Negotiating expectations in relationships
Growing up too compliant and obedient can undermine our need to become a separate person. If we’ve had to ‘be this…’ then it means we haven’t become our true selves. This attraction to sameness in order to be accepted is a trap and each of us has to take the risk of becoming our authentic self, trusting that we will still be liked. Like an acorn that has within it the complete blueprint of a massive tree, so too we carry the amazing design God has put in us. We can trust that this picture in us is good and life-giving.
We all carry internal images of our future. If we couldn’t imagine the sun coming up tomorrow we’d be in trouble! These images go ahead, shaping our inner and outer reality, giving us a picture of what it would be like when… From a very early age we’ve had guiding images of what it would look like to be in relationship with another person. Some of it comes from our experience. If we’ve had an absent father, for example, we may really want a person who is always available. Or if our mom kept a perfect house, we may carry a picture that in a partnership we’ll be an efficient house manager – or we may have chosen to picture shared duties instead. As the picture reveals our expectation to us, we may then need to negotiate it with those who are affected by it and vice versa. Their picture will most likely not fit with ours, but they will have a completely different viewpoint. It is then that we can say what we can and can’t give, so that clarity exists between us. If we don’t negotiate, we risk much conflict or will be slowly worn down as our reality and our inner image clash. Thus it is important to remember that, married or single, we are each responsible for our dreams and need to look at where they come from. Was it a ‘Love Story’ stereotype? Was it from the family we grew up in? Is it in reaction to what we didn’t like? Its origin varies in each of us and we look in order to understand, but not to judge.
All of us are on a healing journey. Instead of running from and reacting to what we had, we can challenge and improve it and then bring restoration. Knowing ourselves separate from the group, we then return to it, now accepting and loving ourselves. Our wholeness will come out of our brokenness. As we understand each other’s pain, we can live more meaningfully from our core. But, like nature, we will have to stay responsive and flexible to life in order to change and grow.