Are Your Expectations Based in Reality?

Common mistakes that too many people make when they embark on a relationship are the expectations they place on their partner; a projected fantasy of sorts. A good friend of mine told me this weekend how frustrated she is with her husband of 20 years. They’ve had issues for a long time. Yet, her husband knows of her unhappiness and chooses to continue to hope, while she believes that she will never be happy with him.  She is unsatisfied with the quality of their conversation and it’s led her to doubt their union. I am not qualified to determine whether they should stay together, but I do feel that we must recognize that people often have very different conversational styles and gender can be a factor exacerbating that. I told my friend to remember why she first fell in love with her husband and asked if those reasons are still valid. Her expectations of her husband’s conversation might be unrealistic; in fact, they might be getting in her way. It’s difficult enough to find love at any age but at 62 it’s even more challenging.  As an older single woman, I can tell you that, unless you are very lucky, it could take up to ten years or longer to find another suitable partner. Until someone misses the person they loved, it’s often hard to recognize the good things and evaluate their own idiocy. It’s only when the person is gone form their life completely for at least a year that they can tell, and then it’s usually too late; that person has likely moved on.  Many woman tell me they are not satisfied with the conversation they have with their husbands, men can be quieter or less social, or not interested in the same subjects as their wives. That does not mean the love is not valid. My advice would be, get your small talk elsewhere.

I learned that the deficits I perceived in my own marriage didn’t really exist. At one point, I found myself at a wedding with my husband but instead of enjoying his company, I was fixated on the tender exchange I saw between another couple. The way an older man tended to his wife and offered her his hand when she was stepping down a stair filled me with sadness and made me scrutinize my own relationship. We were in the middle of some very stressful times, but at that moment my husband had done nothing wrong.  I subconsciously blamed him and cast him in the role of the inattentive partner. He was not a particularly attentive or doting man to begin with, and because we had four children and a tremendous amount of stress, I felt it more acutely. What I neglected to consider was how much I loved my husband, how important he was to me, and how well we got along in so many other critical ways.  Had I stayed with him, there may have been a time when he became more attentive; but at this point and with all our difficulties I added this perceived neglect to the list of my own unrealistic expectations. I can tell you now that I don’t give a hoot about someone doting on me! 

If you are lucky enough to have love, don’t jeopardize it by hoping that your partner be something or someone else. Women who are considering leaving their partners often tell me that they won’t mind being alone. But, being alone day in and day out for years is completely different without a caring partner. Until you experience it, it is difficult to imagine.

Honor love with all of its nuances; acceptance is the attitude most likely to engender growth and increase harmony.  Psychologist Henry Grayson, writer of the best selling Mindful Loving, reminds his clients and readers that, while we cannot change anyone else, we can change ourselves. We can alter our perceptions of the target behavior, we can try to change the circumstances that surround the behavior, or we can try to be a catalyst for change without being attached to the outcome. Love is precious; enjoy it. Don’t waste your time and energy expecting something unreal, when what you have is real!

Couples who stood the test of time. Above: Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash; Below: George Burns and Gracie Allen, Marc and Bella Chagall

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