When I first met my ex-husband, my focus was on getting to know him. I asked questions without assuming the answers and I listened to his responses without any prior assumptions blocking the way like a clog in a drain.
And then, much like what happens when you become familiar with a character in a book, I began to construct my own view of him, assembled from his words and actions over many months.
And that view was quite favorable.
I thought this was a good viewpoint to have; I had often heard the adage that one of the keys to a happy marriage was to see your spouse through rose-colored glasses. So I minimized his faults and glorified his strengths.
My error was in not recognizing (and appreciating) the distinction between a rose-colored tint and an opaque coating of naive confidence.
I had mistakenly placed him on a pedestal and that pedestal was ultimately too high.
When you place your partner on a pedestal…
You set forth unattainable expectations.
We become disappointed not by other’s actions, but when their actions don’t match our expectations. When you have an inflated sense of your partner’s character, abilities or intentions, you are laying the groundwork for expectations set well beyond reach. Additionally, you may begin to hold yourself up to unreachable goals as your goals become more out of touch with reality.
You provide no allowance for mistakes.
When you perceive someone as “perfect,” you provide them with no permission to make any errors. If they are aware of the pedestal they stand upon, this can lead to a denial and concealment of any mistakes. And if you become aware of any signs that they are flawed, you can overreact because it calls into question your assumptions.
You discount any signs that don’t align.
We are all subject to confirmation bias. We pay more attention to those things that confirm our beliefs than to those that threaten our assumptions. And if you happen to believe that your partner is “too good to be true,” you may well miss the signs that this is indeed the case. This threat is especially concerning if you happen to be with somebody that willingly exploits your trust.
You create a situation where a fall from grace is inevitable.
It’s impossible for anybody to stay perched on a pedestal forever. The fall from perfection will happen and the shockwaves can be catastrophic. This is especially acute when you feel as though your partner has “rescued” you from your past or some difficult situation. At some point, you’re going to realize that the shining armor is merely tinfoil.
The mistake I made in my first marriage was to only view the good in my ex husband. As a result, it was difficult for me to be aware of his deceptions and manipulations. Any slip-ups that I knew of were magnified beyond their scope because they threatened to destroy my image of him. When the truth was finally revealed, I went from seeing him as all-good to all-bad, as though he was some malevolent monster. The reality of it is that he always had elements of both.
I’ve learned from my earlier mistakes. Now, with my current husband, I choose to see the truth of him (that he is both awesome and human) and focus on the best. It’s a good balance. I emphasize (and hopefully magnify) his strengths while at the same time being realistic and open-minded.