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5 Secrets to a Healthy Relationship

If you think back to every meaningful relationship that has ended in your past, you will notice one common thread that lives at the heart of its failure - expectations. Regardless of how emotionally evolved you may be, it is almost impossible to be in a relationship in which you do not expect something from the other person. You expect them to answer your phone calls, be on time for engagements, be nice to you, and be relatively predictable. These are innocuous expectations and probably will not get you into trouble. The problem is when these expectations morph into monsters that will put you at risk. Here are five monsters that you need to be on the lookout for.

1) Expectation of Happiness

There comes a point in most relationships when we relinquish control of our own happiness and attach it to the other person. It is never clear when this transition takes place, but it does, and you only realize it has happened when the relationship ends. When that person withdraws from your life, and you are thrown into the bottomless pit of misery, you come to the sober realization that much of your happiness prior to the rupture was linked to that person. Life becomes hard and dark - you no longer find joy in those walks on the beach, that first cup of coffee in the morning, jumping into the ocean for a cold water swim. This is bewildering - how is it possible that activities in which you previously found so much joy now leave you sad and hopeless? What is different between your current state of despair and the sense of joy you experienced before the breakup? It is that person. You expected that person to make you happy. You abdicated the responsibility to make yourself happy and transferred it onto your partner. Not only is that not fair to your partner, but it also is not kind to yourself. So how do you prevent such an abdication? You need to be prepared emotionally to lose that person every day.

2) Expectation of Affirmation

Our need for affirmation is insatiable. Social media is built on this premise. Humans need to be seen - they need their true selves mirrored back to them. If it happens in their childhood, they can enter adulthood on a firm footing. They are better prepared to face the judgemental nature of modern society. What happens when this mirroring has not taken place at an early age? You will need the world to do it for you. You will jump onto social media, and when you are feeling down or insecure, you will post a photo, send a WhatsApp to 10 friends, and wait for the reply. If no one replies or likes your photo, your feeling of self-worthlessness increases. When you are lucky enough to get into a relationship - this in part removes the risk of being affirmed by strangers - you now have someone who can affirm you 24/7. Your self-esteem becomes linked to this one person and this works well until it doesn't. Your partner starts to sense this neediness and they can react in one of two ways - neither of them is good long-term for you. One is pity and the other is loathing and resentment. Your partner resents the responsibility of having to perform the job that had been unsuccessfully executed by your parents and ends the relationship. For you, this is the ultimate rejection and is an almost fatal body blow to your fragile self-esteem. This is a more complicated malady to cure. The solution is to have zero expectations of affirmation - and the only way you can get to this point is to know who you are and what you are worth.

3) Expectation of Love

We expect to be loved unconditionally - in the same way that a parent loves a child. What is the chance of this happening in a romantic relationship? The probability is terrifyingly close to zero. So where does this expectation come from? Again, it comes from childhood. This is where our expectations of love evolve from. When we are lying helpless in our cots, it is our parents that feed us, change our diapers and speak words of encouragement over our lives. We are born with the need to be loved unconditionally for who we are. We look up at these giant superheroes that can lift us out of our cots, feed us, and lift furniture, and we desperately seek their attention. If we don't get it, nothing would be further from our minds than to blame them - we blame ourselves. There must be something woefully inadequate with ourselves for this to happen. This unrequited love makes us vulnerable adults. We go into the grown-up world, and attach ourselves to relationships in the hope our partners will supply us with something that our parents were incapable of doing. Your mother gave birth to you - your father provided the seed for this biological miracle. No one is better geared to provide you with this unconditional love. To expect the same from a romantic partner is delusional, yet many of us do. You need to resign yourself to the fact you will never be loved in the way you expect to be loved. In this department, you will always be disappointed, and the sooner you come to this realization, the less miserable your life will be.

4) Expectation of Honesty

Conduct this quick social experiment - go onto any online dating app and count the number of times people stipulate honesty as being an important quality they look for in a romantic partner. I would venture so far as to say more than half express it explicitly, and the other half who don't mention it by name is also looking for it. No one likes to be deceived or lied to. The problem is that deceit is in our nature. This is a self-preservation mechanism that exists within all of us because our ancestors needed it to stay alive. We had to deliver feigned admiration to the leader of the tribe to ingratiate ourselves with them to ensure we were not expelled from it. This expediency has not left us as we have evolved into the modern world as we continue to protect our own interests in everything we do. In romantic relationships, this comes in numerous forms. We might enter a relationship, and express our desire to go all-in, but always hold back. We guard our feelings. We protect our hearts as we embark on an exercise of risk management, where we ask ourselves - what if my partner loses interest in me, what if my partner cheats on me, what if my partner does not love me? We will therefore say things we do not mean and we continue to execute our hidden agenda. Most of the time, this is not nefarious behaviour but simple self-preservation. You, therefore, need to temper your expectation of honesty from your partner. Instead of focusing on what they say, you need to focus on what they do and how they act. To use the old cliche, actions speak louder than words.

5) Expectations of Fidelity

You need to ask yourself whether monogamy is natural for humans. Infidelity is part of nature, and in some ways is linked to the fourth point above. We have been led to believe that men cheat more than women, which is debatable. To understand this, you need to consider the asymmetry that exists between men and women when it comes to infidelity. Men who can boast about multiple partners are labeled as studs. Women are labeled sluts. This slut shaming has skewed the poll numbers to the extent that some experts would go so far as to say that women cheat as much if not more than men. The reason for this is simple - women are hypergamous. Hypergamy is the action of marrying or forming a sexual relationship with a person of a superior sociological, educational, or financial background. If you doubt this, consider a paper published in the American Economic Journal. The paper, which looked at the lives of heterosexual men and women working for private companies with 100 or more employees, found that married women were twice as likely to be divorced three years after their promotion to CEO level compared to their male counterparts. In the public sector, using three decades’ worth of records, women mayors and parliamentarians promoted after an election doubled their chances of splitting from their partners; 75% were still married eight years after the vote compared with 85% of those who didn’t get promoted, while there was no evidence of a similar effect for men. Female medical doctors, police officers, and priests who progressed in their careers also followed the trend. Men need to understand that their partner will remain with them only for as long as it serves their purpose. When it comes to women selecting partners, they wait at the finish line and pick the winners. Can men judge women for being hypergamous? Absolutely not - it is part of their biological evolution. They need to guarantee the future of themselves and their children. Women need to shoulder a disproportionate amount of the load when it comes to having children. They are responsible for childbirth, nourishing them, clothing them, and nurturing them through their vulnerable years. It would be unnatural for them not to select the mate that could best help her in this endeavor. She needs to select someone who is smart, reliable, capable, conscientious, and hard-working.

So, this is what you need to do. You need to execute a mass transfer of expectations that you have placed in other people and invest them in yourself. Instead of expecting other people to do things for you, concentrate all that responsibility on yourself and take ownership of your outcomes. Stop being a passenger, jump into the driver’s seat, and hit the gas.


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