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Disappointed by friends? Adjust your ‘Relationship Orbits’

Check out this article I wrote for the NY Daily News


If you ever find yourself repeatedly let down by your so-called friends, your expectations may be the problem.

“I can’t believe she lied to me-again!”

“Why do I keep putting up with his sarcasm?”

“Where is she? I’ve been waiting for 45 minutes already.”

Do you ever find yourself repeatedly let down by your so-called friends? The problem may not be with your friends—not exactly—but with your expectations instead.

If you find yourself disappointed or confused by your relationships, perhaps it’s time to learn about what I call Relationship Orbits.

Think of our solar system. The sun is at the center, with the planet Mercury holding the innermost orbit, followed by Venus, Earth, Mars, and so on.

If we use our solar system as a relationship metaphor, with you as the sun-center, then Mercury’s orbit represents your most intimate, loyal, loving relationships. These are relationships that you consider to be inviolate — people you know will be there no matter what. These are your “soulmates.” Moving out to the Venus orbit, we have your close, if not best, friends. These are people you know you can rely on in a pinch, who almost always have your back. You love being with Venus people. They’re fun, restorative, and consistent in their affections toward you. As dependable as this orbit may be, these people may occasionally let you down or just not always seem to be in tune with your feelings.

Next, we move out to Earth orbit. These people are your good friends. These are more casual, less intimate relationships, but solid, caring relationships nonetheless.
This orbit may contain associates from work, clubs or other activities, with whom you hang out occasionally. Clearly you get along with these people, even though your chemistry isn’t always in synch.

These innermost orbits represent your positive world of relating. This is not the case as we move to the outer orbits — Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and so on.
With the outer orbits, we have those who not only disappoint us, but, especially in the outermost orbits of Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto, may intentionally hurt, disrespect, or even abuse us. In these outermost orbits, you have zero expectations for any positive outcomes.

Do recognize that someone’s placement in a particular orbit is tentative. For example, a good friend at work — with whom you occasionally play golf, invite to your house for dinner, or even contemplate vacationing with — for no apparent reason tells your boss that you’ve been leaving work early for the last month. This person’s Earth-Orbit needs to be renegotiated. Since such a betrayal is not only inexplicable but potentially damaging, you have no choice but to move this person out an orbit or two (Mars or Saturn).

Note: Orbital placement is fluid. Based on real life experience, someone can sustain their current orbit, move to a closer orbit, or be placed in an outer orbit.

So, what can an understanding of Relationship Orbits do for you? For starters, you don’t ever have to be surprised, disappointed, or blindsided in a relationship again.
If you’ve placed someone in a Mars orbit, for example, you shouldn’t be shocked when they insult your accomplishments. This is what Mars people do! They occasionally need to bring you down. You can’t expect a Mars person to act like a Venus person (and vice versa).

A big problem for many people is recognizing that someone who has historically been in a close, inner orbit, doesn’t deserve to stay there anymore. For example, you repeatedly think, “she just keeps putting me down. I don’t understand it—she’s driving me crazy!”

In any relationship, if someone is chronically driving you crazy, it’s because they are in the wrong orbit, in which case you have expectations for them to be acting differently, right? So, if you expect a Venus person to be an ongoing positive, restorative influence in your life, and they continually drive you crazy, then something is wrong. They need an orbit adjustment.
Bottom line: Make a list of the people in your life. Decide which orbit each person fits into. Then, keep your expectations in line with each person’s orbit.

And by all means, if someone shows that they don’t deserve an inner orbit, move them outward. Once your relationships are assigned to their proper orbits, you’ll never have to be disappointed or confused again.

Dr. Joe Luciani has been a practicing clinical psychologist for more than 40 years. He’s the internationally bestselling author of the Self-Coaching series of books, now published in ten languages, which deal with anxiety, depression, and relationships. His latest book us, Unlearning Anxiety & Depression. He appears frequently on national TV, radio, and the Internet, and has also been featured in numerous national magazines and newspapers. Visit for more information.

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