Once upon a time, there was a girl who went shopping for the perfect mattress.
“Give me a mattress that will give me eight hours of perfect sleep every night” she told to the salesman.
The salesman brought out soft and fluffy mattress. “This mattress will give you eight hours of perfect sleep every night, no matter what happens” he said.
Delightfully she took her new bed home. A few hours before going to sleep for the first time on her perfect mattress, the girl decided to get the most out of her evening by having a cup of coffee. After all, she was going to sleep perfectly anyway. She called her stockbroker and argued about her portfolio, watched a anxiety-inducing thriller on television, and then jumped into bed.
While in bed, she noticed that her mind was racing, as well as her heartbeat. She wasn’t sleeping perfectly, just laying on her bed in a state of anxiety, unable to sleep.
She was tired and angry the next day when she returned the mattress to the salesmen. They both agreed that it must have been a faulty mattress.
As insane as this story is, the same type of insanity is present in many romantic relationships.
Hollywood often teaches people that a healthy romantic relationship will save a person from all of life's suffering. Hopefully, such people remember that Hollywood stars aren’t exactly known for their happy and lasting relationships. Perhaps this is because Hollywood stars, like many people, believe that their partner can, and should, give them things that cannot be given.
Just as a quality mattress can contribute to good rest, a quality partner can contribute to your self-worth and satisfaction. However, just as a mattress cannot give you a perfect night’s sleep, there are two things that your partner cannot give you, no matter how hard they try.
Many people live with an underlying sense of worthlessness or inadequacy. They believe that they have little to give, and the world knows it. Upon entering a romantic relationship, the euphoria of having someone who values them can give rise to a temporary sense of self-worth.
Unfortunately, this euphoria will always wear off. When it does, those feelings of worthlessness reemerge. Then the sufferer remembers that, once upon a time, their partner had the ability to make them feel valuable. This leads them to the belief that their partner must be doing something, or withholding something, that is needed in order to feel valuable again.
This can lead the sufferer to resent, blame, falsely accuse, or place unrealistic demands on his or her partner.
Human nature involves several yearnings that romantic relationships can temporarily gratify. Some of these yearnings are sex, validation, companionship, and emotional or physical care.
With the help of Hollywood, sometimes people come to believe that they are entitled to having their yearnings gratified by their partner. They believe that their partner is responsible for giving them satisfaction.
Unfortunately, human nature is insatiable. This means that relationship perks eventually lose their ability to satisfy. A husband might no longer be sexually satisfied by his monogamous relationship. A wife might no longer be emotionally satisfied by the affectionate gestures of her husband. But if they blame each other for their feelings of worthlessness or dissatisfaction, they will endlessly be at each other’s throats. Just as having a properly functioning mattress does not guarantee restful sleep, having a properly functioning partner does not guarantee self-worth or satisfaction.
Each partner must take responsibility for their own self-worth and satisfaction – for his or her own happiness. If they do so, they will be more likely to gratefully receive each other’s contributions as loving expressions.
Happiness cannot be given, but the likelihood of having a relationship that contributes to happiness dramatically increases when partners know that they alone are responsible for their happiness.
Cale Gray is a student at Salt Lake Community College in Salt Lake City, Utah, working to become a licensed marriage and family therapist.