What Do You Expect In Your Relationships? (Come, sit with me.)

There will be strain, stress, and estrangement. There will be awkwardness, aloneness, and anger. There will be rejection, resentment, and unforgiveness.

You don’t have to have a perfect relationship with everyone. We know this is an unrealistic expectation. Impossible even? It’s guaranteed to set us up for disappointment with ourselves and others, and yet we continue to demand peaceful, understanding, and empathetic relationships across the board and feel like scum if we don’t achieve an A+.

Recently, someone brought up a particularly challenging relationship in my life. After mentioning it, they asked me, Why haven’t I worked on it? Why haven’t I made an effort or sought to repair it?

I felt awful. Truly awful. He’s right. Why can’t I get it together, sort out my shit? What’s wrong with me?

Then, all the names I’ve been called, and all the cruel words and disparaging remarks I’ve been told started to fire off in my head, wounding me again and again. Selfish, inhospitable, too controlling. Terrible writer, mean mom, unaffectionate spouse. See, it’s true…you are a difficult person to be with.

I continued to spend the rest of the day agonizing over the many difficult relationships I’ve participated in throughout the years. Agh.

The dear friends who I’ve lost touch with since moving to America.

The sweetest family members who feel more like acquaintances now.

The beautiful people whom I’ve hurt and offended through my flippant words or careless actions.

My children who I don’t treat with the love and tenderness I know they deserve.

The moms at my kids’ school some of whom keep their distance from me for mysterious reasons.

There is no covering up the wreckage, rifts, brokenness, and shattered hearts. What a mess. How did this happen?

If only I was more vigilant and attentive to the people in my life, more generous and forgiving. If only I called more, cared more, and created more space and spontaneity in my life for relationships to flourish and grow naturally.

None of us are experts here. If you think all your relationships are super, then I urge you to look again. We are learning how to love one another – beginners ad nauseam. If you need to see an A+ for relationships, then let’s aim for preschool perfection.

We can assert with confidence there will be fighting, kicking, punching, biting, yelling, wailing, weeping. Big emotions will take precedence.

So as you sit amidst your relational wreckage today don’t be surprised or ashamed. As you survey the disarray, don’t do what I did and

one) assume you are the reason for the problem,

two) call it all a big ugly mess and

three) spend all your energy and resources to fix it and feel terrible about it until you’ve cleaned it up.

This will only sabotage the one relationship you need the most: the one with yourself.

Stand with a hand across your soft heart and wipe the tears from your face. Take care of yourself. Forgive yourself. Be on your own side.

Then, divorce yourself forever from the notion of perfection in your relationships. On our best, most evolved and enlightened days we might graduate to first grade, but for the rest, I hate to say it, we need to get comfortable in preschool.

Instead of settling, I want to see this as freedom.

We’re put here on this earth to practice. And I’m not talking about doing the work of advanced subjects like relationship calculus or even algebra. Nope.

Come join me on the floor with our building blocks and broken crayons. Together we can experiment with sharing our graham crackers, figure out how to care for one another when we both need attention, and challenge ourselves to play on this crumb-covered floor without hitting or pinching.

Humbling isn’t it? But sweet and endearing too.

If your relationships are rough, welcome. You are not alone. Come, I saved you a spot, sit beside me on the floor?

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