I watched Passengers last night and I couldn’t help falling in love with Jennifer Lawrence. But why? I don’t understand how we, as a society, got to this point in time where it's ok to seduce film viewers like this. What a miserable world this has become. We fall in love with a fictional character portrayed under a flawless lens. No wonder our divorce rates are so high. Why wouldn’t they be? I don’t want a normal woman. I want a Jennifer Lawrence. I want a Scarlett Johansson. I want what they're having, hold the flaws please. I deserve what they have. I deserve a perfect woman. That’s the new American dream. If I don’t have a perfect woman then I’d just end up settling and who wants that? I don’t want to settle, that’s not who I am. Plus the quality of relationship with one of these actresses would be so much better. They’re so easy going and lovable in the movies, why would they be any different in reality? It’s not like they could easily replace you with someone more successful if things got a bit difficult. It’s not like you’d be competing nonstop for this type of person. This way of thinking is all wrong. What happened to love? True love. Unconditional love. The kind of love that you give for the sake of that person. The type of love that says “I love you for who you are.” The kind of love that allows you to be yourself. The love that lets you be different and unique. The love that says I love the things I hate about you for the sake of loving you better. The love that allows you to be human. So let me appreciate the differences we have because that's what makes you who you are. We need to see the film that shows the loyalty that a man and woman can have for each in other in a relationship. We need to see a relationship stick through for the sake of each other. We need to see the honor and nobility of maintaining a relationship that powerful. A healthy relationship that has flaws and struggles but is real nonetheless. We are already delusional enough and I will be shattering the delusion in this writing.
Most people learn their life lessons from the worst possible sources. I can’t tell you how many people have unrealistic expectations out of a relationship. I remember hearing the dreadful words of my first lover pierce open my heart when she said “you just don’t make me happy anymore.” I never understood that. It’s such a cliche thing to hear now but it just doesn’t make any sense. When was the responsibility of eternal happiness set on your partner? You wouldn’t end a friendship you had with someone because he or she didn’t make you "happy" anymore. Of course you wouldn’t. That would be ridiculous. Why do we have such high expectations of our partners? We’ve become so needy and dependent on them. Why? If you can’t even make yourself happy, how can you expect someone else to do it? And how are they supposed to become happy? Do you reciprocate happiness back to them? So Peter becomes Sarah’s source of happiness and Sarah becomes Peter’s? So it’s just a reciprocal thing? Does that even make sense because that sounds so ridiculous to me. A transactional relationship is what we foolishly end up looking for. Is that what relationship has been reduced to? Relationships can be so much more than that and the dynamics of this bad relationship will break down at the conclusion of the honeymoon phase.
For those of you that don't know about this phase. It is essentially the early stage of a relationship when everything seems perfect. However, the honeymoon phase of every relationship eventually flames out. Every relationship high must inevitably die down. That’s life. As humans we are just wired in that way. So what does that leave us with? The way I see it, we have two options:
1. Continue searching for the highs of relationships while enduring the miserable lows as long as possible. Fight and makeup. Meet new lovers. Start over only to inevitably get hurt and follow the never ending, shameful, and childish cycle of delusional love.
2. You learn to accept, love, and appreciate the differences your partner has whether they be good or bad and understand that whatever upsets you in a relationship is often times a conflict between reality and projection.
Obviously the correct answer is #2 but what is projection? Let me explain.
Projection is essentially our inner selves or feelings being displayed or projected out into the world. Think of a projector displaying whatever a computer is outputting. This is a little more complicated in people so I will provide an example. When you’re feeling miserable, you tend to see the miserable things of this world. The environment around you and the people you interact with seem awful. We've all experienced this. This also applies when you’re happy. When you feel happy everything seems great. The beauties of the world are more enjoyable. People are more pleasant. It’s not some coincidence that everyone is nicer on the day you seem happy, often times it’s just the way you’re viewing it. Your inner world affects the way you view the outer world and vice versa.
So projection can be a beautiful thing but it can be harmful as well. How does this apply to relationships? Well, what we truly desire or expect from a relationship will be projected onto the lover or potential partner. Often times, after a few good dates, men start thinking about a future with this person. Women may do something similar to this as well. That’s because they are projecting the ideal partner. You can imagine how many problems this can create. Our projections begin to set expectations. They start to over emphasize good qualities in that person and even worse, lead us to see things in our partner that simply aren't there. Even worse, our past negative experiences may lead us to project and expect negative experiences with a new partner. We see this in paranoid relationships where we believe our partner may be unfaithful or lying. This causes a great deal of problems and will make us unaware of who our ideal partner should be. But what do we think our ideal partner should be? Most people don’t actually know because it is subconscious. We end up projecting the first relationship(s) we’ve ever had. The relationship we had with our parents or caretakers as helpless children. If we pursue this type of love then we will just hurt ourselves.
Now I’m not saying we want a relationship with our parents, in the Freudian sense. Rather, I am stating that the familiar feeling of the parent-child relationship is what we yearn for. Our childhood, for most people, was the stage in life where everything was taken care of. Even for other less fortunate children, it still becomes the most familiar place we call home. For most, when we cried we were held. When we were hungry, we were fed. Everything was taken care of for us. We were the center of the universe. Helpless and dependent. That’s how childhood was and we long to go back, at least subconsciously. Of course there were other not so fortunate children that received inconsistent love. They weren’t always held. The loving presence wasn’t always available. Nonetheless, whatever relationship you had as a child is still affecting you today and there is a subconscious longing to go back because of it's familiarity. But we can never go back. And by trying do so in our relationships, we end up hurting ourselves and our loved ones.
