By Cathy Reisenwitz
I am constantly disappointed with my girlfriend. When I get upset, she dismisses my feelings, even though I’ve asked her to respond with empathy and compassion many times. I feel unloved and unsupported.
Expectations breed disappointment and blunt gratitude.
Here’s the secret to being happy in a relationship: Expect nothing. Need nothing.
Now clearly that’s a stretch goal. But it should always be the goal.
The irony of long-term relationships is that they’re kind of reversed. Remember in the beginning when you wouldn’t say anything when they were late or forgetful because you were too busy reveling in the sweet things they did for you and you wanted to seem chill? It’s ironic you ignored signs they didn’t love you when you weren’t sure they loved you. But now, years into the relationship, when the person has invested significantly in you, when the cost to exit is high and you should be comparatively very secure, now you want to worry about what it means when they’re late.
Here’s how to never have another argument with your significant other: Decide they love you.
Did they forget your birthday? It’s because birthdays aren’t important to them, not because you’re not important to them. Were they late to meet you? It’s because they’re bad at time management, not because they’re inconsiderate. Remember all the shit they did right and enjoy it and forget the shit they fuck up.
Feelings aren’t black and white. One action can be interpreted in a zillion ways. If I’m going to be happy in a relationship, that will absolutely require me to choose to interpret my partner’s actions in the most flattering way possible. It requires that I trust that they mean well and consider me.
Let. Everything. Go.
Own Your Shit
For healthy people, needs aren’t sexy. Dependency isn’t sexy. Self-reliance is sexy, including and especially emotional self-reliance. If love for you is feeling like someone needs you, it’s not love. It’s insecurity played out upon another person.
Happy relationships require emotional maturity. Emotional maturity is consistently taking responsibility for what happens in your own head. Emotional maturity is the decision, made every day anew, that you are going to be happy regardless of what the people around you do and say. It’s deciding that you are in charge of your inner life. No one else has the power to make you feel a certain way. No one else is to blame if you aren’t happy.
That is sexy as fuck.
Emotional maturity is also refusing to take responsibility for other people’s feelings. It’s the ability to tell the difference between what I do and how you feel about it. I’m responsible for the former. You’re responsible for the latter. That’s being an adult.
Expectations kill happiness by taking the joy out of kindness.
What makes you happier, when someone does what they said they’d do, or when someone does that, plus goes above and beyond to make you happy? No one is particularly grateful when their needs and expectations are met. But when expectations are low, everything nice that your partner does for you is a bonus. It’s cause for a parade.
People don’t enjoy relationships, whether they be jobs or volunteering or friendships or romance, where they feel like they’re meeting expectations. People get excited about opportunities to exceed expectations. High expectations are difficult to exceed. Don’t suck the joy out of a partnership by making it require tons of effort to just be good enough.
So, at the end of this, you might be asking yourself why you’re in a relationship if you can’t expect anything from your partner. Why bother?
To do for them. Be in a relationship to give to someone else. If you want to be happy, my advice is to only be in a relationship when you are whole in and of yourself, when you don’t need anything or anyone beyond your family and friendships, when you are so whole and complete and full that you have love that is overflowing from you and you want somewhere to put it.
You can’t change your partner. You can only change you. Stop being needy. Stop expecting. Start taking responsibility for your own emotions. Then, decide whether they’re the person you want to shower with love.
Images: Giphy (4); Daniela Vladimirova/Flickr