This is one of my tell-it-like-it-is posts, the kind in which I blow the whistle on the veil of falsity and illusion that our culture encourages around intimate relationships. Because we're inundated with fantasy via Hollywood and Disney, we develop false beliefs early in life that relationships shouldn't be hard and that our romantic other should be something akin to a god or goddess.
In the early stages, when the honeymoon euphoria releases endorphins and other lovely hormones into our bodies, we may, indeed gaze upon our partners like they're a magic elixir arrived to induce a state of constant happiness. But as this drug wears off, as it always will, the sizzle fades, the glow dims, and we start to realize that we're with a regular human being. And regular human beings are far from perfect.
My clients often feel profound guilt for thinking or feeling less-than-blissful thoughts or feelings about their partner. They clearly don't know that it's normal not to feel madly in love every moment of every day, and that it's normal to feel annoyed or irritated at times. It's normal to look at your partner like he or she is an alien descended from Mars, and it's normal to wish they were different.
So let go of the guilt, and read the following list to know that you're far from alone when you react negatively to your partner's inherently flawed and beautiful humanness.
The truth about human beings:
- They say goofy things
- They tell dumb jokes
- They're insensitive
- They have bad breath
- They have bad hair
- They'll say things in front of your kids that you wish they hadn't
- They're grumpy
- They're moody
- They're quiet
- They don't load the dishwasher "right"
- They're controlling
- They'll nitpick and nag
- They'll have road rage
In short, if you're in an intimate relationship and especially if you're a Highly Sensitive Person, you're going to feel irritated and turned off at times. Again, this in itself isn't a problem.
The problem arises when the overlay of shoulds and shouldn'ts enters your mind because you've fallen prey to the Hollywood fantasy that your partner should be a glossy, minty-breathed hero who always speaks intelligently and cracks clever jokes. She should be refined, successful, well-dressed and a sex goddess in bed.
Because, of course, behind the silver screen, everyone is polished and perfected. If they have bad breath you wouldn't know it. Every hair is smoothed into place. Every joke is scripted by a group of creative people sitting in rooms thinking up clever lines. This isn't reality.
Wouldn't it be nice if we didn't have to work so hard to create a healthy template for what to expect from our partners? Wouldn't it be helpful if the media told us the truth so that we weren't constantly comparing our relationships to unrealistic fantasies?
But since our culture insists on transmitting and upholding a fantasy, I'll tell the truth here: your partner will look unattractive to you at times. And it's not necessarily because you're in a projection or you're disconnected from your essence, although it could be. It may just because he or she is human.
And guess what?
You're human, too! Everything I've written above applies to you. Grabbing the mirror instead of the magnifying glass can help soften the judgement that easily flies from mind or mouth when the irritation that you're with a flawed, imperfect human being overwhelms you.
One on the most important skills in cultivating and sustaining a healthy relationship is learning to accept your partners quirks and foibles. And after you accept them, you will eventually learn to love them. That's when you've shifted from the adolescent state of infatuation that our culture calls "being in love" to the real, mature love that runs like a river beneath a solid, loving, lifelong relationship.
Sheryl Paul, M.A., has guided thousands of people worldwide through her private practice, her best-selling books, her e-courses, and her website. She has her master's in Psychology Counseling from the Pacifica Graduate Institute, and is the author of The Wisdom of Anxiety: How Worry and Intrusive Thoughts Are Gifts to Help You Heal . She has appeared several times on The Oprah Winfrey Show as well as on Good Morning America and other top media shows and publications around the globe. To sign up for her free 78-page ebook, Conscious Transitions: The 7 Most Common (and Traumatic) Life Changes, visit her website. If you’re suffering from relationship anxiety—whether single, dating, engaged, or married—sign up for her free sampler.
To receive a thorough relationship road map, check out her mbg video course, How to Have the Greatest Relationship of Your Life. And if you’re struggling with sexual desire and body image, consider her course Sacred Sexuality: A 40-Day Course for Women to Heal Body Shame and Ignite Desire.