You likely know someone in a bad relationship but somehow can’t wrap your head around why that person remains in that relationship. Everyone around sees how awful it is but this person continues to stick around despite the pains and sufferings. This person may even deny that they are unhappy and justify the poor conditions of the relationship. That's because this person feels at home in this relationship. It may seem wrong to say because we think of the ideal home as loving and nurturing but for that person, home may have been inconsistent in loving and nurturing because it may have been like that for that person in childhood. To put into simpler terms, that person is moving towards the familiar and the familiar is what we believe to be home. Even if a relationship offers a small amount of familiarity, it can be enough to draw us into it's web. The overly sheltered child with the strict parent typically falls in love with the controlling partner because it feels like home even if he or she doesn't actually like being controlled. The child that received inconsistent love from the parent will typically find the mysterious and unpredictable partner, whether good or bad, to be the ideal lover because it feels like home. This is why good parenting is so important for the future relationships of your children and why it is so important to understand your childhood and how it is affecting you today. Once you understand this you can have a healthy relationship and if you choose to start a family, you can build the proper foundation of relationship for them in the future. Of course we can't understand all of our childhood deficiencies and because no one out there had perfect parents, it is inevitable that we project and hurt our relationships at times. The key is to understand your projections as much as possible in order to minimize that. That's why understanding ourselves and our projections becomes the greatest thing that we can do for the ones we love. If you truly love your self, your partner, family, and/or children then the greatest thing you can do for them is understand what you are projecting. It is not an easy task and it will require a lot of reflection into your past, particularly of childhood. Your friends, family, and partner can be of the utmost help in this regard and I urge you to consult them along with this childhood reflection should you choose to take this challenge of healing.
Have you ever been in a relationship where you’ve heard your partner say, “you’ve changed.” Perhaps you were the one who said this to someone in the past. The reality is that person likely didn’t change, your ideal projection was simply shattered. This typically happens over time, usually after the honeymoon phase has ended. Now you begin to see reality. Now you see what your partner truly is. And this isn't necessarily a bad thing to see. Your partner may not even be a bad person or a bad match. You may just be disappointed that the flawless knight in shining armor or the beautiful Cinderella is not as perfect as you thought. We shouldn't expect them to be. However, now you can see the flaws and even worse, you don’t see all of the ideal things you once loved so much! The good news is that there are some qualities which can build a solid and realistic healthy relationship. The bad news is that you may have overlooked all of the bad qualities which may actually be inexcusable for the type of person or lifestyle you expect.
This happens to everyone but most of us don’t have the courage to leave this relationship because we’ve grown so needy and dependent on it. We hold on to it. We bullshit ourselves and say that this is just a bump and we just need to reconnect. We need to fall back in love with each other. Worst of all, some of us continue portraying to the world our “perfect” relationship. So in a world full of fake people, we continue reinforcing the notion of this ideal relationship that we are not actually in and we inevitably make others yearn for what we have which isn’t real. I know, it's sad right? This is the illusion we’ve engulfed ourselves in. And we dare not break this illusion. We want the comfort of this illusion. We don’t want to take responsibility for our own issues. It's someone else's fault. There’s nothing wrong with me. I’m special. So instead of working on our relationship or leaving it altogether, we blame the partner and try to change him or her. This is by far one of the worst things that we can do in a relationship. Try to change our partner for our own selfish needs rather than learn to accept them or leave. In a relationship we are free to have expectations and standards but we must learn to be realistic in our expectations and not ask our partners to be something they are not.
Now, I already alluded to how your inner conflicts will be projected onto the partner. Think of the typical complaint about forgetting to seal the toothpaste. Frustration over such a trivial thing says a lot about you. Why are you so angry about toothpaste? Toothpaste costs $3 to replace. In reality he or she is not actually upset about $3 toothpaste but that the partner doesn't care enough to remember to seal the toothpaste. This couldn't be farther from the truth. Your partner cares about you and he or she does not need to prove that with toothpaste. Your frustration is due to a lack of care to your needs that you may have experienced during childhood. So the next time you feel emotional about something, try to relate it back to your childhood so you can understand why you are feeling this reaction and can better redirect this energy without harming someone you care about. Then, after you've understood why you are reacting so strongly, change your view of the situation. Your partner's carelessness for sealing the toothpaste may just be a result of their care for something more important like their career. Is that not more important? Is that not more admirable? To consider that someone may be in a rush to get to work in the morning in order to cope with the stresses and financial responsibilities that a family needs as a reason for their forgetfulness of sealing the $3 toothpaste. Of course no one likes dry toothpaste but there is a much better way to deal with a trivial conflict like this. These scenarios are much more reasonable than claiming your partner does not care.
When it's all said and done, It is not your partner's job to be perfect and it is not their job to constantly show you that they care. Rather, it is your neediness and insecurity that is expecting ridiculous things from your partner which may ultimately lead to your downfall.
I talked a lot about projection in relationships but this isn't the only place where humans project. We project onto our friends, children, coworkers and even our bosses. Projection can happen anywhere but it is most likely to happen around the people we are closest to. So the next time you feel an intense emotional reaction, take a step back and think about your childhood in order to understand why you are feeling this way and then change your view in order to understand what is going on. The insecurities you have can be harmful to others and your perspective is not the only one that matters.
I'd love to know what you think about all of this. Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @TheRoastPot or email me personally firstname.lastname@example.org.