Sunday, July 29, 2012

Do Men Change?

Recently, Bonnie Kaye, an author and therapist whose radio show I'd appeared on some time back, asked if she could send me her book, Man Readers: The Guide to Dysfunctional Men. Since I live in New York City, I wasn't so sure I needed any kind of guide to dysfunctional men other than to walk out the door, but I agreed to accept a copy, uncertain whether or not I would want to read it. But since I do write about relationships for my blog on CafeMom's The Stir, it's always good to have ideas in the hopper.

Man Readers is predicated on an idea that is the polar opposite to most relationship books: It says you cannot save a bad relationship. Lots of books concentrate on how you can change or make better your relationship or marriage. This books says, You can't. Cut your losses. Move on. NOW! Which is kind of interesting because when you're telling someone, "Move on," it's a rather quick sentence, which goes against the common sense guidelines of book publishing. Indeed, it is a quick read.

Some of the categories of men who Bonnie says cannot change are:

Men with Sexual Fetishes (this includes everything from guys with "fur fetishes" to guys with "schoolgirl uniform fetishes" to guys who cross-dress)

Men with a Certain Sexual Orientation (i.e. you can't make a gay man straight and Bonnie believes bisexual men are essentially gay)

Men with Sexual Addictions (compulsive masturbating, compulsive porn watching)

Sexual Incompetence (men who have no sexual technique and never will no matter how many maps  of your vagina you draw them)

Other bad risks for marriage include:

Men over 35 who have never been in a long-term relationship (they don't know how to compromise and never will)

Men who come from dysfunctional backgrounds

Men who have been in prison 

Men with mental health issues

Men over 30 who still live at home

Men with drug and alcohol issues

Men with different cultural backgrounds than you

And so we've basically covered every man in New York. Ha HA! Bonnie, who says she has counseled over 75,000 women,  writes: "I have seen women try every trick in the book to get a man to change, and none of it works."

Is this true? Do people not change (Bonnie's book only deals with men)? Do they change but only for the worse? Bonnie makes a good case that, on the whole, it is difficult for people to change their basic natures -- and to do so, they really have to WANT to (many simply do not) and then work very hard at it. Our basic natures were formed pre-natal or in childhood, and were done so for whatever survival technique we felt we had to develop, and aren't so easily shaken off.

But people DO change. I've seen it.  I myself have changed in many ways over the years.

Some personality traits of mine have morphed but have not disappeared. Some very strong personality traits of mine -- such as being easily frustrated when I don't understand something and immediately wanting to quit the task -- still rise up regularly. But I've learned over the years how to control this particular trait and keep going with whatever frustrating task is making my blood boil.

Additionally, in my life, I have personally witnessed: An alcoholic stop drinking. A hardcore smoker stop smoking. A womanizer become a dedicated husband and father. A woman with chronic anger issues become incredibly sweet and calm. Mind you, these people are few and far between. I have also seen people whose negative traits never changed one iota -- and perhaps it never occurred to these people that they should change them.

I think most of us change in SOME ways, but not in others. I was once involved with a man wherein the continuation of the relationship centered on whether or not HE WOULD CHANGE. (Never a great foundation for a relationship, by the way.) In some ways, he changed. In others, it remained same old, same old, no matter how many long "talks" we had about it or how many threats or ultimatums were issued or how many promises he made.

The problem is, none of us ever know who will change, what will change, and how much will change. So we all take our chances. I think if the things you want to change are BIG things, or are driving your relationship into the ground, you should think long and hard about sticking around and counting on these changes. Perhaps Bonnie is right, and you need to cut your losses.

No comments:

Post a Comment