The Official Amy Alkon Website

All About Amy
New Columns
Really Old Columns
Goddess Blog
Amy's Book Picks
Amy's Links
Love Letters
The Pink Rambler
Contact Info


The Reshape Of Things To Come

In your response to the girl who hated her boyfriend’s new hairstyle, you touched on something many women are dying to learn: how to get a man to change. While I’m not involved with anyone now, I’m looking -- and wondering how to keep my next relationship from degenerating into squabbles...without turning into a doormat just to avoid conflict. What do you suggest?

--Preventive Measures

It sometimes it takes a serious relationship for men to truly understand the meaning of “those three little words”: torture, degradation, and deathwish.

Just try going to a restaurant and addressing your waiter in that special “you exist, therefore you’re wrong” voice too many women reserve for the men they claim to love the most. When service is a little slow: “Hey, Worthless! I hate to interrupt your plans to stand around looking stupid for all eternity, but how about a wine list?” When he leans over to attend to another table, a scream: “What about ME!? What about MY NEEDS!?” When the grill stripes on her chicken are a little crooked: “I HATE YOU! I HATE YOU!” And then, the grand finale: “I’ve taken the pills -- I’ll be dead by the time you bring the check!” Unfortunately, she’s bluffing. Again.

Oh, that crazy little thing called...Vietnam: “Sometimes you have to destroy a man to save him.” Right. Loads of fun for both people involved, and any bystanders caught in the crossfire. Sure, women who favor this approach succeed in changing the men they’re with -- but only from really miserable to really, really miserable. Ironically, you don’t inspire a man to change by trying to make him change but by trying to make him happy. It helps if you love him, and treat him accordingly -- as opposed to simply dotting the “i”s in “hostility” with little hearts.

You see no reason to wait until you have a man to plot how you’ll crush his spirit -- sorry, launch him on his quest for self-improvement (neatly coinciding with your self-interest, of course). Your energy would be much better spent seeking a man whose mere presence in your periphery doesn’t turn you into Turbo-Shrew. Avoid tottering off with the first guy with a nice square chin who nods your way in a bar. Determine your rock-bottom boyfriend must-haves -- the qualities in a boyfriend you can’t live without -- and don’t stop until you land a man who has them. Next, recognize the difference between a vicious personal attack and random male absent-mindedness. An example of the latter is the tendency, in men, to walk around eating without a plate -- even if grazing on mashed potatoes and gravy. Tempted as you may be to scream at your man during Plateless Promenade Number 1225, it’s much less effective than simply smiling and handing him a dish.

If having a happy man in your life takes chasing him with china and intimating that “The Joy Of Vacuuming” is the latest in the “Joy Of Sex” series -- is that such a high price to pay? This doesn’t mean forgetting what you want; just keeping in mind that demands are most likely to be met if they aren’t made in the form of demands. In other words, try to do most of the “expressing your feelings” thing when you’re feeling good about what he’s doing. What works in relationship-land isn’t so different from what works in restaurant-land. Complaints about what’s on your plate are more likely to be resolved if you ask nicely than if you scream at the waiter, “YOU’RE SLEEPING ON THE COUCH TONIGHT!” This, of course, solves nothing -- but it might beg the question: “Well, then, where’s your boyfriend going to sleep?”

Copyright ©2003, Amy Alkon, from her syndicated column, "The Advice Goddess," which appears in over 100 papers across the U.S. and Canada. All rights reserved.