Here’s the first thing the world tells us about relationship success: find a unicorn.
Find your Mr. or Mrs. Right. Find that rom-com-worthy, diamond-in-the-rough guy or gal.
What happens then? Magic.
Once you find this unicorn partner, they will make everything okay. They will shower you with love and affection.
Unicorns, after all, aren’t like the rest of those other losers out there. They’re always turned on and in the mood. They cook and do all the dishes for fun. They make you breakfast in bed, parent perfectly, laugh at all your jokes, tell you you’re right (about everything), and never fight back during an argument.
Sounds amazing, right? There’s just one problem: flying horses with rainbow tails and spiraled horns don’t exist.
And neither do unicorn partners.
We all know this to be true. And yet we forget. We get seduced by this modern virus of the mind. When our partner pisses us off or when we see the Instagram selfie of that hot couple kissing on the cruise ship deck, that’s when it happens.
That’s when we get tricked into thinking that, if we had just married a unicorn, everything would be awesome.
This deluded idea sits at the root of so many problems. When you believe in relationship unicorns, it’s impossible to see your partner through the lens of appreciation. You get stuck wearing the glasses of criticism, annoyance, and maybe even contempt.
When you believe in relationship unicorns, you take zero percent responsibility for your relationship. “It’s not my job to make this thing work,” you think. “That’s what unicorns are for.”
Most insidiously, when you believe in relationship unicorns, you fall head first into the delusion that you have also achieved unicorn status. That's clearly why you deserve a unicorn partner.
But have you? Are you capable of showing up all day every day in the spirit of unconditional love, joy, enthusiasm, and unbridled eroticism? Do you put your pants on in a single bound? Or are you like the rest of us, one leg at a time?
The answer is obvious. You’re not a unicorn. Neither are we. Nobody is a unicorn.
The hard truth is that you married a horse. No wings. No fairy dust. No rainbow tail.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that horses are still amazing. And so is your partner. Sometimes, you just have to cut through this delusion to see it.
As always, the first step is to see this unicorn delusion as it arises in real time.
You'll know this is happening when you have thoughts like, "If only my partner were more like so and so."
Or "Why can't my partner stop doing that thing that drives me crazy."
Or "Maybe I should have stayed with so and so."
See these thoughts for what they really are: unicorn delusions.
Sometimes, it's tempting to shift from the belief in relationship unicorns to the opposite extreme.
Disillusioned by the hard truth that our partner isn't a unicorn, we become blind to their strengths. We forget the reasons we fell in love with them in the first place.
Put simply, we go from wishing our partner were a unicorn to seeing them as a domestic pack mule, a sad, beaten down equine that's only good for life logistics and lugging around heavy stuff.
This is the trap of donkey complacency. It's the tendency to skip over your partner's strengths and give up on improving your relationship at all.
Both sides of this delusion -- seeing unicorns and seeing donkeys -- lead to the same result. We fixate on our partner's flaws and lose sight of their contributions.
That's why appreciation works as such a powerful interrupt.
If you can build just one appreciation for your partner into each day, you'll begin to notice a shift in the glasses you wear.
Instead of seeing all the bad things, you'll start to see the good.
And if you can talk them into turning this into a daily ritual, you'll no longer need to fantasize about relationship unicorns.
You'll begin to see that you've got a pretty darn good stallion or mare right there next to you as you wake up each morning.
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