With the holiday season in full bloom, I’m reminded of a Christmas gift I prepared a few years ago for my baby nephew. My dude asked me for some Nerf guns and I was stoked to buy him some. There were certain ones that he had on his amazon wishlist (yes, adults, kids have it way easier in this department. I had to fold and circle all of he items in the Sears Wish Book Catalogue… okay, nobody in my family had it that rough… #middleclassproblems). I remember there was a big one and a few smaller ones. So, I bought a bunch and some extra some ammunition. I was dating someone, at the time, who was a Dollar Store Queen. I mean, she likely still is. That chick could build you a damn castle out of dollar store finds. She made about the same money as I did, but she lived like a damn goddess because she knew how to shop and save. I digress.

Anyways, we’re at the dollar store and I (who does not know how to shop or save) was in the toy aisle. I had an absurdly awesome idea: Turn the Nerf guns into a cool army game for my nephew! it would only cost a bit more (because, you know… dollar store) and make such a splash! So, I wound up buying different colored army figurines (beige and green for two teams), opposing army helmets, cool targets, some other toy guns from the store, etc. I’ll be honest, I don’t really recall the rules of the game I created. But, there was some sort of mission, two teams, and these awesome boxes I decorated with things like “TOP SECRET” and “MISSION IMPOSSIBLE.” I even filmed a YouTube Video in my suit as the general of his army! Super Uncle of the century! Ba ba ba ba!!!!!!!!!!

Well, Christmas Eve came (in our family, and I think most Italian American families, Christmas Eve is the real holiday), and it was time to open gifts, I totally could not wait! But, as my nephew opened his gifts and watched the video, he was thoroughly confused. All he’d asked for were Nerf guns. I created an intricate game with a YouTube video. And, while he was super appreciative (because my family is awesome and he’s amazingly polite), he had other gifts to open and play with. So, he moved on. Totally fine! But, I’ll be honest I was a little disappointed.

Why? Because I expected him to totally get it. Be totally enthralled with my cool ass game. And, stop what he was doing to set it up in my Aunt’s den. None of that was even close to realistic. He’s not going to set up little tiny figurines in my Aunt’s basement. He had way too many other things to open. Usually, my family likes to clean up quick and he’s lucky if he gets to play with one gift. I got over it quickly and was glad he enjoyed his guns. Not really an emotional issue.

But, do you know what is an emotional issue? When your expectations are not met in a relationship. This becomes a serious conflict. You set rose pedals on the bed or buy tickets to a show or… buy some contraception for the night (wink wink)… and it’s not received the way you planned. You tell your partner you want to see them, or want to go on a date, or want a puppy, or a baby, or a house… and they do not react the way you expect. Or, you tell them you love them and they don’t say it back. What horror!

Why does it become a problem for us when our partners don’t react the way we wish they would? We know we can’t control them, right? It’s because we just can’t fathom it happening the way we didn’t build it up in our brains. We build up the daydream over and over as we set the stage for our date, our conversation, our weekend away. And, when our expectations aren’t met, we are sorely disappointed.

But, wait a minute… when my nephew didn’t shred open my weird game of Nerf stupidity, I didn’t swear at him and threaten to not see him again. I didn’t give him the silent treatment or try to make him jealous with another nephew. Well, there are plenty of reasons I don’t do that, the main one being I love him with all of my Uncle heart… and I don’t have another nephew (LOL!). He’s also young, etc. But, the main reason… the absolute most identifiable reason that we are in utter disbelief when our partner doesn’t react the way we expect… is because our emotions are on high.

We are so enthralled partners, at times. But, we don’t always see them as characters in their own scripts (I’ve referenced this before). We see them as characters in the play of our lives. And, we are not necessarily infatuated with them, but the way they make us feel. When their actions don’t match our expectations, when they stop making us feel a certain way, we sometimes forget that they have their own scripts to live.

I cannot tell you how many partners this has happened to me with. It’s absurd that, while I recognize the pattern, I have not been able to fully break it, yet. But, I’m getting there. I’ve come a long way. I am learning to recognize that I am only half of the love equation and have surrendered to the behaviors and reactions of my partner(s). The outcome is always going to be the same. It’s my reaction that is changing. Have you surrendered yet?