Jan 162018 8 Responses

If He’s a Zero, You Can’t Change Him

A healthy relationship is a simple multiplication problem. In good relationships, 1×1=1. While there are imperfections in the equation, this math problem is a strong representation of a healthy connection. Each person must bring the fullness of who they are into the equation. Without the totality of each of them, the outcome would be greatly changed.

Relationships are about multiplication, not addition. One man and one woman join together and become a new one while still maintaining the full identity of their individual oneness. 1×1=1. But a difficulty arises when we bring our whole 1 into the relationship and the other does not. Still desiring a good relationship, we attempt to make up for them. Unfortunately, relationships aren’t about addition.

If a good connection was simple addition, then 1+0=1. I would be totally in control of the outcome of the relationship. No matter what my partner did, I could make up for it. 2+(-1)=1 or 3+(-2)=1. The less they put into the relationship, the more I could add in order to ensure a healthy connection.

But it doesn’t work that way. (See: Your Spouse Matters–Choose Wisely)

Marriage is multiplication. No matter how much I change, improve, or work, if my spouse is a 0, my relationship will be a 0 as well.




Routinely, people, primarily women, will come to my office to discuss a broken relationship. He’s not interested. He does enough to keep them around, but he won’t fully commit. The relationship is struggling and she’s afraid it might end. Her plan is to get better. She tries to figure out what he wants and does everything in her power to provide it for him. Her hope is to salvage the connection. But it’s a pursuit that will not work. No matter how much she changes, she can’t change him.

If he’s a 0, the relationship will be a 0 as well. And there is nothing you can do about it. You can pray, hope, plead, and do everything in your power to provide a climate where he can change, but you can’t change him. Only he can choose to change. And more importantly, you can’t make up for whatever he refuses to do for the relationship. No matter how great you become, 10×0 is still 0.

Continually changing in order to keep a broken relationship is an endless treadmill. No matter what you do, they won’t do what is necessary to make the relationship healthy. You will continue to give, they will continue to take, and the relationship will stay in its exact spot. It doesn’t improve because the partner responds to your increased effort by giving even less. Why? Because they like where the relationship is. If they didn’t, they would do something about it.

Ironically, the more effort you make to improve things, the less effort they will give in order to keep things the same. They get what they want with even less effort while you wear yourself out for things to end up exactly where they’ve been.

It doesn’t start that way, but as a dating relationship turns serious, there comes a point where our options are binary. We are either in or we are out. We are either a 1 or a 0. When two people are both in (1), then the potential for them is endless. But for as long as one of them is still holding out (0), the relationship is certain to be a 0. (See: Five Stupid Ideas Men Have About Marriage)

If He (or She) Is a Zero

If the one you love is a 0, you don’t have many options.

1. Avoid denial. We want the relationship to work. We love the other person and we likely love the idea of being in love, so it’s easy to deceive ourselves. Find a friend or mentor who can speak truth into your life. Denial isn’t healthy in the long run.

2. Let them own it. There comes a moment in which the relationship cannot move forward unless both parties are willing to deepen their commitment. Give them that chance. Communicate your desire and allow them to choose to move forward or not. But recognize it’s their decision. There isn’t a moral right or wrong. They are free, like you, to be in a relationship with whomever they wish. Let them choose and honor their choice.

3. Be willing to walk away. Some relationships don’t make it. It’s not always easy to tell why. If you want a meaningful, life-long commitment to another person, you have to be willing to walk away from relationships that don’t meet that standard. For as long as you hang on to something less than what you want, you are guaranteed never to get what you desire.

Sometimes I wish relationships were addition. If that was the case, we would be fully in control of the outcomes. However, they aren’t and we aren’t. A healthy connection is like a multiplication problem. We control us, they control them, and together we determine the outcome.


8 Responses to If He’s a Zero, You Can’t Change Him

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