Recently a business associate wrote me an e-mail complaining that I hadn’t yet sent him a document he had requested. I explained to him that I had moved offices and changed computers and was having a difficult time locating the document. His response was that since I was a writer and editor, he was disappointed; he expected me to be more organized.
I had to laugh; if any of you have the same illusions, let me shatter them for you now.
There is no doubt about it, I am organizationally impaired. In fact, a few years ago my girlfriend came over when I was out of town, took pictures of my office, and sent them into “Maui’s Messiest Home Office Contest.” And I won.
I am a lot of things, but organized is not one of them. And yet, I still manage to get along, and do quite well. One of my favorites sayings is, “A messy house is the sign of a creative mind.”
I share this with you because it is a perfect example of how our illusions, fantasies, and expectations lead to disappointment in our relationships. This is especially obvious in online dating where we receive a little information about someone and assume we know a lot. We tend to fill in the gaps between what we actually know with what we hope to be true—and then, when it is not, we blame the other person for not being someone that they never claimed to be in the first place. Our illusions and projections onto the other person are probably one of the biggest causes of difficulty in relationships; that, along with our lack of self-awareness or relationship skills.
We clearly do this in face-to-face relationships as well. Here, we not only project our illusions onto the other person but we also bring a whole host of role expectations to the relationship. We may come into the relationship expecting women to be submissive or nurturing or good housekeepers or good cooks or good mothers. We may expect men to be strong, to fix things, to make good decisions, to make money, etc. We often have a preconceived idea of what it means to be a husband or wife, and what marriage should look like.
Even as small children we sing, “First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage.” And yet, many of us have done this in the reverse order, have not done it at all, or have chosen any one of the three components to the song— love or marriage or children—but not all three, and not necessarily with someone of the opposite sex. Undoubtedly, these choices brought disappointment to someone who was still singing the song of expectation for us.
I invite you to begin a practice of self-observation and acceptance. Notice when you are feeling disappointed in someone. Then, notice if you are disappointed because of your expectations of how you had hoped they would be or how you expected the relationship to turn out—your illusions or assumptions. Sure, there are times when people let us down by not following through on what they said they would do, but right now, I want you to notice how much of your disappointment is from someone being exactly the way they have always been while you keep expecting them to change. Notice how often someone doesn’t add up to what or who you think they should be when they are simply being who they are.
After you have begun to notice your part in the disappointment, begin practicing acceptance of what is. Take a deep breath and just accept that the other person is the way they are. When you are truly accepting what is, your next steps will become obvious. If you want to stay in the relationship with them, you will begin to see options for how to strategize to best work together or live together (how you can change what you are doing). If you don’t want to stay in the relationship with them just the way they are, you will take steps to get out. Torture for both of you is expecting them to change or be different, and staying miserably in the relationship waiting for that to happen. Freedom and joy is accepting each other as you are, learning new ways to work together effectively, or making a new decision about whether to be together.
Intellectual Foreplay Question: What are your expectations about love?
Love Tip: Shatter your illusions and set your love (or yourself) free.