People can Change

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Q: I just recently broke up with my boyfriend. We had been talking marriage but I really felt like I was forcing the relationship and I didn’t feel an attraction to him..It just felt like more of a friendship. Recently, I ran into an old high school friend who dated my cousin about 8 years ago. It ended badly between them. They both cheated. Well, we have been talking for about a week now and I really like him and would like to continue to get together with him (but taking things slowly). I was keeping it from my family until I was sure I wanted to pursue it. My mom found out and told me I was being disrespectful to the family and forbid me to talk to him or see him. I believe that people can change, especially after 8 years, and everyone deserves a second chance. Please help with any advice. Is it wrong to see this guy because my cousin had a bad break up with him?

A: All therapy is based on the premise that people can, and do, change. Certainly after 8 years, it is possible that this fellow has made major changes in his feelings about fidelity. But the family is still carrying a grudge and a worry. They don’t want to see you hurt like your cousin was. The answer to your question is -No, it’s not wrong to date him. You are 26 and have a right to explore this relationship. BUT – If you want to maintain family harmony and have the family respect your guy, you two need to take some proactive steps. It would be taking the high road for him to have a calm and reasonable talk with your mom, apologizing for his past behavior and explaining to her how he has grown and changed. This is not about asking permission. It’s about being mature. He knows he has a bad history with your family and he is therefore the only one who can ask the family to not judge him on his past and to let him have a fresh start. Your part is to keep your head and not be defensive if family members question your judgement or attack him. Instead, express appreciation for their caring and tell them that you want to give him a chance to show how he’s changed. Maybe he has. Maybe he hasn’t. You’ll know soon enough.
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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 7 Jun 2006

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2006). People can Change. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 23, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2006/06/07/people-can-change/