We all make mistakes. People are fallible. Laura jokes that she forgot to turn on her microphone for this episode’s introduction. Vincent quips that he’s given her grace over the faux pas.
In this spirit, today we look at what happens when a significant other places their partner on a pedestal, instead of acknowledging their significant other’s foibles. Today’s advice is offered for dating couples, not married couples, as we continue our series, “Eight Warning Signs You Might Need to Break Up.”
Knocked Off the Pedestal
Vincent starts with a story about his cousins Phil and Chuck when they were little. Two older cousins were babysitting them one day. Phil and Chuck were in the backseat of the car talking.
Chuck reads signs off the highway and the older cousins are impressed. He then shows off his skills at reciting the alphabet backwards, rapid fire.
His older cousins are impressed and praise him for his knowledge. Phil retorts “Oh, yeah, well he eats boogers!” Phil had to take him off his pedestal.
Let’s Talk About This Unhealthy “Pedestal Making”
Cute kid stories aside, are you putting the person you’re dating on a pedestal or are they putting you on a pedestal?
Warning: If you say any of these things, or any of these things are said about you, there are some unhealthy things going on in your relationship!
The following statements, although unhealthy, are often heard in movies and tv.
Some Warning Statements:
1.) You’re the man/woman of my dreams. (You make my dreams come true.)
Our dreams are ideals, pillars of perfection, they are not reality. Telling someone that they are the person of your dreams is saying that they are not real. If you catch yourself saying this, it is important to recognize how this person meets your needs and tell them how they are good to you. An example would be “Wow, you were being so thoughtful when you…”
2.) You are perfect.
Laura mentions that she often hears this statement from people that she counsels. When someone enters therapy for relationship issues, it is not uncommon for them to start out by saying, “I don’t know what happened! They were so perfect!” Really, these people were living a short-lived fantasy. They were unable to see the person’s faults.
3.) Making too strong of a positive comparison between you and their same sex parent.
Again, this is a common occurrence seen in couple’s counseling. So much friction occurs because this comparison has been made. It leaves a partner feeling like they are forced to live up to someone else’s way of life and they cannot be themselves.
4.) You complete me.
We joke about this one frequently. Austin Powers referenced this classic “Jerry Maguire” line when Dr. Evil said “Mini Me, you complete me!” Even other movies are able to poke fun at how unhealthy rom-coms can be. Jerry is pretty much married to his work, then he begins a relationship with his secretary. He trades one unhealthy habit (workaholism) for a codependent one with his secretary. It sends the message that people are incomplete without other people and it forces an unrealistic burden on the partner.
5.) I never meet up to you.
Pitting your significant other against yourself, making a comparison that finds one “better” than the other. An example in marriage would be making the statement, “I married up.”
6.) You’re too good for me.
In his book “Wild at Heart,” author John Eldredge discusses an encounter he had with a woman who he had given relationship advice. She had been in a relationship with a man who made frequent statements about her being so wonderful. He would say things like “I’ll never meet up to you. I’ll never be as good as you are.” In her maturity, she could see how unhealthy that was and she broke up with him. She was healthy enough to recognize that he was not loving who she was genuinely as a person. He was loving his version of her— a fantasy version. He was projecting a fantasy on her.
7.) I can’t live without you.
This one may sound sweet, but it is terribly codependent and unhealthy. It is like the parasite needs the host. It puts unforeseen pressure on the receiver as it “hooks” them with an internal dialogue of “What have I got to do to take care of them?” The healthy counterpart to this is the relationship where both parties complement one another, not relying solely on the other person for certain things. Some couples who struggle when there is an irresponsible party involved may particularly fall into this trap. Be sure to reference episode 065 “Are They Responsible Enough”, if you need more help with dealing with an irresponsible significant other.
Results of Putting Someone on Pedestal
1.) Pressure to be perfect
The receiver of the compliment feels pressure to maintain an extravagant level of perfection that creates a huge emotional burden on themselves and it feeds the compliment giver’s fantasy every time they over-perform. It’s not fair to do this to someone. In essence, they are wanting the other person to be God to them. In ways they are idolizing the other person and placing them on a level above God.
2.) Feel like you have to live up to their expectation
The compliment receiver then feels a need to live up to a God-like expectation. You can’t make a mistake. It creates so much anxiety. If you’ve been told you are perfect for so long and then you fail, make a mistake, or don’t perform greatly, it can cause a big let down for the compliment giver and a lot of anxiety for the compliment receiver.
3.) When they fail, big emotional whiplash for other person
The person that used to believe that their significant other is perfect will be in for a huge shock. This expectation of the other person has created a conditional love. (That is, the significant other must be a certain way to be loved.)
The person on the pedestal will feel that he must always be on his “A game”, must always hit the home runs. He may not feel loved for who he is. This flies in the face of wedding vows (for when the time comes). They read, “in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad,” meaning that there is no condition placed on our love for our loved one.
4.) Feel like you can’t be yourself
You can’t relax. You are not being received as who you really are. You’re performing and putting on a facade.
5.) Huge emotional burden
This is very draining to the person on the pedestal. You must always be “on” with them, continually acting. This is very damaging to a relationship. It drains your resources too, leaving little energy left to put into the relationship.
6.) You’re taking too much responsibility
Not only is being on a pedestal an emotional burden, it is a physical one, as well. If you are in a relationship, it is important to ask yourself, “Am I taking responsibility for how my significant other feels?”
7.) Not seeing the person for who they are
This is a recipe for failure. Putting your significant other on a pedestal is not realistic, and when this person fails, you probably won’t have the relationship skills to deal with the failure. It will be difficult to process.
Don’t let a statement like “I can’t live without you” pass without addressing it. If your significant other says “I can’t live without you,” it will be important to ask, “When you say ‘I can’t live without you,’ what did you mean?” It’s important to understand what their motives are for saying these things.
Many times, they are not particularly thinking through what they are saying. Their statements are often influenced by what they have heard others say, our culture, movies, and even their hormones.
Sweetie Let’s Have A Talk…
If you find that they want to continue placing you on a pedestal, it will be important for you to tell them that you want a genuine relationship – that you need to have an understanding between the two of you of what that looks like.
Don’t think that you can marry someone and then “change them.” Having discussions like those just described is a healthy approach to being transparent in a relationship.
Where Is God In Your Relationships?
God is our ultimate measure in everything. We are usurping God when we place a human in His role.
Go back and look at “Results of placing someone on a pedestal” found above, and put God in the place of your significant other in each of these instances. You will then be re-prioritizing your life in a healthy way.