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How to live as a couple
How to live as a couple and live well and long? – We all ask ourselves this question. To find an answer, we should first recognize some mistakes that prevent us to achieve this goal.
But emotions are stirring within us as if they were children in a classroom. We should understand them. Let’s start with expectations.
I tell you a brief story: In a shop, a boy finds an angel at the counter. Curious, he approaches and asks him: “What do you sell?” “Anything your heart desires”, the angel answers, “and it is free. Ask and you can have whatever you wish!”
The boy thinks for a moment and then says: “I wish there were no more wars in the world and no one would suffer hunger and no diseases or miseries, no abuses and I wish people loved each other and everyone respected the environment and nature and…”
“Stop!” the angel tells him, “you have not understood. I can give you seeds, not fruits!” (1)
What’s this story about?
The story brings our attention to the expectations – absurd and out of reality – of the boy. As many of us he wants his desires come immediately true, doing nothing – he expects someone else to do things for him.
We do not realize it, but we are all full of unreal expectations: at work we are waiting for recognition and approval; from children we expect them to grow healthy and obedient and not give us too many problems; we believe life owes us something; and what do we expect from relationships? We find normal to have needs and desires, but between wishing something and expecting it, there’s a difference. What is the difference?
For women: “How I would like it if he came home at night, with a red rose for me!” For men, who are more practical, it will be to find their wife all made up and wearing skirt. In time this thought can become a hope and then a desire, and, if I continue giving importance to it, it will become an expectation and, perhaps, a duty for the cohabiting partner. If then nothing happens, the rose does not arrive, and the wife does not wear skirt, it is easy that, without even talking to him/her, I become disappointed and hold a grudge: “With everything I’ve been doing for him/her…!”
It has become something I’m entitled to, so I don’t need to ask, and I feel like a victim if I don’t get it. In the picture above, named “Hooks”, two women expect something from the man on the left. We see it from their expression and body position.
What do they expect from that man? That he accepts their advances, and engages in the game they are proposing – their approach full of contradictory messages, says a lot about the type of game. What you can notice is that they do not look him in the eye and that he keeps his eyes down. Why on earth? Have you ever noticed that those who are not sincere avoid looking in the eye? The characters in the painting are therefore lying to each other.
A relationship based on misunderstanding
They are about to start a relationship based on misunderstanding, the misunderstanding between what I say and what I expect. The painting symbolism makes clear there is an attempt to hide the intention. It is a relationship of manipulation, in which expectations – not expressed – become rights… But these characters hide this from themselves and the other. The game is unaware, but it works; in this game, unreal expectations and manipulation are linked. Have you ever wondered, for example, why do we set the bar too high without considering reality? Why? We use such expectations to set the other up, condition and force them to give us what we want, to manipulate.
When I say to someone “I really like you” or “I love you”… am I expressing a feeling that fills my heart – without there being a small, hidden expectation? “I love you” is not always an exclamation of joy, the flowering of a tree, and “I like you so much” is not only a heartfelt appreciation – it can also be a bait. Why?
Because what I mean and do not reveal – the game is in this unconscious lie I tell myself and the other – is that if I say: “I love you”, I mean “I expect you to be mine forever, be faithful, and stay always with me. If you love me, then you must always keep me with you, make me happy, take care of me.” Even if they are implicit or masked, I charge the other with expectations – we feel offended and betrayed, or at least dissatisfied and unhappy, if they are disappointed.
If the man in the painting hooks up and falls into the net, he must meet the expectations of the two women – expectations he can guess, but to what extent?
Expectations and manipulation
Whoever gives in to the expectations of the other gives in to manipulation. This applies to every situation in our lives. In the opening story, the angel offers endless possibilities “You can have everything you wish” and one of these is definitely the encounter with the other.
So, how should we live as a couple? In a relationship, and dealing with the other, I can learn to understand, have patience and respect. These are the fruits we can get: a harmonious and serene relationship; but we enter often a relationship full of unreal expectations, without realizing that we charge the other with them.
I don’t think of the relationship as a program of life – the life I dream of and working together to build this dream. It’s the other who has to give me a better life. It is so for all situations, even if I am offered the raw material to achieve everything – the seeds of the angel – with endless possibilities and chances everywhere.
Perseverance, trust, the desire to achieve a goal, intelligence and the help of my creative energy are the fertile ground for the seeds to sprout. These are forces I can only find within myself; they are what I need to turn the possibilities into achievements and reach my goals – with the help of others, of course, but not hanging on after others and burdening them.
Free interpretation of “La Storia del Negozio di Semi” by Claudio Marino and Nino Chakvetadze