You Cannot Make The Person You’re Dating Grow Up

Mar 05, 2021

Kaitlyn was weary of Steven’s chronic lateness when they would try to get together. Because he owned his own business, he was often delayed. It seemed like such a little thing, but as time passed, Steven’s tardiness became a big problem. Kaitlyn would arrange her day to meet for dinner, and she wanted Steven to show up on time.

Reminding, nagging, and cajoling Steven had been ineffective. Steven would either defend himself by saying, “You don’t appreciate the work I do,” or he would simply deny the problem altogether by saying, “It doesn’t happen that often; you’re overreacting.” Kaitlyn ran out of strategies.

Finally, after thinking through the problem, Kaitlyn came up with a two-point plan. One night, she sent Steven a text that said, “Hey, babe. I want to apologize to you for my bad attitude about our dates.” Steven was stunned. He was eager to hear her apology.

“I’ve been nagging you whenever you’re late,” Kaitlyn continued. “No wonder you’re late. Who would want to put up with that?”

“You’re right. I really don’t look forward to your resentment,” Steven responded. “And I’m sure it makes me avoid you. The other day, I was going to be ten minutes late. When I thought about facing your wrath, I figured I might as well make it thirty minutes, since I knew you’d be angry anyway. So, I ran few errands before meeting up with you.”

Kaitlyn was peeved but refrained from reacting. “I’m going to try to be less angry, and more caring and approachable, even when you’re late. I may not do it well, and I’ll need your help here, but I really don’t want to act like that. Also, it’s not just my attitude that I’ll be changing. My actions will be changing, too. I enjoy spending time with you, and I want you to show up on time for our dates. But, if you can’t get here on time, I will go ahead and order my food and eat. If you’re here, you’re here. If not, you’ll just miss out!”

Steven didn’t like this last part. “Kaitlyn, you know I want you to wait on me! I want us to eat together!”

“I know you do. But it won’t happen until you can rearrange things to get here on time.”

For the next few dates, Steven structured the end of his day to meet Kaitlyn on time. Their dates were much more enjoyable.

Kaitlyn solved a small but chronic problem by making an important shift in her attitude. She stopped trying to change Steven, and she started making changes in herself. Kaitlyn moved from seeing the problem as Steven’s lateness to seeing it as her unhappiness with Steven’s lateness. This opened the door to things she could control. When you cease to blame someone else and own the problem as yours, you are then empowered to make changes to solve your problem.

To do this, Kaitlyn set a couple of limits on herself. First, she reined in her impulse to attack Steven for his tardiness. This was not easy, as she was clearly right, and he was clearly wrong. She would have been justified in confronting him at every infraction.

But, she placed a boundary on her anger, since it wasn’t solving the problem. Second, Kaitlyn set a limit on her enabling of Steven. She realized that she was making it easier for him to be irresponsible, so she said no to her desire to tolerating his tardiness. These two changes made a difference for both people.

You cannot make someone grow up, but you can make it easier for him/her to experience the love and limits they need. When he/she faces the consequences of their immaturity, he/she stands a better chance of changing than if they face nagging and hounding. Become truthful, not controlling.

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