Originally published at: YourTango.com
Photo credit: YourTango
First: Stop trying.
The first thing that any good Matchmaker will tell you is to stop trying to change a man through dating.
Missionary dating (the process of dating to convert a person to a religion) way of thinking or simply wanting to part him from his bad boy tendencies often crashes and burns without fail. It leaves you heartbroken, in addition to fueling resentment within the man that makes him more resistant to change than ever.
However, you can change men, or at least contribute to their growth and development.
In her last finished novel Persuasion, one of my favorite lady-authors, Jane Austen, gives a blueprint for how to do this. Even though Jane Austen wrote the novel in the 1800s, the tips perfected by Austen’s heroine Anne Elliot, are actually applicable to women in 2017.
To know how to change a man, keep reading:
1. Be the kind of woman who can inspire a man.
Early on in Persuasion, Jane Austen contrasts Anne with her two sisters. Though some might find her less pretty than the other two, she possesses humility and empathy for others, which give her an elegance that they lack.
In contrast, her married sister complains constantly, and although she has a good husband, a morally superior wife, like Anne, could have much improved his character. Even Anne’s spoiled, unruly nieces and nephews behave better around Anne out of the respect that they have for her.
As a result, she has an edifying presence that challenges all to grow and be the best versions of themselves, the perfect soil for a basically good man.
2. Identify the level of change that needs to occur.
Anne knew what change she could handle and stuck with it. A little backstory: at 19 years old, Anne had been engaged to a young, charming, and handsome naval officer Frederick Wentworth.
Although Anne felt over-the-moon happy with him, her family disproved of the marriage; he had little money and few connections, only a positive outlook on the future. She broke off the engagement as a result, he became infuriated and left the country.
Although young and coerced by her family, Anne could see the importance of stability for a marriage. She knew that could only occur once, the then Commander, Wentworth, had figured out his way in the world. She knew that the change was too great for her to do on her own.
3. Identify the raw materials for success.
Anne regretted her decision, but seven years later when Wentworth returns, this time a Captain, he speaks of the trouble one of his married officer friends had trying to support his family at sea. Hindsight is 20/20 and though Captain Wentworth comes back rich, other naval officers were less lucky.
Whether Anne was right or wrong in breaking off the engagement, she later recognizes Captain Wentworth’s qualities as rare ones that almost guarantee success. His likable, outgoing personality, reliability, confidence, and work ethic helped him garner his fortune.
4. Stay away from dating men who you need to fix.
Religion is a perfect example of this. If your faith is important to you, stop trying to convert a fallen away Christian or Jewish guy one date at a time. Instead, focus on men who have the basic makeup that you’re looking for: a man who cares about his religion.
Leave the evangelizing out of dating; men you date should have at least the husband material that you value the most. Friendzone all of the other men at your door. However, an atheist may have questions for you that help him discover his own faith.
If you have yet to develop feelings for him, you can stay friends, but make sure that you create clear boundaries to protect yourself from falling for him. For example, introduce him to a male friend at your church or temple. With your good influence, he might change.
5. Get to know him first.
Yes, I advise you to be commitment shy. Wait to label your relationship until he proves that he can change. Men change the most through the earliest courtship phases. Even if they only need to make simple adjustments, men feel the most motivated in the early stages of a relationship.
One of our Bachelorettes started dating a man who had most of the qualities that she wanted, but he lacked some in the chivalry department. In the courtship phase, she asked him to call her, rather than text, open her car door, walk her to her door, and walk on the street side of the sidewalk.
He listened and learned, and now they’re married! If he fails to change, however, you might have an indicator that he may be too immature for you.
6. Time is your best friend.
At Matchmakers In The City, we advise waiting at three months to make your relationship exclusive. Bonus: your man will want you even more for refusing to rush it!
Men fall in love more slowly than women do and the time will give you a chance to discern his character and ensure him as the best match for you. When Captain Wentworth comes back, this time he has a rival for Anne’s heart: her duplicitous and rich cousin, Mr. Elliot.
Keen to know Mr. Elliot before letting herself get attached, she repeats the importance of time to her friends who urge the match. In time, she learns of his selfish motives and sees him for who he really is: a user.
7. Let him mature on his own.
Anne’s family had told her to call off the engagement as a result of Commander Wentworth’s lack of money and connections. However, at that point, he betrays his greatest deficiency as immaturity rather than low income.
Young, quick-tempered, and too bold for his britches, he lets his ego get in the way of empathy. He blinds himself to Anne’s pain in initiating the separation. When he finally pursues Anne again, over eight and a half years later, he has matured from a headstrong boy into a thoughtful and humble man ready to sacrifice his pride for true love.
As a result of his pride, Captain Wentworth takes a year from when he returns to England to pursue Anne again.
Anne, on the other hand, suffering from regret, insecurity, and shy reserve finally finds the courage to encourage his attention.
In view of her insight, introspective intelligence, and maturity, critics have called Anne Elliot ‘the perfect heroine.’ However, Anne reveals her humanity when she fails to trust her intuition.
As an adult, she does get a second chance and takes it, this time with Captain Wentworth, a man who has proven his steadfast character, both professionally and personally.
This time, fully ready for marriage, Captain Wentworth makes himself vulnerable for his future wife. They share an even greater and stronger joy than before, one that has withstood trials, misunderstandings, and distance.
Formerly in his life, Captain Wentworth learned to earn his rewards and blessings. When he comes back, he needs to let go to allow himself to be "happier than [he] deserves." At this point more equally yoked, Anne and Captain Wentworth have helped to change each other into deeper, more compassionate lovers.