When you find yourself thinking, “the animal world has it right,” it’s likely you’re feeling some frustration with humans. Whether this frustration is with yourself, your relationship, or even the (fill in the blank) who blocked two gas pumps at the gas station because he/she didn’t pull the car up far enough, it’s all the same really. You pretty much end up wondering why or how, with our advanced intelligence and resources in so many aspects, we can possibly still make life so complicated.
Well, being a therapist has allowed me a closer look at human frustration and disappointment from a somewhat emotionally removed standpoint and I have to say, it’s fascinating. Some of my most common examples come from those clients (mostly women in the specific cases I’m writing of) who are dating, or in long-term relationships. The complaints are often something like: “He doesn’t listen,” “He never makes the plans,” “He never remembers to call when he’s coming home late,” “We don’t spend time together,” “He doesn’t care about my feelings,” and so on.
Are these legitimate frustrations? One-hundred percent, yes. Of course, it is important to explore both partner's perspectives in regard to these complaints, along with their relation to past and present contexts, but for our purposes here I’d like to just focus in on these complaints as is.
Why is it that so many of us stick around in these relationships where our needs are clearly not being met, or a lot of times, not even worked for?
Let’s consider the male peacock for a moment. How he must impress the female with bright, beautiful feathers and the ability to move them (along with the rest of his body) in a special dance that might be pleasing to her; how he dedicates this energy and time (without grumbling or delay) into awakening the female’s every desire before he can ever expect to achieve his goal to be with her. And what does the female do? Well, she simply observes the male’s feathers, his size, his moves--- and if there is even one of these things that she finds the slightest bit unsatisfying, it is not only likely, but it is EXPECTED that she will turn her back to him and walk away without a second glance. At this point, the male peacock has lost his shot.
Now let’s shift back to the human world and just call it like it is…
We humans over-think and over-complicate our relationships to death! Always giving each other things like second chances, excuses, and other passes that are unheard of in the animal world. Unlike us, the female peacock isn’t worried that she’ll never find a better peacock; she doesn’t put her own feelings aside because she’s worried about the male getting hurt or mad at her; she doesn’t make the fact that he has some good moves distract her from his dingy feathers, and she certainly doesn’t come around again the next day to see if he’s changed.
Now, my point here is not that we should eliminate our advanced emotional understanding and behavior and regress to animal-like ways, but instead, it is to emphasize how our complex emotions, understanding, and behavior surrounding “love” can end up clouding our relational judgment, often resulting in our neglected individual needs.
In our human defense, we have come to know and see that change is possible with proper guidance, hence, why walking away from all that we love about a person simply because they’re not equipped with our every “ideal” feature or quality has become much harder and, more importantly, unnecessary. Plus, female peacocks don’t exactly have the pressure of long-term relationship goals in mind the way humans do and for this reason, likely have no inclination to even stick around long enough to see what it feels like when the male peacock gets tired of dancing for her. I am quite aware of the many differences between short-term attraction and long-term love and how this complicates a human-peacock comparison...
This is why the best time to refer to my Peacock Theory is only when we notice damaging negative patterns in our relationships. When second chances start turning into fourth and fifth chances. When making excuses for why we’re not getting what we need ends up draining or depressing us, or when we’re made to feel that our feelings and ways of doing things don’t matter because (though repeatedly verbalized), they continue to go unacknowledged.
Peacock Theory reminds us that we have every right to feel unimpressed by a lack of shown effort from others and that, rather than ignoring, or allowing it to continue, we can start setting new boundaries in our relationships that can either help shift them, or end them. The hope is, of course, that the peacocks in our lives will learn our limits and begin adjusting to them (the way we do theirs’) as opposed to always pushing, or resisting them. The other outcome is that they don’t and the relationship ends as a result. The wonderful thing about it though, is knowing either outcome will be healthier and happier for us, leading us closer to a life we not only want, but deserve.
Bottom line, it would be great if we could all (no matter what our sex) strive to be like the peacock in our relationships:
1. Knowing what we want, but also being willing to continuously work for it according to the guidance from our partners’ boundaries and needs
2. Always aiming to impress the ones we love and not allow ourselves to get “too comfortable” (AKA lazy, neglectful, etc.) once we have them
and 3. No longer resorting to keeping relationships that rely on the suppression or denial of our crucial needs.
As humans, our physical and emotional feathers can’t remain fluffed up and shiny on their own. It’s important to ensure that we and our partners keep up with such grooming in all ways possible so that we will not only have attracted one another in that very initial moment of contact, but will do so continuously...
...all the way up to a 30th anniversary and over and over again from there.
[ *Please note that my description of what goes on between male and female peacocks has not been seriously researched for detailed-accuracy. It is to be taken conceptually more so than factually, understanding that my sole purpose is simply getting across an overall point :) ]