Dealing with Disappointment In Relationships When Reality Sets in

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Sometimes things are better left to the imagination, because the reality of what they really are is more fun. Like Snake Farm.

It was June 21st but really it felt like Christmas Eve. It was the night before I was going to get the best present of all. I was just a young Texan lass getting ready to go to my first visit to the Snake Farm. It was going to be awesome. I had built up the idea in my head since I first heard of such a magical place. But then something happened. I actually went there.

Turns out my reptilian Disney World was really just an old stop on the side of the highway containing cages of snakes and random llamas to pet. I was devastated. But then I realized something. I had idealized the trip and created a fantasy of what I wanted to happen instead of what probably would happen. When you become attached to the idea of something rather than the reality of it, problems are bound to happen. Ok maybe I didn’t realize all that as a young child, but as a young adult, I can definitely see these lessons… most typically in love.

If you’re only seeing what you want to see from a situation, you’ll end up missing red flags and forcing connections that aren’t rooted in reality.

Oftentimes in romance, we establish a specific idea about how things should be or what we should have. We like to think we can map out or plan exactly what will happen or should happen. This can lead to people trying to force a relationship, or push a good one away, all for the sake of sticking with an idea that you’ve established.

I’m fighting the urge to consistently refer to The Bachelor while talking about dating; it’s just that that show is a perfect example of everything NOT to do in romance. The contestants aren’t on the show because they’re in love with the bachelor. They don’t even know him. They’re there for the idea of it. Most of them think it’s their time to find love and whichever guy is in front of them at the moment will be cast into the role of “soulmate.”

This problem of loving the idea of someone isn’t just for game show contestants or girls getting their M.R.S. degree. When an idea is alluring or exciting, it’s easy to become determined to make it a reality no matter what. If you’re only seeing what you want to see from a situation, you’ll end up missing red flags and forcing connections that aren’t rooted in reality.

But you can only fake something for so long. Eventually the truth is going to come out and a lot of the problems that were ignored at the beginning will surface. If the relationship is dead but you’re holding on to the idea of it, let go. You should never hold on to dead things (but seriously, that’s gross and creepy and probably not sanitary).

It’s like a really bad case of buyer’s remorse. You want to return an item because you bought it in a fit of retail desperation. You’ve already gotten dirty with it and now it’s hard to take back to the store. Awkward time to take that back to a relationship metaphor, but there are similar feelings involved. While there may not be a store full of men (although if there are could someone please let my mom know, I think she’d like that) settling for the first thing that fits an idea you have can end up with the same results. Bad.

A good friend once told me that “It’s easy to get lost in the timelines we set for ourselves.” Life doesn’t work “ideally” it works “realistically” and most often unpredictably. What falls into place falls into place (duh) and fighting it is like swimming against one of those giant currents at the Schlitterbahn wave pool. It’s important to be at a time in your life when you can want and handle the things that come with a relationship, but being with someone purely for those things isn’t substantial or real.

One way to avoid falling into the idea trap is by starting the relationship in a low pressure, no expectations friendship. It’s hard to make up shit when you’re busy just being friends with someone. You see them for who they really are and can honestly tell if they’re right for you. When something truly works with someone you’re not trying to force them into a mold of what you think is perfect.

This goes both ways. If you’re the one trying to be perfect for another person or fit into the mold they want you to be in, you’ll completely lose yourself in the process… and probably get stuck in the giant life-size mold they poured you in (sounds painful). When it is real, it’s easy to accept the flaws of a person because you love them and that’s who they are.

As we all learned from Weird ScienceLife-Size, and Pixel Perfect, deep connections aren’t formed by matching a checklist for what you think is perfect… and also Lindsay Lohan and Tyra Banks made one hell of an acting duo. When it comes down to it, you can’t go out looking to force a relationship. When you attach to the idea of something rather than the reality, you end up with nothing but an anaconda on your back and disappointment in your heart (Snake Farm reference in case you guys forgot about that anecdote).