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.
5 thoughts on “When Your Pedestal is Too High”
A rescuer wrapped in tinfoil…yep. xx
So very disappointed in the cartoon using the word “retard”. Insensitive.
Very legit concern. I found one that uses “idiot” instead. Thank you for pointing it out!
I believe we all have put those we love on a pedestal at one time or another. Yes, they fall off and let us down. I am more guilty of this than most people I believe, because as a friend pointed out to me not too long ago, that despite my knowledge of their mistakes and/or flaws I only wanted to see the good. To see their true heart.
But the truth be told we all have flaws we all make mistakes. As you pointed out there must be a balance in the scales. We must see them as who they are.
I’ve been working on a tangential lesson this weekend, the essence of which is that we bring home (from work or wherever) or sometimes for those of us that work from home( we bring into our home) the energy from the people and events we encounter through our work, we bring this contextually into our conversations with our partners at the end of the day, when we first encounter them again.
Our rose colored glasses, sometimes get clouded with the energy and experiences we had throughout the day. This can tint our views for better or for worse as we then try to be objective with our partners words, actions, behaviors etc.
We are human too. Our energy and emotion is not a constant through out a marriage, a year, a month, day or even an hour sometimes.
This all reminds me of a life lesson I learned around the gloriously old age of 19…. We have to be all right with ourselves before we can be all right in a relationship. (some would substitute ‘in love’ for ‘all right’.
The point is that we are not objective. This is ok. We are subjective, we are human.
Still we try to navigate this bonding scenario of assessing ‘is this person right for me?’ and ‘is this person still right for me?’
Plus, there are times when we have too many other things going on and just don’t have time to run the regular assessment. Life happens.
In late November 2009, I came to the conclusion that I had fallen into codependent behavior in my relationship with my ex. I mapped out a plan to get help, therapy and do something about it.
Then Thanks giving and then Christmas and then a month later, my home was foreclosed on and illegally seized by Wells Fargo.
That prompted an unplanned/forced bankruptcy. 2010 was a life happens kind of year for me.
I totally forgot about my conclusions in November before life happened.
I didn’t remember them until 2015, when I read back through an old blog article. By this time, I was a month into my separation.
I had definitely put my ex-wife on a pedestal. I was shocked when I discovered her far below the pedestal. I spent the next year re-painting my memories, correcting conversations that had had very different meanings, actions we had chosen together for very different motivations.
Agreeing most of the time was easy for us.
Agreeing for very different reasons turned out to be a poison pill in our relationship.
this brings me to my point… (i guess, just feeling out the emotions that your blog article prompted, and thank you for that). 🙂
We didn’t come together to communicate and discuss our perspectives. When we found easy agreement, we went with the flow. This served to confirm my bias that we had a good marriage, that we still loved each other, that things and life, all was good.
It was not.
There were all sorts of outside agents distorting the glasses…
– a poisonous atmosphere and profession (teaching in a state/school that did not value education
– low self esteem on one side
– codependent behaviors on both sides
– illness for each of us and our kids at times
– extra marital digital relationships on one side
– prescription drugs
– fiefdoms of control (one person managing most of the medical decisions, another managing the finances, not enough communication about either of these) all done under the guise of who had the natural predilection to manage it…
These days in my new relationship of 2 years, I work hard not to make judgments at all.
I keep working on myself.
I work hard to communicate, not easy, even with someone that is more inclined to communicating openly as compared to my ex.
But I’m out, maybe temporarily out of the judging business. I’m not ‘buying’ or ‘investing’ so to speak (like choosing to hold a stock) in my new relationship.
I am just ‘with’ this person. I am giving her the space to grow or not grow, work on herself or not work on herself as she needs or sees fit.
I have learned that I’ll never truly be objective in an assessment. I could subjectively paint her in many different lights and colors.
Instead, I’m learning to try and simply observe and witness without categorizing, without labeling, with out recording the movement of a needle from one dialectic extreme to the other.
I have no idea if this will help me, nor if sharing it will help anyone either. But that’s where I am at currently. 🙂