The human brain does an exceptional job at idealizing other people. When we first meet someone and the fireworks go off, we view them through the rosiest of lenses. This person gets built up more and more in our minds, and we can only think of one word to describe them. Perfect. It’s the most ideal picture of love we can paint for ourselves. In our perfect honeymoon world, there is absolutely nothing that can ruin this person for us.
Eventually, the novelty inevitably wears off and we start seeing this person differently. Their rough edges start showing. Those red flags you brushed off before are starting to feel more like emergency lights and sirens. The behavior you would have shrugged off months ago becomes more and more concerning. You finally see that their flaws are real and plowing their way into your honeymoon world that seemed so perfect not that long ago.
It’s true—part of any healthy relationship is coming out of the new, exciting phase and accepting your partner’s flaws and habits. What happens, though, when it seems like something more is going on? What if we start to see absolute deal breakers? We still want them to be the flawless person our brains made them out to be. It can be so hard to let go of something we dreamed up to be perfect, and naturally, we want to fix it. We tell ourselves that as long as this person loves us enough, they will be willing to do anything to keep us around. We can help them do better, be better, and fix what’s wrong.
Being a romantic at heart, I truly believe that love is one of the most important things we will ever have the privilege of receiving in our short lifetimes. It’s what makes our lives meaningful and worth living. At the end of the day, though, it’s not enough. You can pour all of yourself into someone else, loving them unconditionally, and yet, it will not be enough to keep you together. The amount of love you have for them has zero correlation to how good they will treat you. You can try your hardest and work yourself to the bone for them, but unless the effort is mutual, nothing will change.
It can be really hard to not take those facts personally. In the moment, it might make you feel like there’s something wrong with you. You wonder why they won’t love you back enough to be better for you. During those times when you start to blame yourself, remember that you cannot love someone into being who you want them to be. You could be doing everything in your power to try and be the perfect partner, but it will never be enough if the other person isn’t ready to change.
Stop for a minute and think about how hard it is to change yourself. Once you embrace that reality, you’ll see how slim your chances are at changing others. Change is hard, it’s uncomfortable, and no one willingly puts themselves through that process unless they genuinely want to.
Realize that it’s not you. It’s not that you were not beautiful enough, patient enough, affectionate enough, or anything else you are racking your brain about. There is nothing in the world you can do to make someone change when they don’t want to, and that’s absolutely not your fault. You shouldn’t waste years of your life trying to love your way past deal breakers and “fixing” another person. Their journey is their own, and yours belongs to you.
Instead of trying to change them, focus on your life and the changes you want to make for yourself. Take all the love you were giving to the wrong person and pour it back into yourself. Don’t put all of your focus into making others into something they are not, or at least something they are not ready to be yet. Focus on who you want to become and the person you’d like to be. Give yourself all the things you were waiting on the wrong person to give you until you meet someone just as committed to bettering themselves as you are.
As difficult as it may be to let go, remember that your love is immeasurably valuable. You cannot force someone to love you the way you want to be loved, but you can love yourself more and give yourself everything they couldn’t.