Maybe if we accepted people for who they are instead of who we want them to be, we’d have more successful relationships and understand the true meaning of love.
When I read advice columns like Dear Abby or Ask Amy, I can’t help but notice that people, usually women, often write in asking how to find a therapist who can help them change a family member or romantic partner.
I’ve learned one can modify behavior, to a degree, but people will never change and become a different person. Molding someone into something he or she was not cut out to be is not only unrealistic but also unfair and unhealthy. Interestingly enough, I was taught this lesson not by a human, but by a dog.
The true meaning of love came to me many years ago when I was sitting at an outdoor café with my 120-pound shepherd, Forte. He was smart as a scholar, fast as a bullet, and very protective of me. I was a bit green as a dog guardian back then and thought I could train him to become a happy-go-lucky dog, like a Golden Retriever.
Forte was very well-trained, so I could sit at a café with him without an incident, but I had to be constantly aware of our surroundings. I envied those people who didn’t have to pay close attention to their dogs that sat calmly next to their masters while they read newspapers or engaged in conversations.
I had to keep Forte at my side on command. If he looked at someone, I had to catch what he was thinking about the person first. If he determined someone could potentially be a threat to me, he would take action, so I had to whisper, “Leave it.” Then he’d know that I detected the same “danger” as he did and wouldn’t have to make a move.
If I ever missed a cue, he’d turn into a grizzly bear, and because of his size, it would make a scene, ergo I had to be so keenly aware of everything and everyone in our vicinity. Thanks to him, I honed my skills to subconsciously notice the slightest movements or shift of energy in my peripheral vision, so much so that an FBI agent I dated once told me that I missed my calling.
One day, as I was sipping coffee with my giant Forte, it dawned on me, “What am I doing? He’s not a Golden Retriever. He will never become one. Neither of us is enjoying this.”
I then realized how proud I was of him for who he was. No more coffee shops. We started spending our weekends in the mountains in Idyllwild where he could be his beautiful self, running through the woods and I could fully utilize his desire to protect me. I felt safe, no matter where we went. There was no need to train that out of him and make him a dog he was not born to be.
Forte taught me that the true meaning of love is to accept the person and love him or her for who they are. If you ever wish that the man in your life would change in any way, then you’re with the wrong person. A therapist is not your answer. Once you get the urge to change somebody, it’s time to set him free and find someone you can accept and love as he is. There will be someone else who will cherish his traits and there will be another person whose traits you will enjoy.
Everybody should be accepted as who he is, whether it’s your partner, your child or your dog.