Are "Should" and "Ought" Blocking Your Path to Love?
How to overcome three intentional roadblocks to love
By Kathryn Lord
Have you heard yourself saying things like "I should be thinking about my Sweetheart 24/7 or I must not be in love" or "I should know if he (or she) is the right one for me"? Or how about "We should have... (fill in the blank: the same sense of humor, a similar background, or compatible taste in furniture)"?
I find that lots of singles have rules that guide their love life. Some rules make good sense (like only dating people who are really single and available, economically stable, and live within the law). But many rules are unrealistic, harsh, or based on romantic myths. Then these singles end up comparing their dates with their guidelines, sensible or not, and making life decisions that have enormous consequences.
I am a romance coach, but I have also been a psychotherapist for over 30 years. I learned long ago to listen carefully to the language my clients use when they talk about themselves and their lives. In particular, I'd watch for the words "should" and "ought."
What's wrong with 'should' and 'ought?'
While exceedingly and commonly used, "should" and "ought" could easily be eliminated from our vocabulary. At the very least, we would all feel a lot better. Should and ought are guilt-producing words: "I should spend more time with my mother," "I really ought to lose some weight." The sayer doesn't really intend to do what he is shoulding or oughting. If so, he'd say, "I will spend more time with Mom," or "I'm going to start dieting today."
Shoulding and oughting are like giving yourself a lash on the back
Shoulding and oughting are like giving yourself a lash on the back: You are punishing yourself with your "I should" or "I ought" statements. Your guilt is eased with your punishment, making it possible to go on with your life, while never following through with what you said you should or ought to do.
In the case of love, shoulds and oughts give us a way out when we need it, just like being picky. Looking for love is loaded with anxiety: "What if it doesn't work?" "What if I find out I don't really love her?" "What if he finds out about (you fill in the blank)?" When your anxiety screams for relief, pulling out a good old should or ought can provide your escape hatch.
Top 'shoulds' and 'oughts': Road blocks to love
Let's look at some common shoulds and oughts more closely, so that we can see the errors in thinking:
1. "I should be thinking about my Sweetheart 24/7 or I must not be in love." Odd as it may sound, some people never feel the intoxicating sensations we think of as "being in love." The ability to fall in love is on a continuum:
Some people fall in and out of love very easily, some people never do.
Some people fall in and out of love very easily, some people never do. Most of us are somewhere in between. Those people who never "fall in love" are still quite capable of loving and forming relationships. If you find yourself waiting for the "in love" sensation which never comes, the "I should be thinking about my Sweetheart 24/7 or I must not be in love" could keep you permanently single.
2. "I should know if he (or she) is the right one for me." Really? How? Of course there are better or worse choices, but assuming that your date meets your criteria of "good person" and the two of you enjoy each other, seem compatible, and don't irritate the heck out of each other, what more do you need? This "should" may be connected to your "falling in love" ability: If you are able to "fall in love," that biochemical process (it's like being drunk or high) helps surge you forward into a permanent relationship and over any questions or doubts.
3. "We should share the same ... (fill in the blank)." Why? One of the wonderful parts about finding a life partner is all the things that he or she knows and you don't, or is and you are not. Think of what you can learn from the differences. Or what you won't have to learn because your partner already knows.
Yes, some similarity is good, but why would you want someone just like you?
Yes, some similarity is good, but why would you want someone just like you? You may be pretty terrific, but how boring would it be to be married to your carbon copy!
So pay attention to your inner thoughts about love and your dates. If "should" or "ought" crop up in your thinking, take note and challenge yourself. You may have set up a condition that is road-blocking your search for love.
Interesting article I must say and I just have to share it with you guys J