To Find What’s Missing, Look in the Gaps

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There’s what we believe. And then there’s whatever is absolutely 100-percent true and real.

In the gap between our beliefs and Absolute Truth are the things that hold us back. Mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

There’s what we expect. And then there’s whatever actually happens.

Sometimes things don’t go as we expect them to. Sometimes that’s kind of good or kind of bad. Sometimes that’s very good or very bad. The gap between our expectations and what we actually experience is what determines how good or happy we feel, or how bad or upset we feel.

There’s what we think we know about another person. And then there’s who they actually are, what they actually feel, what they actually believe, what they actually intend, what they are actually capable of—sometimes bad, but also sometimes good.

What’s Hiding in the Gaps Within Your Relationships?

In a marriage or otherwise long-term romantic relationship, there is always (like, ALWAYS) a gap between what any two people believe about one another and what is actually, 100-percent true.

I don’t mean a husband thinks his wife is a manager at a local bank, but is actually a high-ranking government intelligence officer managing a team of spies and assassins.

I mean a more typical scenario like a wife who believes her husband likes her meatloaf, but secretly he thinks it’s gross like most sensible people who struggle with foamed meat products, but because he—in an effort to be polite—doesn’t communicate his preferences, she doesn’t actually know.

There’s what you think he or she will do when you surprise them with a gift.

There’s what you think he or she will do when you dress extra-nice for them.

There’s what you think he or she will do when you tell them the bad news.

There’s what you think he or she will do when you suggest specific weekend plans.

There’s what you think he or she will do when there’s an emergency.

And then, there’s what actually happens.

Pleasant surprises. Crushing disappointments. The results will both delight and disappoint us to varying degrees.

You Don’t Know What You Think You Know

That’s neither an insult nor a judgment.

It’s a call—a plea really—for more humility and more hope.

You think he’s never going to change. Because after all of these years he’s never changed. But. What if you did something differently to achieve different results?

You think she’s never going to change. Because the things she says that hurt you are only intensifying. But. What if she’s feeling INTENSE pain that you’re accidentally causing, and despite her best efforts to communicate that you’re hurting her somehow, you’ve continued to inflict pain over and over and over again in a way that feels intentional at worst, and negligent at best? Is it possible she WOULDN’T be saying or doing those things—is it possible she wouldn’t take that tone or act exasperated—if she felt loved, cherished, respected, wanted every day of her life as she believed she would when she accepted your proposal?

We believe things.

We believe so many things. I’m not good enough. He’s an asshole. She’s a bitch. They don’t like me. They don’t respect me. They don’t want to be with me.

And then we’re often wrong. But because we BELIEVE the thought or idea, we FEEL it as if it were true.

We feel anxious. Or angry. Or jealous. Or sad. Or stressed. Or afraid.

People who feel shitty—whether they want to or not—harm their relationships. Relationships are a resource for finding support and strength and hope and companionship during life’s most trying moments. But when the relationship itself is the source of life’s most trying moments, then people turn elsewhere for the relief, support, and hope that they need.

It’s an ugly little cycle hiding in shadows and whispers.

Everyone is so blindly certain that what they believe and feel is real and true, that we allow the gaps between what we think and what’s actually real to ruin beautiful things. Our connections to others. To ourselves. To what’s possible.

Kind, beautiful, decent people are married to other kind, beautiful, decent people.

They have kind, beautiful, and decent children, and kind, beautiful, and decent friends.

Everyone means well.

Everyone cares.

Everyone wishes for the best.

But everyone is human. They believe things. And not all of them are accurate or true. And operating on false beliefs, we just keep serving our subpar meatloaf to people who don’t really like it.

What might you be missing?

What might the people you love, mistakenly but understandably, believe that could be harming your relationship?

What might be possible if we begin to eliminate the gaps between what we believe about ourselves and one another with what’s actually true and real?

You don’t know it, but I love you. (Platonically, you dirties.)

The things that hide in the gaps aren’t things we realize are even missing. The things that end our marriages and break our families are things only discovered by asking questions we would never normally think to ask.

Our beliefs guide us on autopilot.

Our lives can break on autopilot.

Be different, please. Be more. Every hopeless and cynical belief is an opportunity to be pleasantly surprised.


Not because things magically change, but because we can intentionally do things differently.

To 2019, and to each and every one of you.

9 thoughts on “To Find What’s Missing, Look in the Gaps”

  1. Great post Matt, and very true. Can be very hard to look past our beliefs at times and get past the “gaps”. I believe differing expectations coming into a marriage and lack of communication on expectations are the top causes for unhappy marriages/divorces. Definitely has played a major role in my marriage. Thanks for posting this.

  2. Awesome post. And the only way to minimize and narrow the gaps (you never completely close them) is through open, honest, and frequent communication. Unfulfilled expectations are the fertilizer for resentment, yet couples often spend little time sharing their expectations with each other.

  3. I think this is an important step. Like a diagnosis.

    The harder step imho is what do you do when there are differences in what you both expect. With things that aren’t trivial. The surface thing might be trivial like a dish left by the sink but the underlying expectations of how we relate to each other are not trivial. And are hard to change unilaterally.

    There is the real problem in my

    1. Totally agree. I’m of the mind that we can cross that bridge when we get there.

      It is my belief that the VAST majority of people enter and exit (painfully) relationships because of things they can never accurately explain or diagnose.

      Unrecognized problems are impossible to solve.

      I’m still just trying to encourage more people to pay attention to the stuff they’ve never even thought about before.

      It’s difficult to shine lights into corners no one actually wants deal with. And I don’t blame people because I’m exactly that way too.

      1. I agree with you about many people entering and exiting relationships because of things they can never accurately explain or diagnose.

        Do you find that once people realize the problem they are able to navigate to a different place?

        1. I’m just beginning to get first-person experience there with the recent coaching launch.

          I’m looking forward to getting more experience watching people who I KNOW “get it” attempt to try.

          1. I ask because I am one of those who KNOWS but is still navigating how to deal with it differently. It is a very frustrating and painful place to be.

            I think many couples know but despair of being able to change it after years of dysfunction. Or as you have written about there may be a point of no return aka “the walk away wife” as Michele Weiner Davis calls it. (Could be husband too of course.)

          2. Sorry to be a downer today ha ha

            I think if you get two people on board to change what needs to change it will work. If one is reluctant for whatever reason the process is much much harder.

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Matt Fray

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