We Have No Idea What Other People Want
We spend so much time trying to direct how other people experience their lives.
It’s as if we hike up to an icy mountain lake and say, “Poor cold lake… I’m sure you want to warm up. I’m sure you want to be warm like me.”
And so we dive into the achingly cold lake, feeling all the agony of the barely-above-freezing water, telling ourselves that the lake must be really stubborn, or immature, or selfish—because it’s really not warming up.
It’s not doing what we think it wants to do.
It’s not doing what we think it should do.
Maybe, we think, we’ve chosen the wrong lake.
There are two lessons here.
The first is that we have no idea what other people want, and we are virtually always wrong when we assume that they want to be the way we want to be.
The second lesson, as @the.logan.lore and @iceman_hof acolytes would readily tell you, is that the benefit of swimming in an icy lake is not that you’ll warm it up and make it more like you, nor is it that you’ll become cold and icy yourself.
It’s that you’ll learn to be calm and centered in a space that’s very different than you normally exist in, and that will make you stronger and more resilient (and maybe even more loving).
Relationships are like that, too.
When I was presenting to a large group of Navy SEALs a few years back, I spoke about relationship stress in the same way as I spoke about other stressors like exercise or fasting: something that could either make you stronger through adaptation or something that could break you down.
So next time you think that someone else should do something the way you think you would if you were them, remember this: if you were (them) in their shoes, you would do it exactly the same as they are doing it. (Yes, you would.)
That means that they are doing it the right way for them, and that you do not, in fact, know what’s best for them.
So if you choose to get into a relationship with someone who’s different than you (that is, literally everyone), then perhaps letting them be them is a more open, loving, and truly fun way to exist.
That is, unless you think you can warm up a mountain lake by swimming in it.