… not the one in the romance novel.
April 1, 2018
What’s at the core of our relationship problems? What keeps us from loving, and from feeling loved? What gets in the way of the closeness and connectedness that every one of us profoundly wants?
WE WANT THEM TO BE OTHER THAN THEY ARE.
We want them to be kinder, more open, more vulnerable, more affectionate, more self-aware, more attentive, tidier, more available, a better listener, bigger, smaller, smarter, wiser, funnier, more attractive, more humble …
In essence, we want them to rescue us from the unrealistic expectations we often don’t know we have.
Every time we’re stuck, when we’re not seeing a way forward in our relationships, we point a finger at them.
Whether we stay in one relationship, or run from one to another, with each of our relationships we are looking through what we think is a window, when in reality it’s a mirror.
Regardless of whether we understand why or how we started blaming THEM for our unmet expectations, the only thing that matters is what we’re going to do about it now.
We know we’re on the right track when we’re able to see our role. No matter how committed we say we are to someone, genuine commitment is manifested in how we work through our differences. Blaming, manipulating, ruminating and kvetching about what’s wrong with them keeps us stuck in an endless cycle of creating the same mistakes..
Real love is not guaranteed. Thus the term ‘labor of love’. We are willing to do the work, to labor, in order to reap the benefits. But it is a choice and a commitment that we have to make over and over again. It doesn’t come easy like the songs, and the movies, and the romance novels would have us believe.
One way to get a new perspective and increase the chances of working through a conflict is to ask yourself questions.
Three 24 carat questions:
- What are my expectations for this relationship?
- What are my expectations of the other person?
- What are my expectations around how they should make me feel?
Before you read any further, take five minutes and write stream of consciousness (that means no worries about punctuation, syntax, grammar or lofty words) and answer the three questions for yourself.
DON’T READ PAST THIS POINT UNTIL YOU’VE ACTUALLY WRITTEN DOWN YOUR EXPECTATIONS FROM A CURRENT OR FORMER RELATIONSHIP.
Done? Read on.
I can almost guarantee that your expectations will involve ‘them’ changing, in one way or another, so that you can feel differently than you’re feeling.
Here’s an example of how we expect them to change,
A dear friend and I spent a couple years not understanding why we had such a hard time with making plans.
We struggled with our thoughts about each other. I thought she was irresponsible and she thought I was controlling (and probably a little needy).
Turned out our differences were easily explained. We each have a unique neurology, biology, personality, and psychosocial background. In this case our difference was more around personality. I feel secure with a bit of structure and her tendency is to be most comfortable going with the flow.
We had talked it to death trying to understand, and gotten nowhere, until we realized that nobody had to change to make the other one feel okay. All we had to do was accept the reality that we were different, not wrong or bad or flawed. It was an exciting discovery for both of us, because we knew immediately that we could apply it to many of our relationships..
The moment we ‘got’ it, we came up with what felt like a brilliant solution to our problem.
We would make a date in advance, but we were both free to cancel it at the last minute. Because neither of us wanted to do something with someone who didn’t want to be there!
We stopped taking our differences personally and instead found a way to accommodate them, without forcing the other to change. Oddly, without the pressure, I think we’ve both become more willing to accommodate the other’s tendencies. Now we both occasionally cancel, with no repercussions, except maybe a little disappointment on one side or the other. Totally workable.
I used the example of a friend rather than a romantic partner because we can be holding unrealistic expectations about any of our relationships. These ideas apply just as well to family members, friends and co-workers as they do to our partners.
Identify your expectations, acknowledge the reality that no one outside of a romance novel or a fictional movie will be able to fulfill them except you. Then you will be on the road to finding all kinds of relationships that satisfy you in deeply human, genuine ways.
So please, if you didn’t do it already, take five minutes and answer the following questions:
What are my expectations for my current relationship?
What are my expectations of this other person?
What are my expectations around how they should make me feel?
Do they need to change? Or do your expectations need to get adjusted? If you’re waiting for them to change, find a nice cushy spot — you’ll be waiting forever.
Can’t wait to hear if this was helpful. Please comment below. And if you know anyone that you think might want to explore the questions, please pass this on.
Loved the article! The topic is one i tend to think about a great deal (from time to time). The first two of the 24 carat questions were perfect. The third question shocked me. I was expecting the third question to be about my role in the relationship, what I was willing to give, how to give it, etc.
So the third question made me take a look at questions 1 & 2 and answer them again before answering #3.
I think this points out that sometimes I think I have the answers when I should be asking different questions!
Exactly … everything turns around. It’s so much more of an inside job than we like to think. Thanks for your insightfulness!
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