Erase The Desire To Change A Man’s Bad Behaviour

One of my favourite short story collections is Nearly All The Men In Lagos Are Mad by Damilare Kuku, a Nigerian writer, radio presenter and actress. It touches on topics such as infidelity, rape, infertility and the ties that bind women and men in cities like Lagos.

It is a collection that I return to whenever I need to remind myself to be firm in loving myself enough to never stay with men who have disrespected my boundaries and needs.

In one of the stories titled First Times, women get a topical illustration on why we must never ever take it upon ourselves to change and erase a man’s bad behaviour. The story talked about the life of a woman who had been dating her husband since she was sixteen. 

She had been there when he was constantly cheating before they married and was hospitalised because she got into a deadly fight on her birthday with one of the women he was cheating with.

Now, after she was released from the hospital, he “changed” and became more attentive to her needs. It was this change and her belief that her years of “working on him” had paid off, that saw her say yes to his proposal.

Infact, she said something along those lines to her friend and said that she had finally gotten her dream man and was in a good state. The plot twist was that all her “changing him”, “sticking by him” and trying her best to endure did not stop him from cheating on her again. 

This time, as she was about to give birth and as her water broke, she found him in a part of the house having sex with the househelp.

I have provided this backdrop to encourage women never ever to think that we can change a man’s bad behaviour. Again: You cannot change a man’s bad behaviour and even if it looks like he has changed, be rest assured that his bad behaviour may rear its ugly head in a manner that will be devastating.

Even more, thinking you can change a man’s bad behaviour will most likely leave you drained, exhausted and with less energy to adequately dream and execute your career and work goals.

It will transform you into a woman who is always on edge and whose mental health takes a dip because you are constantly stressed out from shouting at a grown man to do this and that.

But the bigger questions are these: Why do women think it is our duty to transform terrible men into saints? What aspect of our childhood taught us that a good woman is one who sacrificed her mental health, peace and even wealth on the altar of ensuring that a man looks at her and declares her as the one who stopped him from (not always) cheating? Why do most women fear being alone and single that we are willing to be with a man who gives us ninety percent stressful assignments involved in changing him and ten percent supposed happiness?

Speaking with Kistune, she says it is as simple as understanding that you are not an eraser as a woman.

In her words: “Women need to learn that they are not erasers and rather than changing a man, it’s better to get a material they are comfortable with and work on ( I saw this in Tiktok). Basically, it is important to note that women can’t change a man, or change something that has been deeply ingrained into his bones except he wants to change himself. This has made women lose themselves in a bid to change a man.”

For Yede, she says women should unlearn the desire as a way of casting off societally imposed “saintliness”.

To quote her: I think it’s important [to unlearn the desire] because it allows us women to be free from the “sainthood” that society casts upon us. This sainthood status forces women to learn discipline and undue tolerance for badly behaved men. It also puts women in a position where we are made to believe that men will always be badly behaved and they can’t do any better so we just have to settle for them like that. This consequently leads to unfulfilling marriages, partnerships and stress for many women.

Secondly it’s important because not saving men will force them to fix up, I believe. Also it lets us women be badly behaved too without drastic consequences. If a man and a woman do bad things, a woman is usually punished more and I hate it.”

When asked to give her opinion, Adeogo had this to say: “The overall solution is DON’T. He’s not a child, or your child. I don’t think it’s bad to want change for a person, we should help each other but there’s all the wrong reasons why a woman shouldn’t make it her life’s mission to change a man.”

She went on to say: “I believe relationships should bring the best in both parties, a person should already like the person they are dating but I see most people enter relationships solely based on fickle things and not on character, as much as we should be enamored with our partner, we should also be with people that we can stand their person. Most men are not good people, it’s getting really hard to find someone decent, some women think they will just get one and mold to be the person she wants but people don’t really change. 

9 out of 10 times, it ends badly for the woman. The man will probably leave her after the work she’s done and it can change the dynamics of the relationship; she could end up being seen as controlling, he could pretend for a while and show his real self later.”

The honest truth is that women need to learn and practise the art of self preservation.

We are not saviours for broken men and we must transfer the energy to repair a broken man into building and developing ourselves and our goals.

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