Don’t Go Changing

Compromise is the key to any functional relationship

Tailoring your attitudes and interests – and even outfits – to fit in with a man may secure you a slot in his life for a while, but at what price?

You wear his shorts, move to his music, mix with his friends – and soon you’re mirroring his behaviour and even echoing his ideas. Relationship professionals such as Durban life coach Maxine Clancy call it ‘chameleon syndrome’.

Compromise is the key to any functional relationship – but when you adopt your man’s hues and views as your own it’s unhealthy for the relationship and for your sense of self.

‘The number-one reason for losing yourself in a relationship is your belief that love is something you either deserve or don’t,’ says Allie Ochs, author of Are You Fit To Love? (Little Moose Press). ‘Yet in reality love either exists or it doesn’t. When it’s love, there’s very little, if anything, you can do to destroy it. If there’s no love, there is nothing you can do to force it.’

The repercussions of staying in such a relationship are almost always disastrous for both partners, as each of you is either living – or living with – a lie, says therapist Martha Baldwin Beveridge, coauther of Loving Your Partner Without Losing Your Self (Hunter house). The chameleon’s partner will come to feel cheated and bemused, unless he’s the type who doesn’t mind exploitative relationships when they suit him. As for the chameleon women herself, she risks a growing sense of alienation an isolation when she cuts herself off from her real friends, own interests and sense of self.


Healthy love, says Ochs, is ‘a purposeful interdependence through which you become so much more than on your own’ – You never become less. ‘Maybe that’s why we fear being loved as much as we fear not being loved,’ she says. Try these affirmations, which should help keep a creeping chameleon condition at bay:

I can be loved even if I’m not perfect.
I can be loved just as I am.
I can be loved while keeping my direction in life.
I can be loved without getting lost in love.
I can be loved while I’m pursuing my life’s dreams.
I can be loved – I’ll let go and let be.


Watch for the signs of chameleon syndrome:

* Have you given over responsibility in any area of your life to you partner?
* Do you seldom make your own decisions or initiate projects?
* Do you avoid conflict at all costs?
* Do you often repress how you really feel?
* Do you often ‘stage’ your behaviour to sustain a relationship?
* Do you do most or all of the compromising
* Do you value your partner’s opinions above your own?
* Do you need to be reassured and nurtured all the time?