Tag: relationships

Expectations

Expectations. For many, our ideas of what life should look like, how our marriages look, what our pursuit of our dream job entails, drive how we chose to live our lives. These expectations of life develop early on, shaped by princesses and superheroes, as well as what we were exposed to growing up. Many of the expectations we have are appropriate and reasonable, such as expecting that you will be cherished and loved by a spouse, that you will be able to have a family, that your loved ones will be around for a long time, and that you will be able to achieve your goals. There are, however, some expectations that are irrational and inappropriate, such as expecting your spouse to “complete” you or that you should always be treated like royalty, or that you will be able to achieve your goals without really having to put in the effort. As we grow and mature, we hold out hope that life will be exactly the way we hope and dream and that nothing will taint those ideas.

Until reality sets in and we realize that what we expect from ourselves and other people rarely materializes. When we fail to achieve the goal of working at our dream job because they just won’t give us a chance to prove we can. When the marriage you prayed and hoped for your entire life is crumbling around you and there’s nothing you can do to stop the pain and disappointment because it’s not you that has to make the choice to fight. When the child that you’ve longed for never comes and you suffer repeated losses. In this fallen and broken world, having expectations and dreams can lead to devastating pain and hurt, especially, if you seek your identity and value in the outcome of those expectations.

When you are in the middle of those painful life situations, especially the traumatic ones such as broken marriages, child loss, loss of loved ones, loss of jobs, and so forth, you naturally question everything. There are many people who don’t understand that trauma, especially the kind of trauma that leads to post traumatic stress disorder and other mental health struggles, includes those devastating life changes that leave us shattered and looking for answers beyond what we can see.

These are what have been coined “little t” traumas, not because they’re any less devastating than “big T” traumas (mass casualty events, devastating nature events, etc.), but because they’re not global to everyone. This means that when you’re struggling to regain your footing, are depressed and checked out because of the severe emotional pain and traumatization you’re enduring in your marriage, that it’s OK. Your expectation that “you should be able to handle things better than this” or some other variant of “be better and stronger” is part of the problem and keeping you stuck in the place of pain. How we grieve, yes I said grieve, those places where our expectations and hopes have been struck down, allows us to move forward, stronger and more resilient.

In order to truly address unrealistic or unmet expectations, we have to understand that they are a part of our identity. Our identity is comprised of numerous different components, and one of them, our expectations for our life, what we will be able to accomplish, how our relationships and friendships will look, and how we will eventually get from Point A to Point B, whatever that is, are core components of our identity. It’s sometimes seems easier to give up hope and dismiss rational expectations when faced with heartbreaking situations, however, that always leads to more pain and suffering because you are ignoring a part of your identity. It is not possible to separate our expectations from our identity, they are symbiotic. However, it is possible to address our unrealistic expectations and to alter our responses to unmet expectations by identifying where they come from and why they are so important to us.

Not all of our expectations have an impact on us when they are not met. However, there are some expectations we have that cause significant emotional chaos when they are dismissed, ignored, minimized, or otherwise not met. This doesn’t mean that our expectations are necessarily unreasonable. For example, expecting that you won’t be targeted at work and singled out by your boss, or expecting that your spouse will treat you kindly and be your partner instead of cruel and distant, are absolutely appropriate. This doesn’t mean that when these things happen you won’t have a strong emotional reaction because they’re appropriate expectations, you will. It means that we need to be aware of the original wound caused in childhood, such as feeling unloved, being abandoned, childhood bullying, etc, and we need to be proactive in healing those wounds.

Proactively identifying and healing those soul wounds that contribute to our inability to move past those emotional upheavals, to readjust our expectations based on circumstances, and leave us constantly struggling just to breathe, is the only way to effectively take back your life after those painful experiences and move forward. Our expectations come from somewhere, from what we see on medias to painful experiences and traumas we survive as children, but they do not have to dictate how you live your life and interact with other people. There are certain things that may always spark a deep emotional response even when you do the healing work on your past, but it’s the healing that allows you to keep moving and not become paralyzed in those moments.

