A Pitfall of Love
A man and a woman were deeply in love—in real, deep, ongoing love. He was a (PA)-style and she an (EI)-style.
The man was not too happy with the job he had, and he dreamed of working a particular job that would offer him happiness galore.
One day, the man got a standing offer from a company in another country. He could take the job abroad anytime he wanted. He went to visit the company and found that the job was the one he’d been dreaming about all his life.
But, the man felt deep ties to the woman and didn’t want to leave her. For many reasons, the woman could not move to the other country, so the man did not take the job.
The man felt frustrated by the situation, and that frustration manifested in aggression towards his partner. The woman was aware that his hostility was a product of his decision not to take his dream job. She felt guilty for keeping him away from his dream. She loved him so much that she felt she must give him the freedom to go.
One day, the woman gathered the courage to say to him, “My love, go follow your dream. I don’t want to be the reason that you miss the job that will bring you the happiness you deserve. You’re free.”
Her message elated him. He could not sleep from excitement. Finally, he could live his dream.
But, that night, the woman cried. She could not sleep. She realized that she might emotionally die if he were to leave, so she wrote him a note that said, “I hope you don’t leave because I will miss you so much if you do.”
The note infuriated him. The woman was giving him a double message: she told him that he was free to leave but that she hoped he wouldn’t. He felt abused. He felt that she was playing with his emotions, with his dreams, with his life.
For a (P)-type like this man, this is the worst kind of treatment. (P)-types think in terms of black and white, with no gray in between. A (P)-style’s attitude in this situation would be, “Tell me to go or to stay, but don’t tell me both.” (P)-styles like to follow decisions that are final. Minimum uncertainty.
The woman, on the other hand, was an (E)-type, a type that prefers to live in gray areas. They are yes but no, back and forth. She did not want to arrive at a final decision. If she were to finalize things, her choices would cease to exist. For an (E), it is normal to want to have a cake and eat it, too. They like to have all their options permanently open so that they can have the freedom to move from one option to the next as they suit them at the time.
Being an (E), the woman did not understand why the man was furious. She only told him that she wanted him to be happy and that she would be miserable if he were to leave. She was being honest. She told him plainly how she felt, so why would he be furious?
He was furious because she gave him a double message, which is something (P)-types cannot stand. (P)-types like clarity and finality.
My analysis is this:
If the two people had not loved each other so deeply, it would have been a much simpler problem to solve. He would have told her, “You know what? I love my dream. I must leave.”
If she hadn’t loved him quite so much, she would have said, “I see that you are in pain and that you are frustrated. Why don’t you follow your dream? Leave me and do not worry if I will be okay.”
The problem here, as I see it, is that neither of them was willing to take responsibility for making the decision. She was not willing to take responsibility for the situation and decide which was more important to her: that he find happiness in his new job or that he stays and love her. She did not want to make the decision, so she put the burden of making the decision on him.
But, the man didn’t want to make the decision either. He wanted her to decide; “Tell me to go or tell me to stay. Just be clear what you want. Period” Neither wanted to make a decision that could be interpreted as unloving. Neither wanted to make the painful decision and hurt either themselves or their loved one. So, each expected the other to decide. The other to take the pain.
Expectations are the pitfall of love.
Dr. Ichak Kalderon Adizes
Founder and CEO, Adizes Institute Worldwide