June 01, 2011

Can you handle the unexpected?

By Anthony Buono *
The ease of a relationship is usually what makes two people dating believe they have found “the one.”

I often tell people that you need to take a long road trip so you get to see all sides of this so-called perfect person. Lots of true colors can come up on a long road trip. It’s good to see these colors, in order to see how you cope with the unexpected.

Circumstances and disappointments are the cornerstone of any relationship. If you want to be in a great relationship of love and happiness, you have to accept that things are not going to go like you want them to. It will be filled with lots of unexpected things.

If you cannot cope well with the unexpected, it could mean you have a problem with change. More specifically, it might be that you are too easily upset if things do not go as you expect. Change is a MUST when it comes to marital love. Whenever you live a relationship with another human being, there will be change. Therefore, you have to learn to change your attitude about approaching life.

Those who cannot make the necessary adjustments to the other person usually find themselves upset. Their inability to cope with the unexpected causes the overall relationship to develop big problems. One thing you learn about in good marriage preparation is how to determine whether a problem that arises requires a must-change in behavior or attitude, or to just forgive and move on. This implies that we are not to be doormats regarding things we expect. If we have reasonable expectations, then it can sometimes be valid to want them resolved.

A typical argument a couple might have starts with: “I'm not even going to talk to you about this anymore because I know I can't change your mind." If you really "know" you can't change someone's mind, then you need to find peace with it within yourself. Find that peace, accept what you cannot change, and move on. Some people are never going to enjoy Disney vacations, or documentary movies, or hang their clean towel up. If you truly believe they won't change, there's no point in arguing.

However, in the moment, it's the “dealing” with the unexpected that reveals who we are and where we are in our spiritual life. This is where having a good sense of humor and a firm trust in God’s will in all things helps us. So you might be a little late and you like to be on time? So you were really looking forward to doing something and the other doesn’t feel like it? Building a relationship is about adjusting to the situation when it is called for. So many petty things are turned into major issues simply because your plans and your will must dominate.

Far too often, those who are in a dating relationship are ready to throw in the towel because of some difficult circumstances. The other doesn’t talk as much as you want them to, or they talk too much, or they don’t readily talk about things you want to talk about. Or maybe the other has something about their past or upbringing that you would prefer never happened. We are often tempted to take it as a sign that this must not be the one. But in fact, you may need to consider if you have a serious coping problem. And frankly, if you take yourself way too seriously.

To take yourself too seriously means you cannot see past your own expectations, and thus you are easily thrown off course and distance yourself. The person on the receiving end of this response cannot help but feel they have done something wrong.

People who cannot handle the unexpected might consider not pursuing marriage. A relationship of love is a mutual exchange of persons. If you cannot handle who that person is, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is not the right person. It might actually be the best person for you to benefit your changing for the better. Love cannot be a one way street where one person dominates all aspects of life due to their immovability when it comes to how things must be. That is not love, nor is it a healthy relationship.

Everything that happens can be a positive if we have the right attitude and disposition. Even things that are legitimate problems that need to be discussed and resolved can be positives because they fashion us into better people.

As you date someone, you don’t want to set your sights on finding someone who makes your life easy. You want to find someone who makes it easy to get through the challenges, the struggles, the disappointments, the unexpected. I would argue that you are throwing caution to the wind if you marry someone you have never fought with, nor confirmed your own ability to successfully get past negative things caused by this person you supposedly love.

Choosing wisely for marriage has much more to do with knowing that you are capable of handling change. Accept that life is full of the unexpected, and it is the call of true love to cope with these unexpected circumstances and disappointments. This is a major way we help the person we love feel relaxed and safe with us, and feel that freedom to be themselves.

Anthony Buono is the founder of Avemariasingles.com. For thousands of Catholic singles, Anthony offers guidance, humor, understanding, and practical relationship advice.  Visit his blog at 6stonejars.com

* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.


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