Healing the wounds that lead to powerful and at times life altering reactions to unmet expectations, allows all of us to adjust and become more resilient. We are able to move and continue to walk forward when everything we ever hoped and dreamed would happen, is irrevocably shattered and we are left broken and bleeding. This doesn’t excuse the actions of the people who intentionally ignore and dismiss our reasonable expectations, but it does allow us to continue to live our lives in the midst of the hurt. Living a life where we pretend we have no expectations or where we have “learned” not to hope for anything is not the life we were created to live. Those early wounds can trigger many different responses, however, we can and should always be willing to address them when they come up. Expectations will shape the way we interact with the world, but they do not have to define who we really are. They are part of our identity, but they are a part that can be molded and changed, grow and mature, and can help us develop the ability to be resilient and bounce back from all the pain that we will endure.

Love and Relationships

Everyone wants to be loved, to be cherished, to matter to someone. I think that is the tender nature of each of our hearts, regardless of whether we are a woman or a man. God created us to desire love, friendship, and support, and as a result, our hearts and souls long for that intimate connection with our perfect partner. I am no exception. I longed to be loved, cherished, held, respected, and to have a deep, emotional and spiritual intimacy with the one God created for me. Then I met the man who would become my husband and thought that I was finally going to have all those things that I so desperately craved. But the reality is that each person in a relationship brings their past with them. They bring their pain, their trauma, their mistakes, and their global beliefs about themselves and others into the relationship which can alter the relationship from what it was meant to be to a struggle for survival. This is the piece that the entertainment industry forgets to tell us about. They paint a portrait of a fairytale romance that endures forever distorting our picture about what love and relationships are meant to be. We are so desperate to believe that fairytale love exists that we willingly cling to the distorted reality that we are presented with and then find ourselves in shock when true reality hits and it’s nothing like the fairytales we’ve been fed.

The sad thing is that this myth of relationships does not solely apply to romantic relationships. Many of us have been hurt and betrayed by friends and family as well. People who we thought would never hurt us end up causing the most pain. Many of us pursue friendships with the same vigor with which we pursue a romantic partner, expecting the same kind of fairytale relationship we see in movies and books. We believe that we will find girl or guy friends who will never disappoint us, who wouldn’t dare hurt us or try and steal our partners, and we definitely don’t think that those relationships will ever end…because the entertainment industry says they won’t. But the reality is that even in the best of relationships, you will be disappointed and hurt, for some they will be horribly betrayed by someone who vowed never to do so. No matter what kind of relationship you try to cultivate, friendship, family, or a romantic partner, the expectations we likely have or the hopes and dreams we have for those relationships, will never live up to reality. In order to have healthy relationships, we have to accept that our ideal relationships don’t exist because everyone brings their pain and past with them.

This can be even more true for those of us who have experienced significant traumas in our lives. Living life without experiencing trauma is more or less impossible in this world, but so often we forget that the trauma we experience effects every aspect of our lives. That pain bleeds into relationships that may develop long after the trauma has ended. Where we need to have awareness about ourselves when we are pursuing relationships after trauma, is to acknowledge that there is a part of us that now seeks safety and security over anything else. Many of us may have an exaggerated need for companionship where the fear of rejection and loss of a relationship can lead to very self-destructive behaviors. So often I see people who have been traumatized, compromising who they are, changing their values, or making excuses for people who hurt them because the fear of being alone and vulnerable to more trauma overwhelms their sense of identity and self-preservation.

One of the greatest risks in relationships is losing your sense of identity and your ability or willingness to ask for what you need. This can be even more exaggerated for someone who has experienced trauma. Trauma, by it’s nature, destroys our sense of self, our perception of reality, and our beliefs in the world as we knew it. When you are going into any relationship and you don’t know who you are or you are questioning everything you thought you believed, as is common following trauma, you are at a greater risk of melding into the identity of the other person or conforming to who the other person believes or demands you should be. Neither of those allows you the freedom and safety to rebuild the pieces of who you are and to redevelop your identity. An unfortunate example of this is with people who have a history of childhood trauma. These people often gravitate towards partners and relationships with people who mimic those who perpetrated the trauma, resulting in a situation where victims of past trauma again are subjected to abuse and trauma. Domestic violence victims rarely go into that relationship without a significant traumatic childhood. Because pain is all they know, there is a sense of safety and comfort in that familiarity of abuse. Even when they know they don’t want or deserve what they are experiencing, the fear of leaving and being vulnerable keeps them in a situation where their very lives may be at stake.

