Pessimism for Lovers – Free Ebook

Our lives are powerfully affected by a special quirk of the human mind to which we rarely pay much attention. We are creatures deeply marked by our expectations. We go around with mental pictures lodged in our brains of how things are supposed to go. We may hardly even notice we’ve got such phantasms, but expectations have an enormous impact on how we respond to what happens to us. What drives us to fury are fronts to our expectations. There are plenty of things that don’t turn out to be as we’d like but don’t make us livid, either. When a problem has been factored into our expectations, calm is not endangered. We may be sad, but we’re not screaming. Unfortunately, our expectations are never higher, and therefore more troublesome than they are in love. Our expectations in relationships might go like this: A decent partner should easily, intuitively understand what I’m concerned about. I shouldn’t have to explain things at length to them. If I’ve had a difficult day, I shouldn’t have to say that I’m worn out and need a bit of space. They should be able to tell how I’m feeling. They shouldn’t oppose me. If I point out that one of our acquaintances is a bit stuck-up, they shouldn’t start defending them. They’re meant to be constantly supportive. When I feel bad about myself, they assure me up and remind me of my strengths. A decent partner won’t ever make too many demands. They won’t be constantly requesting that I do things to help them out, or dragging me off to do something I don’t like. We’ll always like the same things. I tend to have pretty good taste in films, food, and household routines. My lover will understand and sympathize with these at once, and then, of course, you get into a relationship and the problems start. A solution to our distress and agitation therefore lies in a curious area with a philosophy of pessimism. It’s an odd and unappealing thought. Pessimism sounds so unattractive. It’s associated with failure; it’s usually what gets in the way of better things. But, when it comes to relationships, expectations are the enemies of love. A more moderate, more reasonable set of expectations about love would include a range of ideas. For example, the idea that it’s normal and largely unavoidable that people don’t understand one another very well in a couple. Each person’s mind is a hugely complex and convoluted place. It’s hard to grasp exactly why someone acts as they do, and by extension, we’d be assuming from the start that no partner is going to have a complete, reliable, or terribly accurate understanding of us. There will be the occasional things they get right, but these will be the expception rather than the standard. As a relationship developed, we then wouldn’t get hurt when our partner made some wildly inaccurate assumptions about our needs or preferences. We’d have been assuming that this would be coming along pretty soon from the start. We’d ideally have an assumption that in any relationship, there would be significant areas of disagreement which could well turn out to be irrseolvable. We wouldn’t particularly relish this. It’s not that we’d be eager to get together with someone with whom we are at odds, but we’d just assumed that we weren’t going to find someone who’d be on the same wavelength as us on every serious issue that cropped up. We’d know that a good, working relationship would not mean blanket agreement. Love begins with the discovery of harmony in some very specific and beautiful areas, but to continue with this expectation is to doom love to a slow death. The error we’re always tempted to make is to see defects especial to our own partner. We get to know the irritating and disappointing sides of one particular person and then draw the conclusion that we’ve been especially unlucky; we’ve become involved with someone who seemed lovely on the surface, but then, in time, revealed themselves strangely disturbed and defective. What a curse! What a problem to correct! We therefore start looking around for a new partner with whom we can finally have what we always knew was promised to us: a problem-free relationship. Our romantic impulses are continuously and dangerously being renewed… and we blame everything but our hopes. And yet, the reasons why other people in love are disappointing are universal. The problems may take on a local character, but everyone would have them in the broad to a significant extent. We don’t need to know the specific eccentricities we would find in a prospective partner, but we can be sure that there will be some and that they will, at points, prove pretty serious. The only people we can think of as normal are those we don’t yet know very well.

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