Relationships, whether romantic or platonic, are based on genuine curiosity and affection for the other person. At best, we are able to be fully present and open in order to allow a relationship to unfold as compassion, trust, and closeness grow.
One of the biggest things that can derail a relationship is having an agenda, storyline, or "goal" for a relationship. This can cause us to abandon any initially-noble intension we may have had about being open-hearted in favor of pushing our wants, needs, or fears on another person or on the relationship, itself.
Dating is not significant-other shopping.
For example, have you ever done on a date where you feel like the other person is going through a mental checklist of "must-haves" and "don't-wants", and you feel like your date is on a shopping expedition/? Meanwhile, you're left wondering whether your date has any interest in actually getting to know who you are rather than how you can meet their needs.
Or maybe you have been on the other end of that exchange. Maybe you find that your approach to dating, friendships, or family connections has turned into a quest to find someone who fits your needs. Either way, those exchanges end up feeling bad to everyone involved. True connection is never able to occur with a backdrop of agenda and projection.
Why do we hurt our relationships in this way?
Well, first off, we generally aren't trying to hurt the other person or jeopardize our connection with others. We think we are looking out for our own best interests by seeking to get our needs met. But what we don't realize is that by approaching relationships in this way doesn't allow us to be open to allowing the person to be who they are -- whether or not it meets our expectations or needs.
So, what should we do instead?
Depending on your relational patterns and habits, this may be easier said than done . . but all it really takes is a willingness and bravery to approach our friends, family, loved ones, dates, and even strangers with an openness and desire to know who they are without allowing our judgments, hopes, and fears to cloud our perception.
- What if it were alright to approach romantic relationships from a perspective of knowing and connecting with another person today, rather than a quest to figure out if the other person can fulfill your needs for the rest of your life?
- What if you interacted with long-term friends and family members as if you were curious to know them anew every time you interact, rather than allowing a long history to prevent you from being curious about any changes that may have occurred with the other person?
- What if your loved ones demonstrated genuine curiosity and acceptance of you at any given moment -- even if you're not meeting their needs or expectations of the situation? Wouldn't that feel good?