THE BLOG

A Man Is Not a DIY Project

08/13/2014 12:26 pm ET | Updated Oct 13, 2014
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"I believe he's finally ready for help."

As a coach, I frequently hear some variation of these words, from a woman who wants help "saving" her man from himself. The woman will ask me for my phone, for my email and then ask if I can call her boyfriend/husband to give him the coaching she knows he wants. Hmm. But if he wants help, shouldn't he ask for the help himself? Isn't that what the rest of us adults do? "But, um Carlota, he's so busy, and I'm just trying to help, I know he wants to change his life. I know what he wants!" Oh.

Listen, I don't mean to be unpleasant, but if your man wanted to change his life, he'd email/call me himself. The men we're discussing here, by the way, aren't exactly high school dropouts; they're not exactly lifting weights in a prison yard. They're doctors, lawyers, hedge-fund managers. They're highly educated professionals. They know how to make a phone call if -- and this is crucial -- IF they want to change their life. If they don't, they won't. And all your nagging, whining, berating and infantilizing won't help the situation. Not one little bit.

Some of you are thinking, "Wow, Carlota, well unlike you, um, when I like date someone, I actually like try to help them." Like, lucky you. When I date a man, I date the man he is, not the fantasy man I'm going to pretend he could be, contrary to all prevailing evidence. I date in the here and now, not in my dream world, so I take a man as he is, not as I'm going to change him. I'm a professional development coach, and I know that people can't be forced to change. They can be encouraged and helped to feel safe and confident enough to make changes that they feel ready for, but thanks to this crazy thing called "free will," people cannot be forced to do what you want! Me and my vagina cannot change any man. We've tried, trust me, and it didn't work out so hot.

Before you roll your eyes at me and think, "Um, that's your problem," no, I think it's a general problem. It's a general problem for all those women who think they can change their men into someone other women will envy. Are you dating him because you actually care for him and enjoy spending time with him, or because all of your Facebook friends think he's a catch?

I watched one girl in law school, demean and destroy her (loving) husband into a man she no longer respected. (She wouldn't allow him to do the laundry, instead publicly mocking him for his incompetence. Romance!) Then she cheated on this husband, with a real winner, a real gem of a man; the kind of man who once she had divorced the first husband, and was pregnant with his, refused to marry her unless she signed a prenup pledging never to ask him for child support. She did sign, dear readers, and did marry him: love is indeed a many-splendored thing.

I'm just saying, if you want to have a committed, loving respectful relationship with an adult man... maybe you should start things off by dating adult men whom you care for and respect. A man is not a DIY project. He's not a fixer-upper. He's not there to compensate you for all the things you don't like in yourself, or your work. He's not there to make you feel better when things don't go perfectly in your own life. (That's your job, Sunshine: you are the commander of your own destiny.) He's a human being, like you, with feelings and desires of his own, and instead of making him over, why don't you get to know him as the man he is? Maybe, the better question is: Why don't you respect and love yourself enough to believe that a good man would want you as you are. Whom, exactly, are you trying to change?