I"ve been reading your book All our Geese are Swans, and have read the chapter, And this is your Brain on Blame many times.
On page 142 you write, "It is hard for us to think of our relationship with someone else as our relationship with present reality."
"But," you go on, "it is helpful to, because then we will not put intentions on it."
I see the wisdom in that, and I see how that flies in the face of what so many "experts" out there tell us about relationships. I constantly hear messages to the effect that we should expect a laundry list of certain behaviors and attitudes from various people in our lives.
A family member has surprised me lately on a number of occasions by being arrogant and competitive in her tone and comments. All my life I thought that this person was protective and sensitive and would be kind and humble before she would say something to aggrandize herself at my "expense."
Issues of trust and intimacy have been raised for me. While I don't "blame" her, I question this dynamic underlying relationships. Are we all "looking out for #1," no matter the relationship? Should we be?
I want to be kind and good to others, regardless of how they choose to behave. I know I can only be responsible and accountable for my own actions and thoughts. I also recognize that no one is a saint or perfect.
Could you say more about expectations regarding relationships?
Don't expect any relationship to make you happy or to live up to your expectations.
Expect that every person does the best he or she is capable of doing at the moment.
Arrogance and competition are part of the human experience. However, it is not good to let others mistreat us, not good for us and not good for them either.
We should try to say when we feel hurt by something someone says or does, not that our acknowledgement of our own feelings or needs obligates the other person to make amends. It should be enough that we put out what we feel and what we want and if the other can accommodate us, the relationship works better. If they can't, the relationship will be lacking in some way.
We all have flaws and as we grow older and wiser, they begin to fall away from us. Sometimes we misjudge the love others have for us and are disappointed when it proves less than we thought. The most important thing to remember is that if we are able to love someone, that is much more important than if they are capable of loving us. We are all made of love and to the extent that we can get through our fear, we are automatically in touch with the love which is our basic building block. If the other is more aggressive and competitive than we are, it just means they are more afraid. For a guide I still lilke the Desiderata:
by Max Ehrmann, 1927
Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant, they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let not this blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore, be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams; it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.