Relationship BreakersSat, 21st Feb '04, 12:20 am::

I've been chatting with my new friend Jyotsna for a while today and I discussed with her this new theory about relationships that I came up with sometime today. Even if you've never had a steady relationship (I know I haven't), you can easily associate with what follows. How is it that two absolutely different people with nothing in common fall in love? How is it that two perfectly compatible people with a lot of things in common hate each other? But then we also know so many people who love each other mainly because they share variety of things in common. And of course everyone knows couples who are so different that they can't even stand being in the same city as each other.

While obvious characteristics like personality, backgrounds, love, emotions, sense of humor, and physical appearances explain most of the attraction, there's always something missing from this picture. What's missing is "expectation of emotional depth." When a person meets someone, he/she has an expectation of how emotionally deep (or sensitive) their partner should be. Take a couple we normally deem emotionally shallow: a frat boy and a drunk sorority girl. They meet each other at a late night party, things seem to work out well, next thing we know they're deeply in love. It doesn't matter if neither of them know or even care how the other really feels. As long as things seem to work out well, they'll stay together. Moreover, just because their love isn't based on years of perseverance or suffering, it doesn't mean it is any less stronger than that of Romeo and Juliet. Love is love, as long as it is honest and both of them believe in it.

But maybe a few weeks later, she starts telling her best friend that he seems too involved in his own life and doesn't pay any attention to her. Maybe he tells his buddies that he wants to break up with her since she's too clingy. It could be a role reversal and she could be shocked at how "needy" he seems to be, while he mopes to his closest friend that she doesn't treat him well. Whatever the truth be, in the end both of them blame each other and they part ways. They may say that the other was not "right for me" and they're quite correct in that. But it's not because someone talks too fast or drives too slow that you break up with them. It's the emotional expectations. The girl subconsciously expected the boy to be emotionally carefree, like the typical cliched guy. He turned out too much of an emotional burden, with his love of classical literature or tragic operas. The guy could have expected the girl to be emotionally reciprocating whereas she turned out to be an emotional vagabond who just wanted to live life without getting too attached. Is either of them wrong in expecting some level of emotional depth in their mate? Of course not. And is either of them at fault for not being able to meet their partner's unspoken expectations? No way.

We see gorgeous, famous celebrities worth millions of dollars marry their attendants or makeup artists. Are they blind?! Don't they wonder if they "deserve" someone better? Well there's always someone better out there. But why do it? Because their attendant truly imparts them the emotional stability they seek. Love develops with time and may take a while before the couple realizes it. But it doesn't take too long to realize that wow I feel so comfortable around this person.

One major problem with subliminal expectations is that not being satisfied causes actions that do not relate to the emotions at all. Couples bicker over pesky faucet brands and indistinguishable tile colors without realizing that it's not just how the other is in bed or in front of guests, but more so the fact that they keep disappointing each other with their curt replies and lack of smiles. One of them just "doesn't understand" the other. We hear that on every whiny TV show. What does that mean anyway? It means that almost everyone unduly expects their partner to fulfill their emotional needs. But not just fulfill emotional needs, because sometimes a good movie can do that, they expect their partner to have some amount of emotional stability. If they don't find that foundation, comfort and familiarity give way to alienation and subconscious resentment. Think of it like our body's defense system. While the body is receptive to foreign substances like food and water, it launches a secret attack on any object it seems threatening or incompatible. Maybe our brain works like that too. Once we realize that someone is not as per our secret specifications, we launch a silent nagging attack to bug the hell out of them and soon get rid of them. Works most of the times too.

So in the end, we keep looking for people to fit into our preset molds of emotional anchors. What I have realized from all this? The fact that she doesn't like computers or loves Office Space doesn't really matter much. There is an unseen bond and it's either tied or broken and neither of us can do anything about it. Well I can try to seduce her with my moon-shining-hip-shaking-beer-belly-dancing moves but that's about it. Rest is upto the dendrites and axons.

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