Today I spoke to my husband before I was about to see my clients for the day. Knowing the conversation we were about to have, this was probably not a good idea. My husband is deployed. He has been since since August, and I have not seen him since October. I had planned on visiting him in a neutral location in Europe this week. I had high expectations. They were a bit like the movies when you see the couple kissing under an American flag. Silly really, but my romantic hopes of seeing my husband were very real. I had a plane ticket, my bags were packed, everything was in the works.
When I called my husband this afternoon, I was well aware there could be bad news, but I had expectations that he would fix it. So, when he told me that we would not be seeing each other this week due to the recent government shut down, I was stunned. My expectations were high. Therefore, I had to have someone to blame. I quickly blurted something out and hung up on my husband, tears streaming down my cheeks. I was mad, so mad. How could he do this! He can change this! My thinking was irrational. It was out of his control; but in my grief, I had to have someone to blame. He was my tangible object.
Too often in relationships we get caught up in expectations. Oftentimes these expectations are not realistic and are beyond our significant other’s control. But these unmet needs have haunted us our entire lives, and now we have someone to project them onto. Unfortunately, this is often the downfall of relationships. Instead of looking at our unmet needs objectively, learning from our history and filling the voids in our lives with what makes us happy, we look to our partner to fill in all the gaps. We expect him or her to “heal” our pain.
Oftentimes couples come to therapy hoping to “fix” the other person so that they can be happy again. But therapy is not about “fixing” anybody but ourselves. We have to learn to find our own joy and peace within. We have to face the fears and failures that haunt us, learn from them and be able to be happy with ourselves and what we have to offer the world. This can come to us in many ways. Some people find inner peace in religion or philosophy. Others practice mindfulness and meditation. Therapy is about finding what works for us internally so that we can stop the blame game on everyone around us. It is probably one of the hardest things we will ever do in life, but this type of self awareness is priceless.