The curse of romantic expectations
Years ago when my son was just a boy, we adopted two cats from a local North London cat rescue centre. They were a brother and sister and beautiful pedigree cats with saucer-like golden eyes and the softest white fur.
The Rescue Centre told us the cats were the victims of an animal cruelty case up before the magistrate's court against a local publican. The cats had been given by him to his partner as a surprise February 14th gift and unimaginatively named ‘Val’ and ‘Tine’.
When the cats were offered to us, they were in an extremely traumatised state as they had been thrown out in the middle of the night during a fit of murderous rage by the same man who had not long before given the cats to his partner as a token of his ever-lasting love.
The cats were collateral damage thrown onto the busy, and potentially deadly Edgware Road where it is a miracle they didn’t get run over.
This couple’s romantic liaison had not ended well.
Over twenty-five years ago I began what turned into many years of working with a psychotherapist to help me to resolve the anguish and disappointment of my divorce from my first husband. It was an emotionally shredding experience. I remember my therapist saying then that romantic expectation is as potentially dangerous to a relationship as pornography is for distorting realistic expectations.
Ironically, his words echo regularly in my work as a therapist when seeing clients who are struggling with their relationships.
For instance, I often see clients who are massively aggrieved by their partner’s behaviour. On hearing them list all their grievances part of my check-in is to ask if they are looking to explore and manage an exit strategy or find a way to reconnect.
Nine out of ten people who only moments earlier were detailing their partner’s failings honestly long for reconciliation and improved connection but feel powerless to make any meaningful changes.
What becomes clear is that both partners are probably as deeply unhappy as each other and locked in a cycle of stand-offs and recriminations that keep them divided. One of them has to initiate a change, and as I usually only one of them in my consulting room it has to be that person.
All romantic expectations about wanting the other person to magically change their behaviour and become the person they want them to have released. No-one is psychic - least of all our partners.
However, an approach that comes from an honest place of vulnerability and expressing wanting to make things better between them will have a greater chance of connection than a wall of silence or a whole slew of passive-aggressive demands pointing out their partner’s faults and short-comings.
I also see clients who haven’t dated for a long time and who want to get back into having a relationship. Often they have sub-consciously chosen to be single as they are still feeling traumatised by their previous relationships.
When they think about dating again, they become haunted by negative limiting beliefs and low self-esteem. These feelings need to be resolved and erased for them to have the chance of a different and healthier kind of dating experience. This is particularly true for those people who continually date the same personality type but in various guises and it may well mean tracking back familiar patterns of behaviour all the way back to their childhood to lay those old ghosts to rest.
Other clients who came to see me initially for weight loss often come back again when they’ve achieved their target weight as they're ready to date again but not sure how to go about it.
Often they have lost the habit of going out, and I joke with them that unless they want to date their postman, they’re going to have to embrace wider horizons and preferably put themselves into situations where their potential mates would go too.
These same clients are often convinced there is no-one out there for them and I remind them what I believe is the truth that good people are looking for them but can’t find them as they’re stuck indoors.
Of course, lots of people are successfully meeting on-line these days. I am happily married to my second husband, and we met through the Guardian Newspaper Soul Mates column eighteen years ago. My son met and married his lovely wife through Tindr almost four years ago, and my mom and dad were long-distance pen-pals before they met and fell in love with each other in the late 1940s.
There are lots of horror stories abounding about sharks on the net but if you’re sensible and with a healthy self-esteem and a well-developed sense of intuition that you respect and listen to you then you can’t go far wrong. Just don’t waste weeks and weeks emailing a potential date. Get to meet them, even just for a coffee as that’s the real test to see if they are for you or not.
I’ve had other weight loss clients that had called me in anguish and confusion when their sustained weight loss had inextricably plateaued even though they’re not doing anything differently from when they were steadily on track towards their goal weight.
A session to explore their weight time-line never fails to shed light on what is going on for them.
Often their weight plateau will coincide with a previous time in their life when something traumatic happened to them, and there will be a sub-conscious link between the event and their weight stalling. It may emerge that the last time they weighed X amount they were in an abusive relationship or a close relative or friend had died.
The event itself will differ widely, but any fear of repeating that pattern or failure to thrive in the face of personal loss will require that it is resolved and released before they will be able to continue to fulfil their life potential.
Contact me if you feel haunted by your past disastrous relationships or feel you are living a Ground Hog day of dreadful dates. You might need some help to get closure with your past so that you can go forward in your power and attract the right person for you. Click on the button at the top of this page
Sally Baker is Senior Therapist, published Author and Speaker in private practice in London for face to face sessions and the world over via the internet.
With almost twenty years of professional experience, she employs cutting-edge therapeutic approaches to help one person at a time to transform their lives.
She has extensive experience working with people to alleviate their anxiety, depression, anger issues, eating disorders as well as conflicts within relationships and the family.
To find out more about Sally Baker, her books and her work visit her website, www.workingonthebody.com