Please Pardon My Ignorance:
I Am Aware It's Not Rocket Science
The word ignorance sometimes carries a negative connotation. It can imply that one is willfully ignoring something, intentionally not paying attention. However, the usual definition simply means "lack of knowledge, education, or awareness".1 Being ignorant about how to make relationships work is widespread, and is not something to be ashamed of. Most people have to deal with ignorance in relationships, within themselves and within their partners. If one partner in a relationship is excessively ignorant, it is inescapable that they are going to clumsily thrash about, harming the connection in the process. To be sure, love can overcome ignorance. But it takes work, sacrifice, and a large dose of humility. Ignorance is a blocking force that prevents the healthy interpersonal functioning and self-awareness required to form safe, healing bonds in the context of a romantic relationship. Below, we will examine some common ways that
Signs Of Emotional Immaturity
You want a sophisticated partner. He doesn’t take anything seriously, including your relationship. He wants to spend his day playing video games. Whenever you try to talk about things that concern you, he turns it into a joke. It seems like he is utterly incapable of having a responsible adult conversation, much less a true partnership. He doesn't talk about his feelings, and doesn't even seem to be aware that it's an issue. In the end, everyone has limits for what they will tolerate. One day, you may realize that he's just not mature enough for you, and you’re done waiting for him to grow up. This form of ignorance is quite harmful to the partner that wants more. It seems so simple, and yet all your efforts to bridge the gap are thwarted by his lack of insight that there's even a problem. From his perspective, everything would be fine if you just backed off and didn't ever want anything from him.
⇲ action steps
• If you’re immature, learn as much as you can about how to show up in relationships. Have a frank discussion about ways that you need to show up differently, so that your partner can see your willingness to work on things.
• If your partner is immature, discuss your concerns. At least give them the opportunity to step up to the plate.
Limited Romantic Experiences
The love may be real, with each of you genuinely appreciating the other and the grit to make it work. But you both also need knowledge and understanding about relationships to make your connection thrive. Researchers have found that people that jump into relationships at a young age are statistically more likely to fail. Inexperience is a distinct disadvantage. If you're his first relationship, be warned. He’s probably a great guy. However, that won’t dilute the fact that many of the lessons he'll be learning and the realizations he’ll be having over the next few years, you already figured out years ago. You may not necessarily want to relive those struggles.
⇲ action steps
• Get into a relationship, and then try to learn from the experiences that you have. This is a slow, and frequently painful, option.
• The wise option - Study relationships with someone who is an expert, preferably before you get into a relationship.
You argue endlessly about random issues because neither of you knows how to stop the cycle. You don’t know how to work through problems. It seems like the smallest issue can end up threatening the entire relationship. You don’t know what you’re doing, and you may not even be aware that you don’t know what you don't know. If you’re not educated on the pursue/withdraw dynamic that's a frequent feature in relationships, it’s likely that your skills are limited. If you think that it’s wrong/weak to need other people, it’s likely that your skills are limited. If you’re afraid to go to counseling, it’s likely that your skills are limited. It’s very natural in our culture for people not to talk about their problems openly or to show emotion. Practicing this in a relationship can create a double bind that dooms the situation.
⇲ action steps
• Study Emotionally-Focused Therapy (EFT) for couples, and/or find a certified EFT counselor to help you understand the dysfunctional pattern that is contributing to problems in your relationship.
• Get in touch with your emotions, and, if you feel safe in your relationship, be vulnerable with your partner.
Self-knowledge is being aware of one's own needs and desires, one’s blind spots and weaknesses. When this is lacking, it can lead to issues such as blaming, holding grudges, and resentment. Instead of "I’m unhappy because I ____", it becomes "I’m unhappy, because you _____". You may have the idea that she doesn't communicate what she wants because she's happy with you. But perhaps she doesn't know herself well enough to articulate what’s going on. In these situations, the problem is a general lack of self-awareness.
⇲ action steps
• If your partner has a self-knowledge deficit, encourage them to be honest about what they feel, and to explore their needs and desires.
• Be open about your own feelings, desires, and needs.
• If you think you might have a self-knowledge deficit, try communicating with "I" statements and take responsibility for your own experience.
If, despite your denials, your partner is convinced that you've cheated on them or betrayed them in some way, there may be little you can do. Years of trust can be destroyed in a single moment, regardless of the validity of the accusations. Innocent mistakes can sometimes appear to be intentional, or even malicious. Circumstances tend to affect how people perceive your actions, which can transform a harmless gesture into evidence of your “lack of morals”. Unfortunately, once people make up their minds about a situation or about someone’s character, it is often very difficult to change. Sometimes, people are just looking for an excuse to doubt you, so they don’t have to be vulnerable and face themselves.
⇲ action steps
• If you find yourself suspected of wrongdoing, the most effective course of action is to let it go and focus on something else. If you get caught up in defending yourself, it will most likely only make things worse, and push the person further away. It is not your job to correct other people’s mistaken views. They are free to think whatever they want. That doesn’t make it true.
• Create some distance between yourself and the accuser. Allow them to run with their delusion, knowing that you didn’t do anything wrong. Giving them space will create an opportunity for them to mull over the evidence and possibly reconsider their accusation.
• Keep your focus on your goals and dreams. Inevitably, the accuser will either come around, or their absence will allow room for new people to come into your life, preferably those who will see your value and appreciate you.
What Is Love?
Many people, especially young people, don't know what real love is. The mistake lies in thinking that when the infatuation stage comes to an end, as it inevitably always does, that the love has dissolved. To be fair, this confusion between love and lust is frequently found in movies and other media, which contributes to even more people being confused . Also, the majority of parents do not inform their children enough about what they might face in love relationships, and how to deal with different situations as they arise. This cultural training creates a huge vulnerability for couples, and forces most people to learn from their mistakes in relationships, instead of learning from the accumulated experiences of others.
⇲ action steps
• Study stories and advice from people that have had long-term success in relationships.
Lack of Discernment
He told you that he has had trouble trusting people in the past. You proceeded to ignore all the warning signs and red flags, blindly trusting the things he was telling you. You fell in "love" with him anyway. This is willful self-deception. Until you stop ignoring reality, your situation is not going to improve. Choose to face the fact that all the evidence you need is right in front of your face. If your partner doesn't treat you well, look at that. Effective discernment only springs from a willingness to see. Without that, you're making yourself vulnerable and gullible; an easy target for a skilled manipulator.
⇲ action steps
• Get to the heart of the matter by looking closely and honestly.
• Accept that things are the way they are. If you notice something that disturbs you, refuse to turn away and pretend that it's ok.