This is why it is so crucial to understand the discrepancy between what our hopes and dreams for relationships are and the reality of how our experiences with trauma and pain taint our view of ourselves and the world around us. If we neglect to understand how our pasts effect our decisions regarding relationships, we can put ourselves in situations where we will be traumatized and hurt again because we are seeking out anything to fill the void left behind by the trauma. Finding a loving and supportive romantic partner or friendship after experiencing trauma is possible. But it will take a tremendous amount of work to rebuild your identity and to understand and recognize those distorted beliefs and self-destructive behaviors that stem from your traumatic past and changing those patterns into something new and healthy.

Those fairytale romances and BFF relationships that our souls and hearts long for may not be the same reality as depicted in books and movies, but having healthy relationships where you are valued, appreciated and cherished are possible, even if you have a horrific history of abuse or trauma. The key is that you have to heal, you have to figure out who you are and change the distorted beliefs you have about yourself and others first. Take the first step in healing and realize that you may not know enough about who you are and what you need and want in a relationship to have realistic expectations in your relationships. If you are already in a relationship that is struggling or in which you feel invisible, don’t despair.  Remember that even if you know that your expectations are unreal or feel an exaggerated need for safety, you are not crazy or needy or clingy. You are suffering with unmet expectations and distorted beliefs about what you need because of unresolved trauma and pain in  your past. Your relationship may not be any better after you begin to heal, but you will be able to find the strength to ask for what you need and to make decisions about what you need in a way you never thought possible before.

IF YOU OR YOUR CHILDREN DO NOT FEEL SAFE IN YOUR RELATIONSHIP, GET HELP IMMEDIATELY TO GET TO SAFETY. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO STAY IN AN ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP FOR ANY REASON. THERE ARE RESOURCES AND HELP.

