People have always told me I want too much. Mostly church people, who should know better since they follow a God who is known for wanting WAY TOO MUCH, including the love and loyalty of stiff-necked humans.
It started when I was young and wanted to be a professional singer (I still want that, by the way). I’ve been told that wanting justice is foolhardy, expecting churches full of imperfect people to become more perfect communities is unrealistic, and that the key to happiness is to want less, so as to be disappointed less.
And while my heart and my faith always knew those were lies, there are ways the sentiments permeated far enough to raise big questions. One of those ways is in my romantic relationships. Along my way through two marriages and a few other significant relationships, I came to believe that what I wanted in a partner was too much.
And I didn’t even know I thought that, until my coach asked me last winter to start a Romantic Partner Vision Board. I laughed when she said it, thinking of a collage cut out from glossy magazine pages, handsome smiling men layered over each other with cut out words saying “kind” or “funny” or “emotionally mature” (two words, in disparate fonts, obviously).
She wasn’t kidding though, so I reluctantly submitted to the assignment. Sitting with a giant sketch pad and a close friend, I started jotting down ideas. Pretty soon, the page was full. “Geez, that’s a lot to want” I said to myself. It felt demanding and unrealistic, even though the majority of the listed traits were just about basic human decency, and only three were dealbreakers. “No one will ever be ALL THAT” the unhelpful part of my brain said.
When I explained the process and those thoughts to my coach, I found myself crying, wondering where I’d given up the notion that I’m allowed to ask for what I want and need. Part of it is being a woman, we decided, and part of it is a defense mechanism meant to protect my often-broken heart from more pain.
It doesn’t work though. Wanting less doesn’t create less disappointment. Instead it multiples it, since there is not only disappointment in my partner but in myself for once again accepting less than I deserve. So I hung that Romantic Partner Vision Board on my bedroom cork board, and worked on getting used to wanting too much again.
It’s been a journey, but I’m no longer apologizing, even internally, for wanting what I want and need and deserve. I’ve prayed over that vision board hundreds of times now, editing and revising as clarity has come. And I’m trusting now as ever in my favorite Bible verse, Psalm 37:4, “delight yourself in the Lord, and God will give you the desires of your heart”.