“He’s changed so much since he met you!”
“He’s like a totally different person now!”
Those words from Barry’s* family and friends made Sandy* feel so good; so special; as if the way Barry treated her didn’t make her feel special enough.
Those sweet words were also the only warning she had that her future marriage would turn out to be a fantastic disaster.
Frankly, it wasn’t bad being the person responsible for changing a man for the better. She seemed a superhero amongst his family and friends. (And it’s important for family and friends to support your relationship, right?)
But after Barry and Sandy said, “I do,” in front of all those approving well-wishers, Sandy discovered Barry wasn’t done changing.
Only now he changed back to the flaming narcissist he had been known as, prior to meeting Sandy.
Even worse; devastatingly worse; Barry quickly made it clear he had married Sandy only for her money. He didn’t even want to have sex with her. (He had porn to take care of those urges.)
The moral of this horror story: reputation matters.
Can people change? Certainly.
Can they experience dramatic change? Absolutely!
Every day, star-crossed lovers change dramatically. Formerly depressed, lonely, broken and empty; the power of romance turns their frowns upside down, heals every hurt in their heart and fills their lives with love and meaning.
Of course, people change for other reasons, more significant and lasting than infatuation, but the sad reality is that most dramatic changes aren’t permanent ones.Think about someone who suddenly loses a lot of weight or comes into a lot of money.
People garner reputations for a reason.
So if you find yourself in Sandy’s position, STOP.
First, dig in deep to discover precisely who your love interest used to be, and what has brought about such significant transformation. If the change is sincere, they should be very open about recounting who they once were and delight in sharing the details of their transformation. In particular, watch out for both of these extremes:
- Shame (Are they embarrassed to admit their past sins? Do they appear to be free of that guilt, or do they still seem bound by it?)
- Pride (Does their confession sound more like bragging? Do they take full responsibility for their past or do they try to white wash or excuse certain behavior?)
Don’t just take their word for it. Consult those who know them best.
And if you discover you’re the apparent catalyst for their life change?
If someone has changed overnight, in a permanent way, it can only be the result of a profound life experience. And as much as we’d all like to be the “profound life experience” of someone else, odds are we won’t be.
(Sorry to burst your bubble, but better to have it burst now than after marriage, like Sandy, eh?)
If the change is genuine, it will be proven over time. So give it time. Indeed, if your beloved has truly changed, they shouldn’t be offended that you want to take a couple years to make sure.
No rush. Remember love is first and foremost patient.
But, as important as reputation is, there’s something even more important. We’ll talk about that next week, but would you care to guess in the comment section below?
As a hint, it isn’t something we’ve covered in the last few posts.
Speaking of which, if you’ve been following our current dating series we’ve been talking about important issues you want to address in your dating relationships… and then we’ve been talking about even more important issues that many never address even after divorce, much less before engagement or marriage.
If you’ve missed any of these, PLEASE consider going back:
- Great Questions for Great Dates (where we address the importance of common interests, but the even greater importance of sharing a healthy identity)
- How to Avoid Your Next Mistake (where we address the importance of common values, but the even greater importance of sharing common convictions)
- Stop Looking for Your Perfect Match (where we address the importance of compatibility, but the even greater importance of a shared calling)
- What’s Chemistry Got to Do with It? (where we address the importance of chemistry, but the even greater importance of commitment)
This post is one in a series on Purpose-Driven Dating which we define as follows: Intentional time invested in one other person for the purpose of growing in intimacy that might lead to a life-giving, life-long marriage. Our current focus: …for the purpose of growing in intimacy… The series begins with this post.
* not their real names
DNA: It’s What’s For Dating
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The LoveEd study guide series, Beyond Sex & Salvation, will empower you to prepare for relational success when it counts: BEFORE YOU FALL IN LOVE! It’s NOT for couples, but for any wise individual who thinks they might want to get married sometime before they die. Check out the first two 8-lesson study guides in our store. You can walk through it on your own, but it’s more fun with friends, so consider putting together an FMU LoveEd small group study. Even better? And ask a married couple you respect to lead it!