We all know the pattern. For some reason, we as humans have a way of becoming obsessively delighted with other people for a short time and then developing an equally unreasonable animosity for them. At some point in our lives, most of us will associate some type of unrealistic expectations with romantic partners, friends, family members, heros, politicians, teachers, movie stars, religious figures, or whoever. And then, something happens that makes us see the truth: no one can be everything that we want them to be. For some reason, we end up blaming the other person for being less than we expected.
This doesn't mean that enjoying another person always has to lead to disillusionment. Consider the following description of a couple I know. This couple spends approximately 20 hours per day in each other's company. When they are apart, they call each other to check in, or to tell each other interesting tidbits from their days. They flirt with each other. They seem to always have each other on their minds. This sounds like infatuation, right? Well, this couple, otherwise known as my parents, has been married for twenty-six years. They just like each other, a lot.
Infatuation has nothing to do with how much time you spend with someone, or how much you like someone, it has to do with your perception of reality regarding that person. My parents are well aware of each others flaws and abilities. They don't expect or want anything more of each other than who they are.
To experience disillusionment, you first have to have a false illusion. I would imagine that within the first decade or longer of any relationship, false illusions remain present in some form. The important thing for relationships is that your false illusions are not present within the foundational areas of your relationship. For example, I am currently under the impression that Owen will produce amazing works within the field of psychology. Perhaps, one day, I will become disillusioned to this, but if I do, our relationship will not be shaken because my love for him has little to do with how well he preforms in the field of psychology. However, if someday, I become disillusioned of my perception of Owen's love for me, we are going to have some serious problems.
Sometimes it feels like we need to practice clairvoyance in order to know if a relationship is going to last or not. Yet, if we're honest with ourselves, we do have some awareness of the realities behind our illusions. Though admitting it feels impossible, most of us know when our partners aren't as perfect as we hope them to be. Thinking back to my relationship with Tom, I knew from the beginning that if our relationship ended, he would be the one ending it. That's not a good sign! With Owen, I don't feel that. I don't feel like he's going to stop loving me. If you have some sneaking suspicion that your partner doesn't love you enough, don't allow yourself to create an illusion that the love is there, but address the issue with your partner! Talk about it, and get down to the reality of the situation.
(Note: If you're afraid that your partner doesn't love you enough, don't just run away without making sure... sometimes we're all a little crazy when it comes to emotional things like this. Do give your partner a chance to show otherwise.)
Perhaps the most rewarding result of giving up illusions is that it allows you to get to know your partner better. As illusions start to fall, rather than blaming the other person for being less than you expected, get to know who he truly is! When you delight in who a person is, rather than who you want him to be, he has the opportunity to truly surprise you and help you understand the world around you better. We can't learn and improve if we only interact with ourselves. Interacting with an illusion that you project onto someone else isn't that much different from just interacting with yourself. When you allow people to bring their own selves forward, your relationships can be fuller and more interesting.
We shouldn't expect more of anyone than who that person actually is, but we should expect, especially in intimate relationships, the fullness of who that person is. Encourage your partner to be his or her best possible self by delighting in the truth of who he or she is.