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233

Domestic Shelters and Resources: https://www.domesticshelters.org

Valentine's Day: Lust or Love? Moving From Selfishness to Selflessness


It’s Valentine’s Day…again. For most people this day makes them cringe, cry, mad, or lonely…oftentimes all of the above. Sometimes people who are equally yoked and motivated, get to feel loved and cherished on this day. But for most is a reminder of what is lost, what should have been, what they’re missing, or what they desperately want. For a holiday that is meant to be a celebration of love for your signifiacnt other, there are many people who experience the opposite. I think a lot of this is the result of unmet expectations. Men and women tend to have drastically different expectations when it comes to love, romance, and how to show those emotions. 
Typically, women are the romantics waiting for their knight to show up and demonstrate love and men are less romantically motivated and are often hoping to make a good enough impression or get a good enough gift, that they get to end the day “in good standing,” hopefully having sex. 
For women (and occasionally men), this day is usually one that brings hope for a day where they are valued, cherished, and loved. A reminder that they have value and matter to that one person in their life who was created to demonstrate that to them. So for women who are single or who are in relationships where they are not valued and cherished, this day is a crushing reminder of what is not. They deeply feel the pain and longing of the love Christ created for them. They hopefully expect that this time it will be different, even if they know it won’t be. This expectation is often fueled by romantic movies, stories, and media that lies about relationship expectations and distorts reality.
For a lot men (and occasionally women), this day tends to be the day they expect sex and will “do what they have to” in order to achieve that goal. They are less likely to want to embrace the pursuit and relationship, and rather have a means to an end. They often don’t care about their partners needs or deaires for this day or they don’t know how to be romatic.
 These are distinct differences in goals and expectations for this day and relationships in general. When those differences collide, it’s a recipe for heartache, anger and usually an argument. This lustful and slefish expectation is often the result of compulsive and long term pornography use and lack of influence by other men who do not think or act like this. Pornography use is the greatest contributor to distorted and selfish thinking and behavior related to relationships and sex and is one od the biggest public health crisis in society right now.
Interstingly, though, the majority of these destructive interactions occur in relationships where one or both are motivated by lust and not love. Lust is the desire to have sex by anymeans possible, regardless of who you hurt or what you do to get that desire met. People motivated by lust tend to look at their partners or potential partners as a means to gratify their own needs. They are often intolerant and contemptuous of their partners humanity. Mistakes, forgetfulness, having a bad day, etc…are often seen as a justifiable reason to lash out in anger and passive aggressive behavior or comments. They dismiss their parters value and treat them with disgust and contempt. It validates their belief that their partner is not meeting their personal desires and selfish wants and that the partner is to blame for their behavior. People motivated by lust are often short tempered and lash out when they don’t get what they want or when their partner doesn’t do what they want, and will often violate the other persons boundaries and needs to meet their own. People motivated by lust destroy the things that matter and are toxic in relationships.
By contrast, people morivated by love are unselfish and they actively pursue their partner. They acknowledge and respect their partners personality and accept them for who they are, even with flaws and imperfections. They intentionally and willingly learn who their partner is and what matters most to them and act in a way that demonstrates that. They respond with kindness when their partner falls short or is going through something that changes their behavior. They typically do not violate the other persons boundaries and needs even when their partners needs are in conflict with their own. These people know their partners weaknesses and support rather than exploit and lash out at those weaknesses. People motivated by love are adaptable, respectful, selfless, and kind. These people build up their partner rather than tearing them down. 
If you find yourself in the first category, realize that a lot of the conflict and unmet expectations in your relationships are the result of your feelings of entitlement and selfish pursuits rather than respecting and pursuing your partner’s needs. That doesn’t mean you have to stay in that place. Most people in that category have significant interpersonal difficulties that can be addressed with consistent counseling and hard work. You have to want to change and put in the hard work required to deal with your past and undo years of disordered thinking and behavior, especially when it is accompanied by use of pornography, and distorted expectations and beliefs about love, relationships and yourself.
If you find yourself in the second category, relaize that you will likely be hurt and disappointed in realtionships where your partner is not motivated by love. You may find yourself trying anything and everything to achieve the truly loving relationship only to fail at your attempts to fix the problem. For people motivated by love, self care is by far the most important way to work through the pain that accompanies being with someone not motivated the same way.
So how do you handle such mismatched relationships. First, realize that no matter what, you will never change the other, and the best way to get your needs met is to try and meet your own need and your partners needs even if they do not reciprocate. If you are selfishly motivated, get the help you need and don’t stop until you deal with what made you think and act that way in the first place. If you are love motivated, learn to take care of yourself and meet your own needs while you’re praying and waiting for God to convict your partner enough to elicit change. 
If you are not married, evaluate whether or not you are willing to live this way for the rest of your life as they are unlikely to change. If you are married, get help yourself to deal with the destruction wrought by your spouse. If you are married, christian couples counseling can help, but if your partner is unwilling to go or actually do the things the counselor suggests, seek counseling for yourself. 
One thing…if your partner is abusive, even if you are married, do not wait around to see if it gets better. Leave and save yourself and your children from irreparable harm and possibly death (selfishly motivated individuals are often abusive and the rages can be deadly). Never let someone put their hands on you or emotionally destroy you. That is not what God has designed for your life. 
Finally, realize that valentine’s day is just one day. If you do not demonstrate selfless and pursuing love throughout the year, one day will not make up for the rest of the year. One day is not a good measure of the love or lust in your relationship, but consistent and persistent behavior is a better gauge. If you don’t pursue love in your relationship, true, selfless and romantic love, your relationship is destined to be extremely hard and possibly fail. Change behaviors that need to be changed and are destructive. Pursue your partner like you don’t have them rather than taking advantage of their commitment. Love like you will not get another chance to love them and you will have a healthier and happier relationship.

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