"People only change to meet their needs"
This is normal, a healthy, natural tendency – only you can know what you need in your life, what will help you to meet and fulfil your own needs, as with each of us.
In relationships, people first expect that their partner knows them, understands and accepts them, now and always when they commit to each other. And that is clearly the intention for marriage, moving in and being exclusive – but people change all the time. Each new experience changes us in some way – outlook, feelings, needs, behaviours, values or beliefs and expectations, for example.
We learn from each new experience or repeated outcome from experiences. And that means we are consistently changing, growing, developing, learning and seeing other new perspectives with each new event, activity, a skill learned or meeting with someone new or a new situation.
This means that although they knew you ‘then’, they may not recognise you now or you, them.
That is how it should be, how it needs to be. We can’t really change our natural drive to learn, grow, improve and enhance our life. Yet people believe they and their relative, friend, or partner will stay always as they are. Sometimes it is a surprise to realise they too have changed and moved forward.
The best relationships accept this, understand it and work with it – not against it.
People are prepared to adapt and flex with the other person as they grow, develop and keep moving forward and that themselves will be doing this too so the other flexes with them as well, give and take. Ups and downs. Routine or spontaneous activity or behaviours.
It will and must change.
People will therefore need to meet their own needs too, as these changes happen. We are made to meet our own needs, no one else really can, although some can help and support you. Only you know what your needs are (and if you don’t know consciously, then you can learn but you will already naturally be living to meet those needs, to our values and beliefs already developed and developing).
So only you can ask for the help and support you need from them. Sometimes this is to stick by them whilst they find their feet again. Maybe it’s to let them go or have to leave if it doesn’t work for both parties. Perhaps this is planned skills or qualifications enhancements over a period of time for a new job, country moves or change of life milestones. Whatever the changes, imposed or chosen, you will both change with and for or against them.
It can work. It can work well, with understanding, patience, and acceptance.
People have that natural drive to meet their needs too which can’t really be changed but can be managed, tweaked, and techniques used to help transitioning.
So if you ever want, need or expect another person to change to meet your needs and expectations, it is unlikely, long term, that they can or will. They can only realistically meet their own needs, whilst you can only meet yours. Short-term one or other can try but maybe it won’t be able to work forever.
This is normal, natural, healthy and often complex as all relationships are. We ourselves are complex beings in experiences, interpretations, and expectations and then bring another in and theirs too – it’s not always going to be comfortable!
So how can you adapt, flex and succeed in your relationship?
- Talk about it. Feelings, thoughts, needs, expectations and hopes.
- Keep talking. Short 10 to 15-minute chats two to three times a week, progressing each time.
- Reiterating you "thought you knew them as they were" (or they, you) isn’t helpful.
- Accept changes, re-assess how you be together in your relationship, whatever that is.
- Try the values exercise and see what changed and how, where and what you can do now.
- Consider talking to a professional to help you through these difficult stages of your relationships, and your life – relationship coaching, individually or counselling.
- Realise and learn about your needs then and now, and possibly in future if you know the changes coming or planned.
- Be honest about what you can offer the other person, what limits or boundaries might be there or what might need to change for the family, for example.
- Communication is essential. It may not always be talking if it leads to arguments so keep it short, write things down you want to say. If you need others to hear your message, write them a note to start discussions.
- Plan times to do this, and set that time aside. In public for a meal or at home where you can relax but you need to hear and be heard, both of you.
- Listen to the message sent and consider your own filters to what you will hear (your needs, beliefs, values, expectations, and hopes).
Remember words are only 7% of communication, body language posture, expressions, and eye contact are 56%, so ‘read’ it all at once – you can do it, you are made to do this!