I Can Change Him

I recently had the humbling realization that I have long been harboring the cliche arrogance of “I can change him.”

Last week, I wrote about a man I called CollegeCrush. For years, I had unresolved feelings for him. Finally, after years of confusion, disappointment, hope, silence, and the occasional dead-end exchange, we met again. During that meeting, I gained hard-earned closure about our past, and promptly opened myself to new potential hurt. And he did, immediately and deliberately, hurt me.

I count myself lucky that CollegeCrush was so quick, clumsy, and heavy-handed in his attempt to manipulate and control me. I had given him all the power between us; of course he got drunk on it. I shudder to think where I would be at this moment — and in a few years — had he been more careful and clever in his machinations. All he really had to do was not push me away; I had already reeled myself in.

It is humiliating to realize that I succumbed to the classic cliche, but I did. I never even recognized it until, as I confided in KOH_HCl (a.k.a. BG) that Saturday, he quoted the phrase: “I can change him.”

When we knew each other in college, I figured I could seduce CollegeCrush for the sexual relationship I wanted. His conservative Christian views about sex and marriage struck me as an insignificant obstacle that could eventually be overcome.

“I can change him.”

Years later, I sent the occasional “Hello” via e-mail or social media. I had no idea what his life was like, but surely he missed me as I missed him and, like me, he wanted to reconnect.

“I can change him.”

Two months ago, I wrote him a full-confession letter, bleeding my heart all over the screen. I had observed through social media that he had changed drastically, including religious shift, divorce, career change, and a new and disturbing narcissism. Still, maybe we could start talking. Maybe we could resume our friendly disagreements from all those years ago. Maybe I could steer him back from seeing people strictly in terms of their use to him — and being proud about that — to a more compassionate mindset.

“I can change him.”

I was never blind to CollegeCrush’s new, abusive selfishness. I recognized that he had become a manipulative egotist and a people-user, but that did not concern me. After all…

“I can change him.”