False advertising and the post-honeymoon truth, Part II

[Read the first installment of this two-part article here.]

Now, before you start thinking that you’ve already tried this and it doesn’t work or that it’s no quick fix, you’re right, it doesn’t and it isn’t. What I’m suggesting isn’t only to remember what’s good about your partner, it’s to remember that the things you now find annoying are the very qualities or essence of the qualities you need to start being and/or doing yourself . . . or see how you are also the same in a less obvious, possibly creative way. For example, one partner never says no and is overly obligated and the other partner, who ends up being involved in everything he/she says yes to, resents the one who got them involved in the first place. The first partner feels resentful because he/she feels obligated to say yes for you both. In this case, both partners have trouble saying yes and no, just to different people. This couple can teach each other by taking turns, swapping and sharing whom they say yes and no to. You see, Mother Nature, in her brilliance, or perhaps as a victim of the very love state she created, may have been overly optimistic to think we’d choose growth and awareness over our projections. But self-awareness and development is, in fact, exactly the opportunity that falling in love provides us if we choose to take advantage of it.

Unfortunately, most everything we learn about love teaches us that love requires nothing but our presence. True love lasts forever, love conquers all, and if you love me you should know how I feel. The misconceptions are countless, yet so is the number of Americans trying desperately to prove they’re true. So let’s instead channel all of that frantic energy into developing a curiosity about the lessons our partner’s qualities and quirks hold for us. Once we get over thinking, “Why won’t she/he . . . ?” we stop reacting — as if they were anomalies — to the repeated dysfunctional dramas we create and experience in every single relationship. It’s only then that Mother Nature’s brilliance catches fire and we realize our partners’ traits say as much about us as they do about them.

He, She, whatever you call this Force of Nature, knew that many of us wouldn’t go to those places in ourselves without something as seductively enthralling as “falling in love.” The “falling” may just be the one big operative hint about the letting go of our pride, which this sublime state requires of us.

How to make use of this synergistic fit begins with facing the fact that a disturbance or quality in another wouldn’t even hit our radar if it didn’t somehow first exist in us. You may have trouble figuring out how it does, not because you’re stupid but because we have already, in our altered states of love and against all common sense, proven ourselves untrustworthy in facing these parts of ourselves. Why else would the Great Mystery use such a compelling love state? He, She, whatever you call this Force of Nature, knew that many of us wouldn’t go to those places in ourselves without something as seductively enthralling as “falling in love.” The “falling” may just be the one big operative hint about the letting go of our pride, which this sublime state requires of us.

So summon your courage, and treat a friend to dinner. Make sure it’s a friend who has no trouble telling you things about yourself that you don’t want to hear but you know are in your best interest. Your friend should be able to truthfully answer one or more of the following questions. If you leave your friend feeling childishly vengeful because, “Well, they’re not perfect either,” then hold on to that friend. If your friend can’t answer these questions, find a new friend! And keep asking these questions until you’ve gotten the answers you wish you hadn’t, but know deep down why you did.

• How and where in my life/personality am I also that admirable or disturbing trait but don’t see it?

• How do I need to learn what I see as only my partner’s issue?

• How does my partner’s trait, positive or negative, reveal how my words and behavior don’t match up? Example: One partner feels entitled to everything and never takes no for an answer. The other partner struggles with asking for anything, but is indirectly very needy or controlling.

Once you’ve stopped reeling from these revelations, you’re ready to track and change those troublesome behaviors in your daily life. And eventually, if you’re really disciplined and daring, you might even earn one of those triumphant moments when we realize how much easier life and love is when we can laugh at our own challenges. All you need is a good, long, nostalgic look at your partner to show you how. Then, the next time you’re “buying or selling,” the “purchase” won’t just be hype: it will be the truth.

  • Ada Rios-Rivera, PhD
  • Social Psychologist, Life Coach, and writer with a career background in Individual, Relationship, Family Counseling, Conflict/Diversity and Organizational Consulting. Ada writes for "Psychology Tomorrow," an alternative online, sister magazine to "Psychology Today" and is currently working on a book that explores her life in foster care and journey of discovery through story and poetry.


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