As people do sometimes, you look back at certain passages of your life and wonder why things went the way they did. For my latest venture into the past, I decided to go over how many promises have been made to me by my ex partners over the years, and how many of those had been actually kept versus how many of them were broken in time. Let me give you a visual… Imagine each promise made is represented by a tree in a forest. Given the many promises, the image was of a lush and radiant tropical rainforest. After I did the count, it looked like those deforested Brazilian Amazon forest photos….complete tree carnage…the only thing left to see were the dead stumps on a barren field…
Considering how much a promise means to me, I was devastated to be confronted with this image. “Why!?!?!” was obviously the first question that sprung to mind. As much as I would like to couple these exes with them being horrible people, with no morals, sense of dignity, respect, etc….I can’t. If these men were like that, I would have never been with them in the first place. These men were not bad people, they did have a strong sense of what morals and decency are…so why did they make promises they knew beforehand, they couldn’t keep?
I reluctantly reached out to a handful to ask them exactly that: WHY?
The feeling of being a hero….even if it is for just that moment
One of the things that struck me the most is the thought that this “promise-breaking” cycle has its origins in a place where love and ego co-exist. They felt so much love for me at the time that the only thing they wanted was to make me happy.
But making me happy in a way that anyone else could would not be enough, they wanted to bring the type of happiness to our relationship that only a partner can do. They wanted to be the guy that made the girl feel on top of the world. They felt that in order to give that “ultimate” joy, they would have to make the “ultimate” promises….regardless of their ability to deliver. What they wanted was the rom-com movie-like scene, with the uplifting music at its climax playing full blast, the sunset burst in the background, the woman’s face glowing like a lighthouse, and them at the center of the spectacle….this is the hero moment they wanted to be able to produce for us. Partly ego, partly true love, and the rest, a total disregard on the dynamics of reality.
The pressure of society
Even if no one is directly pressing them to make promises like moving in together, getting married, buying a house, having children, men are surrounded by these implied pressures. Some feel they might not get societies’ “stamp of approval” if they don’t achieve certain milestones.
These pressures are sometimes interpreted as things they must do in life. So they talk themselves into thinking that is what they want to do as well. In time, you can self-indoctrinate yourself to “believing” anything. Time will also be the one to let you know if you truly feel that way or not, but what is clear is that there is a need to want to fit in that can drive you to make empty promises simply to fulfill that requirement.
But then why make a promise knowing perfectly well you won’t be able to keep it? Perhaps, because it’s a lot more socially acceptable to “try and fail” than not to try at all. You can always come up with a narrative that explains why your chivalrous attempts failed after the fact. Not trying at all is usually associated with “a loser”. Trying and then failing at least puts them in a place where sympathy and understanding is more easily awarded.
Lack of empathy and vision
Where the reasons described above all come from a place of thought, some men simply skip that part completely, and make empty promises simply because they can and it doesn’t cost them anything. Imagine if you have the power to make a person’s soul jump without costing you a cent…it’s like writing a check the recipient can only cash a year from now….and by then…you would likely be long gone.
If I arrived to any conclusion during this gut-wrenching exercise, I would say the biggest one are these three:
1) As important as the substance of the promise you were made, is who this promise is coming from.
2) The most amazing promise you could ever get is worthless if it comes from an unreliable source.
3) Never forget that they can make all the promises they want, but it’s up to you to accept them as part of your life, or not.
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