Several days ago a woman angrily complained to me about some behaviors of her husband that were irresponsible and lazy. After listening for a minute, I said, "Now that you have the load in your yard, it's a little late to complain about it."
She asked what I meant by that, so I explained further. Recently I did a bit of landscaping in the front of my house, and one of the steps involved laying several tons of river rock on the ground around some plants, to act as a ground cover, to prevent the growth of weeds. I called a supplier to ask about the availability of three-inch rocks, which I had ordered before.
What are three-inch river rocks? As the earth's crust shifts, over many thousands of years, the stone in the earth is broken up. Under the influence of gravity, some of this rock settles down into riverbeds, where the water knocks the stones together. This constant pounding action breaks the rocks into smaller rocks and polishes the rough edges, resulting in the smooth stones found in riverbeds.
Over time, rivers change course or become much smaller than they once were, which exposes large expanses of dry riverbed. Gravel companies use this rock for a variety of purposes. Sometimes they use it just as they find it, to fill in spaces for construction. Often, however, they sift the material they find in the riverbed, in order to create materials for more specific purposes. First they "run" all the material over a fine screen, and whatever drops through the screen is used as sand. The remaining material is processed over screens with progressively larger openings, in order to yield gravel and then rocks of increasing sizes.
I was ordering the rocks that were produced after running the river material through several screenings, the last being a three-inch screen. All the rocks delivered to my house, therefore, would be between two and three inches in diameter. When the truck arrived, I inspected the load to be certain that the rocks were what I had ordered, and then I instructed the driver to back up in the driveway and dump the load.
In years past, on more than one occasion, I had been less than careful about deliveries to my home, and on such occasions misunderstandings had led to significant problems. Suppose, for example, that when I ordered the three-inch rock, I had not checked the load before the driver had dumped it in my driveway. And suppose that the person who took the order had checked the wrong box on the order form, so that I got four tons of gravel dumped on my driveway? Suppose, then, that I had called and insisted that I didn't order gravel, but the clerk--afraid to admit a mistake--insisted that I had ordered gravel? We would have had quite a mess, wouldn't we? Cleaning up four tons of gravel is not easy, I can tell you from personal experience.
When you're getting something delivered to your home, it's much easier to decide what you want, clearly state what you want, and be sure that you're getting what you want before you accept it, than it is to accept it and then fuss at people about changing your order. It works much the same way with marriages and other long-term committed relationships. Many people that I have known--most, to tell the truth--have been in such a hurry to find someone to love them that they have simply let the truck back up in the driveway and dump the load. Then, when they discover that whatever has fallen off the truck doesn't quite suit their needs, they're terribly disappointed and upset, and they want to change their order. They want to take it back, or they want the gravel to transform itself into three-inch rocks, or in some cases they want the gravel to magically become petunias.
In defense of those who do this, most people don't have the first clue what they really need in a relationship. Most people have so little familiarity with Real Love that they don't know how to look for a partner who is capable of beginning and sustaining a relationship based on truth telling and unconditional love. So it's virtually unavoidable that they will get a load of Imitation Love, which for a while may seem fulfilling to some degree.
In most relationships we don't need to set standards. That would be counterproductive, actually. We can't require that our mailman or our boss, for example, be unconditionally loving. We can, however, require that anyone who applies for the position of lifetime partner have certain traits.
When some people hear this, they protest, "Wait a minute, if you require something of someone, then we're not talking about unconditional love anymore." Allow me to explain. If I were looking for a wife, there are certain standards that I would envision for that position. Without such standards, in fact, I would be a fool. The requirements for such standards become obvious when I list them. I require that a wife be a human being, for example. If an applicant for the position were a giraffe, that would be an insurmountable obstacle. I would require that a wife be a woman. Given my sexual orientation, that just isn't a negotiable point. And if I want a genuinely happy relationship, I would be looking for other characteristics, which are listed in the book Real Love in Dating.
The point is, the time to raise these standards is during the selection process, at which time I am not requiring that any one person change to meet my requirements or make me happy. This is why my standards are not incompatible with unconditional love. At no point am I failing to unconditionally accept or love anyone I am dating. I am, however, refusing to join in a lifetime partnership with anyone who does not meet the standards that I have set for such a partner.
If you want three-inch river rock on your driveway, order it and inspect it before it's dumped there. If you want a relationship based on Real Love, set your standards based on unconditional love, observe your potential partners closely for their ability to be truthful and unconditionally loving, and choose a partner according to the compatibility of those standards and his or her behavior. Do not jump into a relationship based on impulse, hormones, and the temporary gratification of the trading of Imitation Love, and then--when everything falls apart--complain that your partner is not what you ordered. Don't order gravel or accept whatever is dumped in your driveway and then hope you can turn it into what you really wanted--three-inch river rock or flowers--later on.
The woman who complained to me about her husband knew what she was getting--mostly--when she married him, so she got what she ordered. She needed to realize, in addition, that no amount of complaining on her part would ever change him, nor would it make either of them any happier. In an unhappy relationship, the only solution is for US to find more Real Love in our own lives and to share that with our partners. In the process, we always become happier, and our relationships usually respond to a remarkable degree.