Don't Be Fooled by What a Person Promises

Commitment Relationships The Fourth Year


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So often we hear individuals make promises about their devotion and commitment but later become disillusioned or disappointed that they do not follow through.  This article examines the factors that lead to a dysfunctional cycle within a relationship when couples "talk the talk" but do not "walk the walk".

THE PROMISER:  When Paris Hilton was incarcerated, one of the television programs interviewed a judge and the host asked "Do you think that Paris will change now that she has become a born-again Christian in jail?"  The wise judge responded, "Everyone is born-again their first week in jail".  When people are in trouble or are "caught" doing inappropriate behaviours, they often cry and make promises that they will change and "never' commit the sin again.  This doesn't mean that they can or will change no matter how sincere they sound at the time.  In fact, they may even believe the story themselves at the time.  Change, however, takes a great deal of effort. 

THE PERSON WHO BELIEVES THE PROMISES - Most of us want the best for others and therefore believe others when they state that they want to change.  We may, however, believe words when there is no evidence that change is possible.  Sometimes, for example, we witness individuals who are charged and appear in Court repeatedly for offences that they swore they would not do again.  Safe House statistics indicate that a woman can leave her partner several times before making a permanent change.  Addiction centers also recognize that those who attend their programs may likely return for similar problems in the future.

There are many reasons why a person believes someone who is promising to change.  Low self-esteem, lack of financial resources, belief that there are few options available, or under-developed assertiveness skills can interfere with discerning and acting on truth.  Sometimes people are locked into a mindset that traps them into believing the person because they "should" as a parent, spouse or child of the person who is promising to change.

My uncle, who is a retired judge once told me "No man ever changed because he loved a woman.  Men only change when life doesn't work for them anymore".  This theory can also be applied to women. 

The best test for determining if the promises will be fulfilled and changes will occur is to observe the individual's actions over time.  It usually takes many years for someone to develop dysfunctional patterns and these will not change overnight.  In fact, the only way that you will know the person has truly changed is to see if they can maintain it.

One of my former employers once told me that I should watch a person for eighteen months in order to be assured that the change was genuine.  I was horrified as I thought words and eighteen days would be sufficient! 

If someone is making promises to you that you have heard before - be cautious!  Ask yourself why you believe the person.   Perhaps it is time to listen to the words but not believe them until you have had a few months to observe the person's behaviours to determine if they can "practice what they preach".


Dr. Linda Hancock, the author of “Life is An Adventure…every step of the way” and “Open for Business Success” is a Registered Psychologist who has a private practice in Medicine Hat. She can be reached at 403-529-6877 or through email office@drlindahancock.com


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