Once upon a time, a squirrel was wandering about through some woods when she heard cries for help. She followed the sounds to a deep hole among the trees. At the bottom of the hole, a snake looked up and said, “Oh, thank goodness you’re here! Please help me! I fell into this hole and I can’t slither out. Please, please help me.”
“I don’t know,” replied the squirrel. “I’d like to help you; I’m sorry that you’re in this hole, but…after all, I’m a squirrel and you’re a snake.”
“Oh, please, please, help me!” begged the snake even harder. “I need you! You just can’t leave me here in this hole.”
Moved with pity, the squirrel looked around to see what she could do. She noticed that a long branch from a nearby tree hung over the hole. She climbed up the tree and set to work gnawing on the branch. After a great deal of effort, the limb finally broke from the tree. It fell at an angle into the hole and the snake was able to slither up the branch and out of the hole.
The squirrel, exhausted from her efforts, wearily climbed down from the tree to meet the snake.
“Thank you!” said the snake. “You saved my life.” Then he bit the squirrel and began to coil around her, crushing her.
“But I saved your life,” gasped the squirrel weakly. “Why would you do this to me?”
He said, “Because I’m a snake, and I’m hungry.”
Why are we surprised when someone exhibits consistent behavior? If your partner always promises to stop at two beers and then blasts through ten, why are you still surprised by it? If she tells you that she’ll come right home, but then stays out late for the umpteenth time, doesn’t it make more sense to expect her to do what she typically does? Why are you still just hoping that she’ll magically change?
It is tempting to think, “I cooked him dinner; he should help with the dishes.” Now, if he never helps with the dishes, why expect that behavior to change this time? Why are you still surprised by consistent behavior? Doesn’t it make more sense to expect the behavior? It certainly does. Now, make a decision: is this the relationship that you want? If you’ve communicated the change that you desire–and your partner still hasn’t made that change–isn’t time for a realistic appraisal of your relationship?
You can’t change other people; you can change your thinking about other people. You can decide to stop bothering yourself and make decisions based on what is a realistic expectation.
Remember: life is challenging. Life is difficult. If your partner doesn’t consistently make things easier for you, doesn’t it make sense to expect that your partner isn’t going to make things easier for you?
Don’t expect gratitude from the ungrateful; don’t expect selflessness from the selfish. Don’t expect mature behavior from the immature.
Don’t expect a snake to be anything but a snake.
At what point do we blame the squirrel?