How Long Should I Wait for My Boyfriend to Change?


Q: How long should I have to wait for my 34-year-old boyfriend of a year and a half to change? He can’t even save money for a blender. Even his mom told him to get a job with a steady income. We can't live together yet because I don't feel financially secure with him.

-Pamela N.

A: Hi Pamela,

Let me begin by saying that you’re absolutely right on target regarding your concerns about your boyfriend and are very wise to pause and take stock of this situation. It sounds to me like the wisdom of your inner voice is whispering warning messages in your ear and that your discussions with his mother give real substance to your fears. My experience tells me that if he hasn’t responded to your requests to begin acting more mature and responsible after a year and a half, he most likely won’t.

This is a bad omen regarding marriage, because the reality is that one of the top reasons that people divorce is due to financial issues. If this is a problem now, and after a year and a half he still shows very little, if any, motivation to remedy it, I believe that it will become a much bigger issue later. Of course, there’s always the possibility of him having an epiphany and changing, but because of his age and history, I’m doubtful of that happening. At the end of the day, love alone isn’t enough to make a marriage work.

Q: I just broke up with my boyfriend because his mom offered to buy him a house if he broke up with me. What I’ve realized is that there’s a commonality with the guys I’ve dated. All of their mothers are very controlling. How do I change myself so that I stop attracting the same kind of guy?

-May P.

A: Hi May,

You ask a great question that many people struggle with. Habitually getting involved with the same type of person over and over again isn’t an accident or a coincidence. It’s done by choice; however, it’s typically not a conscious kind of choice. It’s more often than not driven by some underlying need, desire or self-esteem issue within you. Depending on how deep-seated these issues are, you may need the assistance of a therapist to drill to the core of this repetitive behavior in order to change it. Step one, however, in breaking this pattern, always begins with awareness. Your message to me demonstrates clearly that you now have accomplished this first important step.

Two clues that I get from your message are that you’re attracted to (1) men who have controlling mothers, and (2) men whose family have money. Some people find a way out of repeating patterns by mindfully dating people who don’t fit the normal mold of men that they’re typically attracted to. This is accomplished by a shear act of knowing the pattern that you’re trying to avoid. Others simply let their friends set them up with dates as a way of avoiding their own personal preferences that consistently lead them to wrong people. If you can’t change this through a strong act of will and your own efforts, allow a trained professional to help you work yourself through this, May.

Q: After 20 years of attracting unhealthy, unworthy men, I realize that I, too, was unhealthy. It has been said that we have to “delete” old programs and replace them with new ones. How can this be done?

-Joanne R.

A: Hi Joanne,

Even though I don’t know you and we’ve never met, I want you to know that I’m proud of you because of the valuable insight that you shared with me. Realizing and accepting that it’s something within you that’s letting this type of man into your life is the exact type of transformational seed of thought that needs to be planted before real change take place. Since you’ve already taken that critical first step called awareness, learning to delete old programs and replace them with new ones is the next step.

Technically, this is called cognitive restructuring, and it’s a psychotherapeutic technique that teaches you how to replace old negative, self-defeating thoughts with new positive, self-enhancing thoughts. This is also called thought reframing and it’s a tool used by cognitive therapists to help you to recognize and change the way you habitually think. One of the most famous cognitive restructuring therapies, rational emotive therapy (RET), was developed by Albert Ellis. Since you said that you have a 20-year history of making the wrong relationship choices, I suggest that you make an appointment with a cognitive therapist. Cognitive restructuring is just what you’re looking for, as it’s specifically designed to help you to identify, attack and change unhealthy and negative thinking.