person will always be the same way they are right in that moment. However, that statement is incredibly inaccurate. People change in small ways all the time. People are constantly changing. Sometimes people get stuck in cycles, but they are always learning and growing in one way or another. So, perhaps the proper thing to say in those situations is not that ‘people can’t change’ but that ‘people can’t change…without a lot of work.’ Even the most hopeless of situations, and the most unlikely of people, can change. If they want to.
That’s the important part though. They have to want to change. Change is inevitable in small ways. However, big changes don’t just happen because someone tells us we should change. Big changes only happen when we really want them to happen. And, even then, they don’t happen overnight. Change takes time. Learning, growing, adapting – it all takes time. The same is true with one’s transition over to non-monogamy (or one’s acceptance of someone’s transition over to non-monogamy). Perhaps there are big issues of jealousy within your relationship and you, or your partner, or a third party observer, tells you that non-monogamy isn’t going to work out for you. They tell you (or you tell yourself) that this is just who you are. You’re just a jealous person. Nothing you can do about it. Might as well just accept it and go back to monogamy.
Besides the obvious fact here, which is that jealousy isn’t a good thing (even in monogamous relationships), people are missing the big point. You are fully capable of changing the ways you interact with the world and the people around you. You may not be able to change other people’s actions, but you can change the way you react to them. If jealousy has become a problem for you, then it’s just something you need to work on. There’s simply a skill set you need to learn. More options for your toolbox to help with self-soothing or self-reassurance or whatever it is. You can change.
The same is true for problems with communication. Communication can be really difficult. There are both verbal and non-verbal forms of communication, and everyone communicates (and interprets communication) differently. The knack is to learn how to communicate properly with each individual person. There is no one way that works for all people. Everyone has to be accepted as their own whole self, before you can truly begin to understand them. Everyone has their own love language, as well – meaning that people receive love in different ways. Sometimes the way you are giving love is not being received as love. You need to learn how to love a person in the way that they feel love. This may sound complicated or confusing, but really it’s just like learning how to communicate with a person who speaks a different language.
If you keep yelling at a Spanish speaker in English, it isn’t going to suddenly get through. There is going to be a lot of miscommunication and frustration. You need to learn how to speak Spanish in order to properly communicate (both listen/understand and talk to/explain yourself) with a Spanish speaker. Learning another language can take time, but the more you practice it the better you’ll get at it. And, isn’t it worth it? Do you want to be yelling back and forth and not understanding each other forever? What’s the point in that? Conversely, they should also be making an effort to learn your language. You both need to meet in the middle. One person should not be doing all of the work by themself.
Shades of Gray
One thing that’s particularly important is people’s ability to understand the concept of non-monogamy. Whether you’re the one struggling with transitioning to non-monogamy, or it’s your partner (or family/friend) who doesn’t understand why you want to change the relationship. It’s very important to try and understand the baseline. People tend to think you either CAN love or you CAN’T. They don’t think of love as having more than one way of existing. It’s all so black and white. ‘I just don’t have the ability to love more than one person.’ Often this thought is bred by insecurities of losing someone you love, and/or feeling the need to control the situation. Well I’ll tell you right now, there are many shades of gray when it comes to the ways in which people can feel love for others.
To explain a little better I’ll tell you about a reoccurring thought I sometimes have. I love animal ears so much – bunny ears, cat ears, dog ears, etc. I love how they look. I love wearing pretend ones. They seem so cool to me. Sometimes I think about animal ears as something completely foreign to what I have, to the point where I’ll say something like ‘I wish I had ears too.’ Forgetting completely that I already do have ears, just a different kind. I see love in the same way. People say ‘how could you possibly love more than one person at a time?’ Forgetting that they already have love for many more people at one time than just one person. The types of love are just different. But they’re still love. Like the difference between bunny ears and human ears – they look different and act differently, but they’re still both ears. Love, in all it’s forms, is still love. And whether you’re loving multiple siblings, or parents, or children, or cousins, or friends, or partners…they’re all still forms of loving more than one person at a time.
Sometimes all it takes in order to make a big change is the ability to change your perspective. Sometimes the only thing holding us back is our inability to let go of long held beliefs. Opening ourselves up to the unknown, to new possibilities, can be really tough. We are comfortable in the ways we know. We feel safe in our own views on reality. One of the toughest things in transitioning over to non-monogamy is to break through that barrier and allow yourself to consider new concepts, new perspectives, different realities. But if you truly want to change…then the hard work is worth it.