my great expectations

“If you expect nothing from anybody, you’re never disappointed.”  — Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

Apparently, I have high expectations of the men I date.  Not unreasonable expectations, but high expectations.  I’ve spent a lot of time recently not knowing the difference.

I’ve written before about how other people can make us feel like we’re utterly unreasonable or overly demanding or just plain crazy.  There is something almost hypnotic in the way that someone can make you question aspects of yourself or other things you know to be true.

I am so susceptible to this.  Really.  It’s amazing.

And it’s something I need to work on.  In a really big way.  And I suspect that I’m not the only woman (or man?) who needs to do so.

Because there is simply nothing wrong with healthy, reasonable expectations.  Certainly, the length and nature of the relationship should be considered, and not all expectations can be met each and every time.  But on the whole, having expectations that are reasonable and healthy for the relationship you’re in is a good thing.  This sense that you can count on your partner to be whom you need them to be is one of the things that knits you together and creates further intimacy and closeness.

On Friday, I spent some time with someone who pushed me to identify the healthy expectations I’d had — and found myself disappointed about — in my last relationship.  I hadn’t thought about it that way before, but it’s a great exercise.

It is healthy and reasonable for me to expect:

  1. To hear how my boyfriend of over a year feels about me.
  2. My boyfriend to want to spend holidays, vacations, and special occasions with me.
  3. That I am involved with a mature man who will treat our committed relationship with integrity and respect and not behave with other women in ways that would embarrass me.

I could go on, but you get the idea.

I think that sometimes we lower our expectations to meet whatever the person we’re with is capable of or willing to give us.  Perhaps we take that on ourselves, or maybe our partners put it onto us through their claims that we are “too demanding” or “unreasonable” or that we “just don’t understand” the position they are in.   Either way, the result is that we end up confused and uncertain — Are we too demanding?  Too controlling? Lacking compassion for their circumstances?  Pretty soon, it all feels very confusing.  Your needs aren’t being met (or even considered, as the case may be), and when you attempt to express that, you’re attacked.  It’s not really surprising that you start to feel like, just maybe, you really are wrong for wanting or needing what you do.

None of us wants to be that person in a relationship who steamrolls our partner with our needs or desires.  We don’t want to push our partners into something with which they aren’t comfortable.  I think most of us simply want to figure out which of our needs our partners are capable of and willing to meet and which they are not.  But conversations of this nature typically devolve into personal attacks and defensiveness — with one person claiming that the other person is pushing too hard or attacking them or being controlling.  What a shame that we can’t simply listen to each other and say, “Sorry, but I can’t do that for you.  I just don’t want to.”   At least then we’d know, and it would be clear.

James and I had many, many arguments like this.  I always walked away discouraged, feeling like it sounded like he couldn’t or wouldn’t do what I needed, but I simply wasn’t sure.  Usually I was characterized as being selfish, instead of us simply wanting different things.  James frequently thought I was angry with him over problems in our relationship, but, to be totally honest, more often than not, I was just disappointed and let down by him.  I’m ashamed to say that he succeeded in making me wonder if there was sincerely something wrong with me for wanting the things from a relationship that I want.  It wasn’t until that conversation on Friday that I remembered that the things I want are the things most women would want 15 months into a relationship with a man.  They are the kinds of things that build and reinforce a healthy and close adult relationship.  They are the kinds of things that I deserve.

Perhaps James will be able or will want to give those things to someone else, or perhaps not.  I cannot speculate, because I was never able to learn from him what he truly wants or how he truly feels.  What I do know is that I loved him very much.  I offered him everything I knew how to give, and I did so with honesty and integrity and compassion.  I was loving and faithful and supportive and understanding.

And I wasn’t wrong to want the same in return.



Filed under dating, love, personal growth, relationships, single mom

8 responses to “my great expectations

  1. No you were not wrong to want the same things in return. I’m glad you know that.
    The lessons of love hurt like no others…
    You are an amazing woman TPC – love, when it’s right, shouldn’t make us question so much.

