Sunday, January 8, 2012

Expectations Kill Relationships

“What we’ve got here is (a) failure to communicate.” This phrase is a quotation from the 1976 film Cool Hand Luke.

Have you ever been misunderstood by a friend, boss, customer, co-worker, girlfriend/boyfriend, spouse, parent, child, or someone else? Did the misunderstanding result in raised tempers, stressful emotions, or a complete "failure to communicate", as you saw in the video above? Did the relationship suffer as a result of the misunderstanding?

Many, if not most, relationship/communication problems are rooted in unmet expectations. You want something to happen or not happen. You expect someone to do something or not do something. You are counting on someone acting a certain way or not acting a certain way. You’re surprised when things turn out drastically different than you expect.

In the video above, the little girl got what she was told she would be given, but after seeing what she could have had, she was not very happy. Has something similar ever happened to you?

When it comes to building successful romantic relationships, why aren’t there more success stories? One reason is that there are forces working against us, programming/reprogramming us for failure.

The ancient Chinese warrior Sun Tzu taught his men to “know your enemy” before going into battle. For if “you know your enemy and know yourself,” he wrote, “you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.”

We have been duped, brainwashed, tricked, hoodwinked, and deceived by Hollywood with their oversimplification of what it takes to make a relationship work. Scientists claim that watching romantic comedies could ruin love lives because they create unrealistic expectations of relationships.

Do you recall any of these movies: You’ve Got Mail, The Wedding Planner, While You Were Sleeping, When Harry Met Sally, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, There’s Something About Mary, or Meet the Parents. All very funny and entertaining—or at least I think so. However, in some form or fashion these stories teach or suggest that sex should be perfect; if someone is meant to be with you, then they should know what you want without you needing to tell them; the process of falling in love could and should be achieved without any effort; a soul mate can practically read your mind; investing time and energy into a relationship is not necessary for success; trust and committed love exist from the moment people meet; and there are no negative long-term consequences associated with moral failure.

In our modern society we are plagued by low attention spans and the starving need for an emotional fix to help us escape our overstressed lives. Reading literature for enjoyment has become a lost art (Reading—A Lost Art). A study shows that a mere 14% of adults with a high school education read literature.

So we turn to the movies where we are promised a perfect world, perfect sex, no accountability, and happy endings that mask the real formula for successful relationships—all in approximately 90-120 minutes.

Movies are fast, efficient, and brainless. The average feature screenplay script is 95 to 125 pages long: one minute of film time for each page of the script. It takes as little as 10 seconds to read 45 seconds of film time. Within this compressed pseudo-reality, Hollywood depicts what many have grown to believe and accept is the formula for normal healthy relationships.

Successful relationships are vital to individual happiness as well as mental and physical well-being, the success of families, and the social health of communities. We live in a relational world and in order to experience love, we must have relationships (friends, family, acquaintances, other people). The greatest need of all humans is to be loved and to give love. God is love, He made us in his image, and he did not intend for us to be alone. "And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone...".

Bottom line: I’m not suggesting that you boycott romantic comedies, but we should all keep the words of Sun Tzu in mind: “know your enemy and know yourself”. Listen carefully to others and keep your expectations in check.

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