Jewish Journal

You Can’t Change a Man…Or Can You?

by Tamara Shayne Kagel

September 15, 2011 | 11:29 am

My Grandmother always tells me you can’t change a man.  Better to just let him be.  We’ve all heard this and everyone likes to think that they would never be the kind of person to ask a significant other to change.  But yet, it’s impossible not to change at least a little when in a relationship – at least if your partner is a fully formed individual.  A boyfriend might start enjoying a certain tv show he never watched before because you like it and he trusts your opinion and he’s around you when you’re watching it.  We change for our significant others all the time in small ways.  We start cooking with new vegetables, get hooked on documentary filmmaking, or fall in love with a new band not because he’s trying to change us but because our world has expanded.  But where do you draw the line in hoping you become a good influence on your boyfriend and trying to change who he is?

On my second or third date with Mr. Dreamboat, he told me that the one thing he thought his life was lacking was exercise.  I do something active most days of the week so naturally I was hoping I might positively influence him to join me every once in a while for yoga or that we could start taking hikes together.  It took some time but recently he went with me to his first yoga class in years and tomorrow night we have a date to play tennis which is supposed to become a weekly occurrence.  And I have to admit, I want him to change in this way a little.  Hopefully, he will feel more energized and invigorated from working out or get bitten by the yoga bug or just incorporate any activity into his schedule at least a few times a week and maybe even on his own without me.  But I don’t want to be a nag – that’s what mothers are for not girlfriends.  So I don’t want to bring it up to much in an annoying way but I do want it to happen and is it so wrong to encourage something that he has told me he thinks will improve his life?  But if I never mention it, he’d probably never do it so a little encouragement seems like it couldn’t hurt.  It’s just hard to find that delicate balance.

Of course, some of these changes happen naturally.  I gave one ex an NPR addiction completely unintentionally just because I listened to it so much.  A friend of mine converted a guy who probably drank too much into a guy who has a little bit of weed before bedtime – again not because she nagged him but because he sort of adopted her regimen.  But it can get much more complicated.  What about when we encourage our boyfriend to get a different job to help him achieve his full potential?  Or tell him that the handlebar mustache thing only works if you live in Silverlake or to move out of Orange County or that he might actually enjoy historical dramas if he gave them a chance and by the way it’s time to quit smoking.  We think it’s for his benefit because these changes will positively influence his life but really that’s just our opinion.  Another friend of mine is struggling to get her boyfriend to support her acting career instead of encouraging her to take up Plan B.  The problem is, he’s a practical guy and having turned to Plan B himself, he may never truly support her career the way she needs.  Is this her changing the type of man he is or is this just her teaching him how to be a supportive boyfriend?

It was especially poignant for me recently when I was sitting next to Mr. Dreamboat on a plane and had commented on his pants being stained.  He made a joke about never having heard that before.  I realized this might have been the third time I had something about these pants and I felt embarrassed – I don’t want to be a whiny nag trying to get him to change for me.  Part of what I love about him is how motivated he is on his own in his career and also in making romantic or surprising gestures that I’m ashamed to admit I had nagged previous boyfriends to do.  But then again, he had mentioned a few times in the last few months that he felt like he could use some styling input and wanted me to help pick out a few things he needs for his wardrobe.  And Sunday, after his little teasing comment, he asked if I would go shopping with him this weekend.  So was I being a nag or just a good influence in helping him effectuate things that he wants for himself?

In the meantime, Mr. Dreamboat just emailed me about how excited he is about our tennis date, which never would have happened without a little cajoling on my part.  I think I’m willing to continue the cajoling for a few more weeks but after that, if he’s not fired up about the exercise thing on his own, I’ll let our tennis dates peter out.  I’d rather date an out-of-shape guy who knows I love him for whom he is than be a nag with a resentful but perfect boyfriend.

Tamara Shayne Kagel is a writer living in Santa Monica, CA. To find out more about her, visit www.tamarashaynekagel.com and follow her on twitter @tamaraskagel. © Copyright 2011.

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Tamara Shayne Kagel is a twenty-something fixture on the Los Angeles scene currently living in Santa Monica.  Currently, Tamara is a successful freelance writer (just ask her...

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