I’m always amazed at how immature people are in their beliefs and expectations about relationships and marriage. As my client called it once “an underdeveloped” idea of marriage, could be the reason why so many marriages suffer and/or end up in divorce. Here are some of the misconceptions about relationships that eventually lead to distress.
1. Take me as I am.
A lot of people put way too much effort in the beginning of a relationship and not nearly enough effort later in it. Typically after a year or so of dating, you have an idea where the relationship is going. And typically, if you feel secure that this is something serious and it will end up in marriage and/or some serious commitment, you stop trying. When you first start dating, you care about your body, how you look, how you dress, how you speak, etc. You try not to disclose too much about yourself, just enough to keep the curiosity/interest alive. You try not to chew while talking, not burp, fart or even acknowledge that you engage in such gross activities. You lie about interests, habits and that porn collection in your computer. You lie about previous relationships and your responsibility in their failure. You want to make a good impression so you talk politics or philosophy or claim to be a MUCH better cook than you really are. Then with time you stop because it’s too hard to keep this up. You just want and need to be yourself. And one thing is for sure my friends, your true self WILL eventually shine through. And when that happens you say “if you can’t take me for who I am than this isn’t going to work.” The problem with this is the fact that your bad habits are NOT who you really are. As David Schnarch puts it, marriage is not an excuse to get fat, lazy or stop being an interesting person. Just because someone has committed to being with you, does not mean that you now have to stop trying to grow and mature. Having said that, I think a relationship is only conducive to growth if there is some basic acceptance, respect and unconditional love for who someone really is. A person can only grow and mature in a safe relationship. Change is only possible through relationships. If you have the balls to do the hard work.
2. Relationships are about performance.
Men worry and obsess about how their penis is performing. Little do they know, women obsess about how their vaginas look and perform too. We have strong beliefs and expectations about performance in almost every area of the relationship. Think about the mental checklist you run through to evaluate how your relationship is going. How many of those items are one way or another linked to you or your partner doing something well or poorly? Listen up folks, your relationship is not meant to be a test.
Is he good with giving gifts? Check
Is she a good housekeeper? Check
Is he/she good in bed? Check
Can she cook? Check
Is he good at telling I have had a bad day and need a massage? Check
Is he/she a good listener? Check
Is he a good provider? Double check
Now before you start saying that you don’t really do this because all you care about is that you are loved, cared for and understood, go back and check the list you use to evaluate those things. Love and understanding have nothing to do with performance. They exist even when someone is “bad” at showing you because “bad” is relative to YOUR performance standards. Performance gets effected by stress, mood, general life satisfaction, motivation, skills and anxiety. And the more you stress about yours or your partner’s the less you/they will perform. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you shouldn’t ask for what you need or get what you need. I’m not saying you shouldn’t have expectations. But generally speaking, it’s not what your relationship can do for you but what YOU can do for the relationship. As Hedy Schleifer puts it, your relationship does not exist in you or in your partner, it exists in the space between you two. She calls it a sacred space. Stop polluting the space between you and the love of your life with your judgment and selfishness.
3. Relationships should make you happy.
Yes. But before they do that they should make you miserable. Which they are guaranteed to do. So might as well accept it and change your attitude about it. Even the happiest couples have at one point or another wondered if they married the wrong person for them. George Clooney’s character in The Descendents said to his dying wife by her hospital bed “Goodbye, Elizabeth. Goodbye, my love, my friend, my pain, my joy. Goodbye. Goodbye. Goodbye”.
Relationships are about joy AND pain. Conflict is a good thing. If you are getting along just fine that means someone is not saying something. Conflict and pain is a golden opportunity for growth. Maybe the only real one you’ll have as an adult. You can say “I don’t like this, I have married the wrong person, I need to leave them and move on.” Or you can say “This is causing me pain but it’s growing pains. How can I grow?” Of course, the latter is harder and we don’t like hard things. It’s easier to leave then to face yourself. It’s easier to blame someone else than to take responsibility for yourself and your own personal growth.
I never said people like what I say. In fact I’m quite unpopular.