Every day I hear people bemoan the faults of the people around them:
“She is so disorganized.”
“He’s just not physically affectionate, and I need more than that.”
“She cannot seem to make a decision. She makes every choice into a big deal, and it takes forever.”
“He is such a drama queen.”
From the way we talk, we seem to believe we can choose what qualities people will or will not have—like choosing from a menu. But people are not menus. Relationships work only when we to accept and interact with the whole package of who people are. Or we can choose not to have a particular relationship at all.
Imagine that in a grocery store you’re standing in front of a display of papayas. You can choose one that is more or less ripe, depending on when you anticipate eating it. You can choose according to size or relative absence of flaws. But you can’t choose one without a peel or seeds. You pick up a whole papaya from the display in front of you, or you don’t.
Choose wisely the people you spend time with because they will have an influence on how you feel. Sure, if we were perfect, perhaps we could decide to be happy under all circumstances, but we’re not perfect. We are affected by the attitudes and behaviors of others, so we must be aware as we choose our associates—and especially our partners.
Once you’ve chosen a friend or partner, however, you do not have the right to eliminate the qualities that are inconvenient to you. You can occasionally make requests of people. You can ask your partner not to leave his socks in the bathroom sink, for example.
You can limit the amount of time you spend with people under certain circumstances, like choosing not to be around people who are drunk. But when you do choose to be with someone, you get the entire package, not an assortment of pieces that you can choose from.
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