Even Superman Can’t Guess What Lois Lane Really Wants

Romantic love creates unreasonable expectations. In this episode I’ll show you how to fix that & stop making yourself miserable.

Expectations,respect,wedding,wedding vows,relationships,expectations,relationship problems

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After almost 40 years of working to help couples, I offer a podcast of substance on what relationships require to last for the long haul. I use books & movies to illustrate the points I’m trying to make. I offer challenges of things you can actually do in your own relationship at the end of every podcast which is under 10 minutes.

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Unreasonable expectations are created by romantic love. We adore the idea of having magical relationships because it is comforting. The Disney version of fairytales is enchanting, while the Grim’s version is more gritty about the reality of life; Cinderella’s stepsister did not just squeeze her foot in the glass slipper, she used a knife to chop off part of her heel.. In this culture we turn away from reality at every opportunity. As Groucho Marx said “I’m not crazy about reality, but it’s still the only place to get a decent meal.”

We do a lot of pretending before a relationship starts & in the beginnings. Pretending is the way to avoid the anxiety of taking a risk with a stranger. The payoff of pretending is that when we avoid the risk, we are willing to jump in the deep end of the pool and trust because we are certain everything is wonderful. What makes dating so hard is drowning in the uncertainty.

Consider the terrific 2013 movie “Her”, where Joaquin Phoenix falls in love with an artificial intelligence operating system that only wants to meet his every need. Of course he falls deeply in love because every expectation is met, what more could anyone want? & yet something is missing, the struggle with someone real.

This is exactly why so many movies are made about the beginnings or the ends of relationships because it is certain. We don’t want to watch the messy middles. We adore the deliciousness of certainty!!!

The best movie example of the middle of a relationship is Blue Valentine which was not a hit because it was so painful to watch over time as the respect disappears .

In relationships it’s a whole lot harder to pretend as time goes on. Relationships are a lot of hard work. Joseph Campbell said “marriage is an ordeal” which is far closer to the truth.

Relationship success is built on being a team and making agreements that work for both of you.

The Disney version of Fairy tales really works against relationships because it sets up false expectations. My least favorite expectation is “If he loves me, he should know what I want”. The reason so many women say this is because it is so much easier to load the problem on the other person & then successfully avoid the responsibility of what we want. The truth is even Superman with his super powers can not always get it right.

I often don’t like to go to weddings because they set up a whole lot of illusions. We all adore the fantasy that Love means “never having to say your sorry” which avoids the risk & uncertainty admitting mistakes & making amends. The illusions avoid the messiness of rejection or understanding how much you have hurt someone else. And yet many of my couples begin repair by owning up to their part in the problems.

I’d like to witness a ceremony with wedding vows that say “In years 6-10 when the illusions of perfect love fall apart, do you promise to do the work of being honest about what you don’t like & find ways to be authentic & disagree with respect.” Wedding Vows need to contain more substance to prepare people for the serious effort marriage requires. There is more thought going into the dress than “Wow this really is a big deal”

Too often there is a lot of substance missing about what love really requires in weddings. There is something deeply satisfying about a relationship that works over time because of deals & compromises that include both people, instead of one person constantly catering to the other.

Let’s substitute respect for romance because respect requires both character & effort. Real Respect means opening yourself up to being influenced by another person. Respect means you want to be the best person you can be.

Instead of complaining “You don’t bring me flowers” let’s substitute ‘do you both say what you mean and mean what you say’?. It’s rare to see a couple be a real team because being honest about hard things is not something we learn in families. Most families avoid & deflect their difficulties.

Instead of flowers try an authentic conversation about something that troubles you. If you do this you will have more respect for yourself because you have dealt with the truth. If you do this you will be building a more solid infrastructure that helps a relationship last over the decades.

You will know when you are not respectful enough of your partner if you can’t make a statement about what’s important to them. In fact that would be a very elegant way to start a more honest dialogue; begin by acknowledging their point of view. This helps them to feel seen & not invisible. The best time for having more honest conversations is when you can create uninterrupted time together. Motivate yourself by knowing that finding the courage to talk about hard things is the most important single thing you can do to keep your marriage emotionally safe. It is hoarded up, unexamined truths that destroy relationships because they layer over time.

Challenge: Ask yourself the last time your partner influenced you to do something different and if you can’t think of something specific, then ask them for honest feedback on how you could improve as a partner.

Thankyou for listening, this is Rhoda sharing what I’ve learned from working with couples over 35 years. Subscribe to my podcast.

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About the Rhoda Mills Sommer

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