The ideal versus the reality.

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copyright © Sarah Firth

I was chatting with a friend yesterday, about how easy it is to fall in love with the idea of someone. But at the end of the day we are all just messy humans, forever in draft form.

And if you get stuck in idealised projections or untenable high expectations of people, relationships and self — you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. We chatted about how projected ideals of a person often have nothing to do with who they really are. And flatten and objectify the complexity and mutability of who a person is.

So how do you open yourself up lovingly to who a person really is (as much as you can ever really know another person)? My friend said they like to assume the best of people. That it is the magic juice that allows relationships to flourish. But it comes with risks. It leaves you open to being decieved and hurt. If you have trusted and been hurt, it can be hard to assume the best of someone. Instead you’re on guard, looking for little signs, red flags, mistakes and warning signs.

Being hyper vigilant in this way may protect you but it can also kill the generosity needed in relationships. Still boundaries and paying attention to what a person actually says and does (and the discrepancies) is really important for seeing their values and priorities — which may or may not align with yours. As is how you feel with them and how they treat you over time.

Sometimes when you pay attention to this stuff you realise you are just love with the idea of a person. But this is not about snap judgements — it’s about there being enough wriggle room to distinguish between “this person means well, isn’t perfect but is trying” vs “this person really is a shitty person that isn’t worth my time”. I see so many people with sassy, supposedly empowering “zero tolerance” attitudes in dating and relationships. But is it? Being with someone who is waiting for you to make one slip, say the wrong thing or do the wrong thing in their eyes or “cancel” you if you disagree is troubling. There needs to be room for mistakes, learning and growth.

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