You Want What I Want, Remember?

You know the old saying – a tiger can’t change his stripes. 

Have you ever gotten into a relationship with someone who starts it out by saying “Look, I’m not looking for anything serious”? And then, for some absurd and inexplicable reason, you’re actually shocked when you want something more serious and they don’t. 

I’m pretty sure we’re all guilty of that – at one point or another, we’ve all chosen to totally disregard what somebody says they want, because it doesn’t match up with what we want them to want. And it goes both ways. Maybe someone says they don’t want a relationship and you pretend you didn’t hear that. Or maybe somebody says they want something serious with you and you choose that moment to have selective hearing. Because it’s convenient. Because it’s easier. 

But it’s not listening. And you can’t really expect to have a successful relationship – romantic, platonic, casual, whatever – with someone if you aren’t really listening to them, and they aren’t listening to you. 

I was definitely guilty of that in my last serious relationship, ignoring the signs of someone who was clearly changing his mind about what he wanted, because it was terribly inconvenient to imagine that what he wanted had diverted from our grand plans together. And I should have listened to myself more, too, because then I would have realized sooner that I was holding on to something that I didn’t even really want anymore myself. 

It’s important, I think, to train ourselves to listen more carefully as soon as we can. Because issues like this can be small when we’re young (I mean hey, if you just want to have a good time then it really doesn’t matter), but they certainly grow if things get serious. I know couples who’ve gotten married and been married for years, but split up when the husband realized that all that time the wife was saying “I don’t want kids”, she really meant it. 

We all have issues that are near and dear to our hearts. And contrary to what stories might have us believe, the idea that “Love is enough” is bullshit. Love is a lot, yes. But if you love someone and yet fundamentally disagree on something that either of you finds to be an iron-clad major issue, it will lead to problems. Sometimes you can talk it out and reach a compromise. But don’t add “well so-and-so might change their mind” as a caveat to a relationship. Don’t count on that. 

Because a tiger can’t change its stripes. You kind of have to love most of the big stripes in the first place to make it work. 

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