When I was in high school I fell hard for a boy. He was someone with whom I’d been good friends for the better part of two years, so when I looked at him one day and felt- POW!- no one could have been more surprised than I.
When I finally worked up the nerve to tell him how I felt, I was overjoyed to learn he thought I was cute, too, and was interested in giving dating a try. We started spending more time together. The laughs, inside jokes and fun we had together remained as we started dating, but I brought something else to our relationship- a boatload of expectations.
Without realizing it, I expected him to behave like Prince Charming, like a fairy tale character who could read my mind and supply me with the acceptance and outward signs of love I craved, like flowers and grand public displays of affection. Of course, he did not provide those things. How could he possibly meet my expectations when I myself didn’t accept that I had them? In the end, even though we had so many things going for us, I spent a lot of time in that relationship feeling frustrated and angry, and holding him responsible for those feelings.
So many years later, I realize I could have enjoyed that relationship a lot more had I not dragged those expectations along, like a stern chaperone, on our dates. Truly loving someone means doing our own inner work to recognize our own baggage, as well as accepting that our partners may carry some, too.
This Valentine’s Day- and every day- recognize what you bring to every relationship, especially those in which you experience frustration and conflict. It can be easy to hold another person responsible for our unhappiness, but with a little introspection sometimes we can bring love back into balance.