Have you ever broken off a relationship only to receive a backlash from his or her family and friends? As if they believed something had to be wrong with you for not wanting to be with their beloved brother, sister, son, daughter, cousin, or friend? It is understandable to feel anger towards any man or woman who hurts a loved one; but, sometimes break-ups are necessary, even when they cause confusion and anger among the entourage. After all, choosing a life partner is not as easy as choosing a friend.
You can technically have as many friends as you want without violating any laws. If Susie and you do not see eye-to-eye on theology, you can still be friends. If Jake wants to live in Hawaii and you do not, you can stay in touch via Facebook and FaceTime. If Linda takes over your free time and Facebook wall, you can tell her to tone it down; and, if she gets mad and stops speaking to you, then oh well.
But, when we choose a spouse, we are choosing someone to love and respect for a lifetime regardless of their quirks and shortcomings. We are choosing someone with whom to build our entire life. We cannot just say “bon voyage” if he or she decides to relocate, or “get lost” if he or she will not stop talking. Our dreams and passions will either be spurred on by this person – or hindered. And, though marriage is about so much more than our happiness, we should seek to find a spouse who is heading in our same direction. God did not birth a passion or vision inside of you only to have it snuffed out by a spouse.
Which brings me back to my original question: Have you ever broken off a relationship only to receive a backlash from his or her family and friends? Did they try to insinuate that something must be wrong with you or you would see their darling as an absolute treasure? I have been on both sides of this coin – people have been angry with me for breaking up with their loved one and I have been angry with people for breaking up with my loved ones. I suppose blood really is thicker than water.
But, here is the deal: regardless of the how angry I made anyone, I know I made the right decisions in those cases. Did I make them maturely? Probably not. If I had it to do again, would I tweak my approach? Absolutely. Should I have stayed in those relationships (and headed toward marriage) to keep the peace? Of course not.
Sometimes, even if the person you are dating is a great catch, you know in your gut that you are not a good fit for each other. This does not mean you are a horrible person and it does not automatically mean you have unrealistic expectations.
So, if you are considering a break up, review the statements below. Are you putting unrealistic expectations on your relationship – or, are you simply not settling?
- Unrealistic expectations say, “You must never treat me disrespectfully.”
Not settling says, “I am not willing to be with someone who treats me disrespectfully.”
Everyone will fail. Eric and I have both treated each other with disrespect over the years. However, Eric and I do not disrespect each other as a way of life and we really do have each other’s best interest at heart. If you are breaking up with someone who continues to mistreat you, you are not settling. If he or she occasionally fails, and you think you deserve to be treated perfectly 100% of the time, you are entertaining unrealistic expectations. This does not, of course, apply to abusive situations. Abuse is never okay.
- Unrealistic expectations say, “You must become what I need you to be for me to be happy.”
Not settling says, “I know you and I are heading in different directions and we are not the best fit for each other.”
After dating for a while, couples who are evaluating their relationship can see if they are heading towards the same goals in life. If they are not, it is no one’s fault. However, if they try to force the other into their paradigm, they are nursing some unrealistic expectations. If God does not expect your sweetie to conform to your plan, how can you expect it from him or her?
- Unrealistic expectations say, “We need to always figure out how to make our difficult relationship work instead of letting each other go.”
Not settling says, “I am not interested in pursuing this relationship further.”
This is utterly frustrating for the person at the receiving end of a breakup, but sometimes there is not a “good” reason for the split. Sometimes, the other person just does not see a future together. It hurts. It is discouraging. But, sometimes, that is how it works. Those who refuse to settle are okay with stopping a dead-end relationship; but, those with unrealistic expectations may try to force continuing a difficult relationship where there is little to no connection. I will also admit that I have previously tried to force relationships and they have only ended in unnecessary pain.
- Unrealistic expectations say, “I can or will be able to change you.”
Not settling says, “Some deal breakers have emerged between us and I know I cannot continue in this relationship.”
There are legitimate reasons to walk away from an otherwise good relationship. If addictions, co-dependent relationships, trust issues, or questionable morals emerge, you do not owe it to your boyfriend or girlfriend to stay in the relationship. Someone who refuses to settle will set a reasonable bar of expectations and will choose to be alone before uniting with someone who does not share their standard of morality. The non-settler is setting a boundary that says, “I will react to your behavior by leaving the relationship.” The boyfriend or girlfriend with unrealistic expectations will say, “I do not approve of your behaviors, so I am going to make sure to change you.” We cannot change anyone, and we resent those who try to change us. It is always unrealistic to think you have the power to change anyone – always. You have the power to pray, but not the power to enact lasting change.
- Unrealistic expectations say, “You have a moustache, sorry.”
Not settling says, “There are some specific traits I am looking for in a spouse (e.g., hardworking, honesty, strong moral character, etc.).”
As a Christian, marrying a Christian was of the utmost importance to me. As someone who would return money if I was given too much change, it was important to me to marry an honest person. As someone who detests bullying, I wanted to be with someone who also detests bullying. These expectations are understandable. We need to align ourselves with people who share our worldview and who have a strong character. To marry someone who does not live his or her life to the same moral standard as yours is asking for trouble. However, if you mark people off your list based on facial hair, preferred major league sports teams, shape of nose, or accent, you are probably looking for someone who does not exist. Consider the motivations for your “must haves” and “cannot stands.” ~smile~ I have seen my friends’ “must have” lists shorten over the years – mainly due to maturity, not settling.
Are you settling? Are you not settling? Are you piling your relationship sky high with unrealistic expectations or are your expectations reasonable?
Chew on the statements above as you consider the next step to take in your relationship. If you have many expectations that appear to be too idealistic (e.g., skin tone, hair style, height, body type, etc.), it could be that you are just not ready for a long term commitment yet – and that is okay! When you are ready, those surface imperfections which seem so important now will no longer serve as deal breakers. When you grow to love someone, your devotion to each other and common life goals will overcome those perceived needs.
Are you settling? Are your expectations outlandish? Are you confident in moving forward in your relationship?