We Can’t Bend Our Loved Ones, Only Break Them

Human beings aren't customizable

We aren't liquid. So we can’t take the shapes formed by others for us to fill. All the people we love have a few qualities we wish we could change. That of course doesn't mean we love them any less, but only that we wish they were different in certain ways so that we could connect better, understand each other better, and get a little less on each other’s nerves. But even when we have the best interests at heart, we cannot afford to forget that a nitpickingly customized version of the people we love cannot be shipped to us on-demand. That’s the fundamental difference between people and products.

If we try to fine tune them, we will break them.

If they are caring and observant, they’ll notice what affect us without us having to spell it out, and they’ll readjust naturally to fit us better. People subconsciously do it all the time, and sometimes a little too much. That’s when we need to stop them before our self-centeredness destroys them. If we create strict expectations, they’ll attempt to change themselves and initiate an inner struggle between who they have always been and who they have to become. Unknowingly and unintentionally we will have then irreversibly distorted our loved ones by forcing them to fit into our boxes of perfection.

The best way to coexist is communication, compassion and care.

Parents, children, partner, siblings, friends — they will all have certain attributes that won’t sync with ours. But as long as everyone has the most loving intentions at heart, we get to keep the most precious people around us for the longest our lifetimes. We learn to live with our differences and treasure the few brilliant things that connect us.

Relationships need work.

Even the best ones of any kind of relationship needs deliberate effort to sustain. I’m very close to my parents and live halfway across the world from them. There’s been plenty of instances where I’d just be lying on my bed at night and go through childhood memories with my mother and feel an agonizing emptiness take over me. So many nights I've teared up at the back seat of a bus remembering my father’s hardships. And yet, I don’t call them as often as I ideally should. And when I do, we disagree on many things.

In the end, patience and acceptance triumphs.

I understand the value of their wisdom and advice, and I do my best to follow, while I express where I differ and why. They understand the virtue of naturally occurring changes above coerced ones, and they never impose their ideals on me. They accept me as I am. I accept them as they are. Neither defends their personal views more than they need to, and that need is very little, because the common interest is collective well-being.

Other kinds of relationship often need a lot more work, but the truth is, when two people value their connection, they have innate desires to make adjustments and compromises for one another, and that natural amount is as much as there should be. The forced establishment of ground rules, boundaries and expectations only build walls and break hearts, not the other way around.

People are naturally themselves.

And history tells us, trying to meddle with the nature rather than letting nature take its course usually eventually ends up in disaster. We all have our own journeys, and there are things such as who we are and what we want which must be figured out through experience — and cannot be assumed on-demand. And so, when we have difference of opinions in relationships, we need to believe that the other person will someday align with us. Hopefully soon. Most likely late. Probably never. But if we enforce the convergence, we will definitely lose both the person and the purpose.

The perfection we seek doesn't belong in the absence of any imperfections, but rather in the presence of the imperfections we learn to love.

Lenience is painful to adopt, but priceless to keep.

At the bottom of all differences, conflicts and unmet expectations remain one simple question — Would I rather let go of the person than let go of my expectations? If our unfulfilled wishes from someone else are so essential, so integral to our completeness that we would stand firm through a heartbreak for what we want, then there is no sign of sustainability in such connections. But if the people we care for are so important to us that the joy and fulfillment they bring to our lives are strong enough to eventually blur out the little letdowns, our heavy breaths in silence will be rewarded for by breathtaking moments throughout our lives.

It doesn't matter which side you’re on.

I sounded like I’m speaking to the expectant, but I’m speaking to the expectee too. If you feel that too much is being expected of you, don’t explode, or implode. Safeguard the love, give yourself space to grow, and take time. Sometimes we’re so preoccupied being patient with others we forget we need to be patient with ourselves too. Sometimes we don’t realize that we amplify the pressures on us put by others to magnitudes larger than they intended. Love, for others, and for oneself, need to go hand-in-hand.

The art and beauty of naturally evolving bonds will always reign over artificial reconstructions. Always.

Written by

“Sugarcoats are not in fashion” • Economist, teacher, photographer • Stockholm, Sweden • All posts: tiny.cc/22b5tz

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