You’re Not Perfect Anymore!
Falling in and out of love
I was standing outside a store at a shopping precinct near Bournemouth, idly looking at the people moving about among the rows of parked cars.
Gradually I became aware of an animated conversation between two approaching people.
The strident, complaining male voice was heard first and then the quieter, angry, more abrupt female one.
‘Having a domestic’
I glanced over and saw the man walking behind the woman and complaining about something.
She was about two or three metres ahead of him. Both were in their mid-twenties. He was going on and on about something.
She was making occasional irritable remarks over her shoulder. They were, as we say here in the UK, ‘having a domestic’.
It was only when they passed behind me and entered the store that I discovered what their ‘domestic’ was about.
Apparently she had parked too far from the entrance to the store when there were spaces just outside which she could have used. And he told her there would be spaces. And now they had to waste time walking to the store and walking back again. And why didn’t she ever listen to him. And it’s just plain stupidity. (And so on and on and on).
Her contributions were delivered in a curt, angry tonality: Oh, be quiet. Grow up. Get a life. I’m not listening.
How to fall in love - and fall out of love!
As they disappeared into the store, still arguing, I got to thinking of the thousands of people I’d worked with over the years in my former NLP psychotherapy practice.
And to thinking about the common patterns of human behaviour that I’d observed.
These two young people were demonstrating one such pattern; a pattern that is, sadly, all too common.
It goes like this:
- We meet someone and like them
- Then begin paying attention (only) to all their wonderful traits
- Then we fall in love with them and move in together
- The closeness improves the relationship; we recognise even more wonderful traits - and become even more in love with them
- Then, after a while, the gloss begins to wear off...
- And now we begin to notice (and add up) their many faults...
- ... what was once that cute little smile now becomes 'You're sneering at me again!'
- Their endearing and silly forgetfulness becomes their ‘You're just an airhead - why can't you remember anything!'
- Their tidiness becomes ‘obsessiveness’ - or their untidiness becomes ‘never doing anything around the home’
- Their relaxed approach to life becomes laziness...
- ... or their energetic approach to life is met with ‘Oh, for heaven’s sake why can’t we just relax!’
- Then we start accusing them of having changed: 'You're not the person you used to be!!!'
Resetting our filters
We human beings don’t see the world as it is. We see it through our filters.
We see what we have developed the habit of seeing!
We pay attention to what meets out current mind-set, our prejudices, our likes and dislikes. It works like this:
Decide you’re going to have ‘one of those days’ - and you begin noticing everything that goes wrong that day.
Decide that all the idiot drivers have taken to the roads today - and you’ll find them everywhere
Decide that everyone is lovely - and you’ll come across examples of this everywhere
Decide that your partner is the most wonderful person in the world - and you’ll find evidence to support this
Decide that your partner is an idiot - and you’ll begin discovering lots of proof for this stance.
Our virtual filters automatically select the evidence to evidence to support our current mindset, attitude or prejudices.
The ‘New Love’ filters
In loving relationships this virtual filtering begins when we meet somebody we like. As we get to know them and get to recognise other things about them which we like then this liking turns to Love.
We’ve now acquired our New Love filters. Now we begin to notice only the wonderful things about them. We are blind to their flaws and their failings. And as love develops they become more and more perfect in our eyes. They are approaching sainthood.
And because Mr or Ms Perfect is so perfect, because we are quite blind to their imperfections, we decide that we will spend the rest of our lives with Mr or Ms Perfect. So we move in together and usually for the first few years things get even better.
The ‘You’re not Perfect Anymore’ filters
As we become more used to them and as we become complacent and begin taking the happiness for granted things begin to change.
Or, to be more accurate, we begin to change.
We gradually start to recognise that our partner is not a real saint - are not perfect. They actually have flaws. They forget things, get irritable with us sometimes, are not as pliable as we’d expected, etc. Gradually it dawns upon us that we need to change them – either back into how they were or into how we believe they should be!
The ‘Knock ‘em into Shape’ period
New Love is a wonderful and quite unrealistic phase. It’s unrealistic because, instead of seeing the real person, we see and we relate with an idealised and quite distorted version of them.
Some of us, once the gloss wears off, feel cheated and leave. Some of us, rather than start all over again with somebody else, begin a campaign to change the other person. We’ll simply knock them into shape – and return them to how perfect they seemed to be when we were in the New Love phase.
Unsurprisingly this well-intentioned campaign to give them a personality makeover is not welcomed by the other person. So they kick back. And we try harder.
The battle has begun. And this unhappy struggle can go on for a long time. One woman who came to see me had been trying to change her husband for quite a while – for nearly 50 years, in fact. Their struggle began shortly after they met. They were now in their seventies.
The ‘Wonderful Complexity’ filters
Both sets of filters are unrealistic; the ones we use in the New Love phase and the ones we use in the You’re Not Perfect Anymore phase. Each set of filters is denying reality. Neither enables us to see the wholeness and wonderful complexity of the other person.
For this we need the Wonderful Complexity filters. With these we can recognise the other person as they are: a complex, delightful, frustrating, endearing and ever-changing set of thoughts, beliefs, behaviours and attitudes.
Getting the balance right
First we need to recognise both the New Move and the Not Perfect filtering mechanism for what it is – a way of only paying attention to what matches our current attitude towards the other person and
If you’re currently in the New Love phase enjoy it! And pay attention, too, to the imperfections
If you’re currently in the You’re Not Perfect Anymore phase, and if you sincerely want to change things, make up your mind that you’re going to start rebalancing things.
Their Wonderful Complexity
To begin appreciating their Wonderful Complexity consider
Who has changed?
Are their imperfections really new?
Or have you simply begun paying attention to what you overlooked in the New Love phase?
When they really have changed:
Use the Wonderful Complexity filters to see how these changes can be part of their totality. This way you can then celebrate their flexibility and complexity.
Re-set your filters:
Decide the relationship is worth it. Give yourself time to fully reset your filters – to replace the Not Perfect filtering with the Wonderful Complexity filters.
Go after the big irritants:
Accept that nobody’s perfect – maybe not even you or I. And that after a few years we’ll probably have a list of things we wished they wouldn’t do! Then use the NLP Swish Pattern to get these back into perspective – by changing you rather than them. http://www.nlp-now.co.uk/nlp-swish-technique/.
Focus on the nice things: Start to (again) begin noticing and listing their good points. Once way of motivating yourself to do this is to consider “What would it be like if they left me right now – today?”
The Right or Happy question
The young man who was so incensed with his partner’s driving had lost his sense of perspective. Once not so long ago they were walking hand in hand in that wonderful New Love phase. Now they are marching three metres apart and arguing about car parking spaces.
Looked at objectively, you could say that he was right: she could have searched a little longer and found those empty spaces just outside the store.
So, yes, he was 'right' in one way... But he didn’t seem too happy.
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