Uncertainty is one of the most uncomfortable emotions for our human brains to process. In romantic relationships, there is a lot of uncertainty. Especially when it comes to what your partner is or isn’t going to do, when, and with whom. A way girlfriends learn to cope with that is by “seeing it coming”. A strategy that usually ends up costing more than it pays off.
Western society and pop culture have gotten it all wrong. The three little words that mean the most to us girlfriends are not “I love you”… There are three other words that are way more important to us.
“I knew it.”
These are the three little words that consume (grumpy) girlfriends’ minds. We can survive being cheated on, lied to, or betrayed… as long as we can say “I knew it” once it happens. But why are these words so important? Why are girlfriends so obsessed with “seeing it coming” that they are willing to sacrifice the happiness and joy they could be experiencing in their good relationships?
Let’s break it down, one reason at a time.
Being prepared will make it hurt less
This is one of the biggest lies we tell ourselves, not only in our relationships but in our entire lives! If I know it’s going to happen and if I am able to mentally and emotionally prepare, the pain of it happening will be less intense and awful.
I’m not going to lie, in a way we are right about that. But not in the way that you might think.
When you’re in a relationship with someone you love dearly, them leaving you or betraying you is going to hurt. No matter how much you prepare for it, it’s going to hurt to either lose the person you love or have to go through a healing process to stay together. The only way to lessen this hurt is to lessen the joy, love, connection, intimacy, and vulnerability you allow yourself to feel in the relationship… which a lot of girlfriends do. But that’s a topic for another day.
The reason we think being prepared is going to make this pain hurt less is that we think it offers us relief when shit hits the fan.
“I knew it was going to happen, I saw it coming, you didn’t fool me!” is the ice-pack you put on your broken heart. You think it’ll make you feel better because you take some of the power away from your partner and what they did.
But I want to offer you a complete 180 to this way of thinking.
I’m supposed to see it coming
Have you ever watched a movie, read a headline, or heard some gossip on the town about a woman being cheated on for a long time and thought “Yikes… how did she not know? How awkward.”
You’re not alone. Most of us have been programmed to judge the woman being betrayed and lied to harsher than we judge the man who cheated and lied. Intellectually, we all know that’s ridiculous and that the person who cheats is fully responsible. But somewhere deep down, we still feel second-hand embarrassment on behalf of the woman.
This transfers straight to your life and relationship. You think you’re supposed to see it coming and know right away, because if you don’t… well, that is embarrassing, awkward, and pathetic.
So to relate this need to not make a fool out of yourself to “preparation decreases the pain”, we can clearly see what’s going to happen if you don’t see it coming.
If you are caught completely off guard and shocked by being left, lied to, or cheated on, here’s what your internal monologue is going to sound like:
“I am pathetic”
“I should have seen it coming”
“How could I be so naive?”
“Everyone else knew before me”
“I’m a fucking loser”
“How could I just have been happy while this was going on?”
“I’m never going to let this happen again”
These thoughts produce feelings of guilt, shame, humiliation, embarrassment… Suffering that is added on top of the heartbreaking pain of being left or lied to. And this kind of self-loathing pain hurts. Bad.
So when we say “being prepared makes it hurt less”, what we actually mean is “being prepared will decrease my self-loathing when it happens”.
But did you know… that self-loathing after being left, lied to, and/or cheated on is optional? All we need to do to remove it is stop telling ourselves that it’s our job to see it coming. We are not pathetic for being happy and enjoying our relationships until we are given a reason not to.
If I see it coming, I can prevent it
Finally, a reason girlfriends want to see it coming is so that they can either prevent it from happening or leave before the partner has a chance to do it and thus “prevent the hurt.” This is all about protection from pain and avoidance of vulnerability.
Being in a relationship with an adult human being with free will is vulnerable. You’re literally saying “Hey, I want to be with you, and you can at any time choose not to be with me”. That shit is scary. So it’s just natural that our primitive brains would want to protect us from that.
But what this leads to is you constantly having one foot out the door of your relationship in preparation for your partner maybe choosing to leave you. So you’re literally a self-fulfilling prophecy at this point. You’re so scared the relationship will end that you’re halfway ending it ahead of time.
It’s not your job to prevent your partner from making their own choices using their own free will. You have to make peace with your partner’s free will if you want to stop obsessing over “seeing it coming”.
It’s not your job to see it coming. Being able to say “I knew it” if something were to happen is literally costing you the happiness in your relationship. You will have to feel the heartbreak of being left or lied to either way.
Instead of obsessing over seeing it coming, here’s what I recommend:
- Learn how to process pain. If you believe that you are capable of feeling any emotion without fear and without going under, you won’t be so terrified of heartbreak.
- Commit here and now to never turning against yourself if your partner chooses to leave, lie, or cheat. From now on, you can count on yourself to have your own back.
- Make peace with your partner’s free will. This is a tough one, but the only protection you need from their free will is your own. If your partner does something, you have the free will to decide how to respond and what to do next. That is all you need to be safe. It doesn’t prevent pain but go back to point 1 to see why that’s not a problem.
If you need support in learning these things, I can help! Check out my website to learn how we can work together going forth.