STOP BEING IMPERFECT
BY: T. Franklin Murphy | August 2017
Imperfections, we all have them; but accepting them in others is a challenge.
Habits die hard. Patterns rule behaviors. Blindly, we walk through life thoughtlessly reacting, just as we always have done, hoping life will change. Habits serve a purpose, freeing mental space, and speeding responses. Many habits are good; some are not. Many destructive patterns invade relationships, creating a dangerous spiral of responses, eventually destroying our dreams of security and love. We must examine our patterns, scrutinizing actions that interfere with closeness; how do we act when a partner exhibits a flaw? Are we patient and forgiving, or does their stumbling set in motion damaging rage or painful withdrawals? Root out these evils, replace them with compassion, and your relationship will soar.
When asked, if we believe a partner should be perfect, we quickly reply, “Of course not. Nobody’s perfect.” But in the staggering moment of conflict, feelings unveil a different opinion; in the moment, we must grapple with the imperfection, facing a real demand on patience, acceptance and compassion. Do we react with the wisdom or some other way? We easily acknowledge human limitations (in general); but demand perfection with the specifics. We conceptually accept; however, when aching with an unmet need, feeling the sting of disappointment and frustration, we lash out with sharpness, condemnation and berating a lover for being something they cannot be—perfect.
Life varies, responses vary; relationships patterns are complex and inconsistent. Surprises occur, and demand sufficient space to patiently accept or flexibly respond. Perfect consistency doesn’t exist—complexity always intervenes. We will be surprised, taken off guard and required to process something new. Unexpected deviations, even when we expect the unplanned, spark emotions, momentarily upsetting us, our partner, or both. Our emotions, feelings, thoughts, and behaviors are always in a state of flux, lifting and falling before settling in homeostasis, and then lifting and falling again.
But we can give some order to the chaos. We can identify cause-and-effect connections; recognizing associations between happenings and reactions. This incredible skill gives meaning to the mess. Through mindful attention to the past, and drawing proper associations, we reasonably can predict the future. This process creates trust. The consistency of actions and reactions in a relationship settle our souls, soothing worries, and building bonds.
Security is built on relatively few surprises. We establish trust—and vulnerability.
"Perfect consistency doesn’t exist—complexity always intervenes."
Security that depends on perfect consistency, perfect pleasing, or perfect anything will fail, leaving us scrambling to rebalance our faulty expectations. Unrealistic expectations send us tumbling with every variation. Partners do occasionally deviate, not because they are flawed, but because our predictions are flawed. Accepting human imperfections is tested with the real collisions that occur. We must soothe our upsets when we feel displeased, frustrated, or disappointed and not attack the partner that failed to act as we demand them to act.
These are the critical moments of any relationship, whether partners rarely disappoint or routinely disappoint. If we can’t manage the difference, few or many, the critical moments can devastate a relationship. How do we act when we staring into the eyes of the beast? During the emotional upset, our proclaimed beliefs are tested.
When faced with the challenge of emotion, and we can proceed without losing our minds, mediating the feelings and calmly accepting the surprise, we build trust displaying our love. The knowledge that we are individuals, separate and distinct from our partner, allows for deviations of purpose and understanding of difference. When viewed from this wider perspective, we minimize the conflicts, maintaining respectful acceptance, nurturing a better relationship. We don’t foolishly expect lovers to sacrifice their individuality in service to our chaotic emotions. We must confront the damaging cycles—those persistent habits of reaction—and with awareness and purposeful intervention; and only then can we achieve the intimacy and joy we desire.