The world today is full of idealists. Most people have a grand idea of how they want their lives to turn out and a vague plan on how to get there, but very few of us end up living out the dreams of our youth. It is a mathematical truth that in a world of finite resources where competition determines who gets what, a select few will get most of what is available and the rest will have to fight over what’s left. This is true in just about any way you could think to apply it, from careers to material possessions and even to relationships.
We all have some idea of what the ideal mate is for us. The reasons why we prefer one type of person over another are varied and complex, some of it having to do with how we were raised, other parts of it simply being what we were exposed to over the course of our lives. Whatever you’re attracted to, though parts of it may fall into generalized categories, it is unique to you. No one can tell you what you want more than you can, and only you can decide if someone lives up to those expectations.
Still, it’s important to remember the proverbial rule number one when it comes to the distribution of available resources: sometimes you have to settle for what you can get. This definitely rubs us the wrong way when we think about it, because especially for the last few generations we’ve been told we can be anything we want to be and have anything we want to have. This is a pretty unrealistic fantasy if we remember that when there’s only so much to go around, some people aren’t going to get what they want.
Where this is important for today’s topic is that most people today have unrealistic expectations of what they think they can get out of a relationship. Men want objects to be used at their discretion, and women seem to want a very small pool of “exceptional” men that they all end up competing for. Neither side ends up happy because everyone shoots for the moon and simply isn’t willing to settle. It doesn’t matter if they have a good thing right now; their expectations aren’t met, so if something that looks better comes along it’s out with the old and in with the new.
This is a disastrous philosophy for large groups of people to have. No one can seem to be content with finding an acceptable outcome and then living with it. There has to be something better, something more exciting on the horizon. If whoever you’re with right now can’t provide it, then sticking around just doesn’t make sense. This selfish attitude results in the highest divorce rate in American history.
Of course, if you are unable to accept your circumstances but still believe in the idea that relationships are necessary, you might stay in your relationship and just stick to being unhappy. This isn’t particularly ideal because it just makes both parties miserable and just prolongs the pain until one side finally decides to end it. The result is the same as the selfish approach, it just wastes a great deal more time.
There is another option available to us, but it is probably the most difficult and most counterintuitive: we can accept the flaws of others and truly learn to live with them. In a society that is all about “me first”, this is asking quite a lot, but realistically it’s the only way long term relationships can work. Neither person is ever going to be what the other wants them to be, so a successful marriage or long term partnership or whatever you choose to engage in will ultimately depend on being willing to accept what the person you choose is able to give you. If you can’t, you shouldn’t be making a lifelong promise to them.
What do you think about relationship expectations? Have we reached the point where happy marriages are near impossible? Are you in a long term relationship with someone who isn’t content with you? Or are you the one struggling to live with a person who doesn’t fulfill your “needs”? In the end, happiness is much like love in that it is ultimately a choice. If you choose to be content, then it can be so. Otherwise you spend your whole life searching for the perfection that simply doesn’t exist.
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