    Admiring you for the growth you are making…. ::hugs::

    • Thanks very much, 35MS. I kept thinking… all those months…. that we were just working through the hard stuff and that eventually we’d have a breakthrough and plateau out onto the good stuff….

      The truly sad part is that I thought with Christmas, we’d done it, we’d finally made it, we’d found our sweet spot. Wow. I guess I couldn’t have been more wrong about that one.

  2. Nope, it doesn’t feel to me like you were wrong either, and reading your post made me realise that I suffer from the same kind of self-doubt when faced with someone who does not meet my needs…
    Expectations and standards are tricky, and I am still to work out how they can can fit in with the flexibility needed to adapt to someone and a particular relationship.
    It’s funny how your previous comment also reminded me of what happened with T, after all we’d been through, I thought we’d finally plateau-ed and found our feet again. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
    Ps. Not sure I like the internet dating lark. I’m finding the process a bit hard to swallow: Investing in a conversation, in someone, opening up before meeting them and then wham, getting rejected on the basis of a couple of hours at the restaurant isn’t the most pleasant thing to live through…I might need a thicker skin (but then again, they don’t sell them on Amazon), or do you have any useful tips to avoid disappointments?

    • Here’s my two cents on internet dating: treat it as practice and practice only. It’s important to get out there, to remember how to be social again, to remember how to be light and fun and playful and flirty. Divorce and its aftermath are so HEAVY and, in my experience, people immediately post-divorce have that heavy sadness around them (myself included), that isn’t the best attractant for the healthy, happy, well-adjusted members of the opposite sex whom you’d like to attract. So just treat this time as an opportunity to shake off that sadness and rediscover your splendidness. 🙂

      Besides, the likelihood that you are going to find someone who’s really good for you within the first couple of years is statistically very slim (note that I said “really good for you” — there’s lots to find, but you’re not likely recovered enough to find the good ones right away). But the attention is good, the affirmation is good, the reminder that you’re attractive and valuable and capable of taking a man’s breath away — all good reminders.

      I also think internet dating is good research. You’ve learned things from this last relationship and you’ve changed in fundamental ways. Time to re-evaluate your “wish list” and figure out what you’re looking for and what you honestly have to give. And don’t ignore the second part…. your interactions with the people you meet online will reveal a lot about what you might need to put on your “gotta work on that” list for yourself.

      Finally, think of this way, E. — if you hadn’t been skiing in years and years, you wouldn’t hit the black diamond slopes straightaway; you’d head for the bunny slopes for some test runs first. Internet dating is the bunny slope. 🙂

      Good luck. You’re doing just fine.

      Oh, and thanks for this. Writing this has reminded me that I should get out there and practice, too. Sixteen months committed to one person…. time to figure things out again.

  3. The things that bother me the most is when someone else puts their stuff on “us” and we sit and try to figure it all out and … it has nothing to do with us at all.

    You remember CB right? Suuuure you do. LOL … how much of a simpering female, with no clue, did I come across as? Well, that’s how I viewed it. All that time trying to figure something out and all the while, although he did say it was “him” not me, which I understand and appreciated, but how long did I sit there lamenting about this, that and the other thing, and … NOT stick to what I needed and wanted in a relationship? A LOT…

    Albeit, I was WAY out of practice and I have WAY too much leeway due to familiarity with that boy. He only did what I allowed him to get away with. I used all the good things I’d learned with the wrong person.

    I was highly amazed when I turned on myself at times the way I did instead of sticking with my original thought process “from the beginning” which was “He’s not ready”.

    I was way out of dating practice in any sense of the word. Yet, at the same time, I ignored my own good sense. Personally, I’ve learned quite a bit about ME in a painful way of ignoring me at the same time. If this makes sense. I’m not doing that again any time soon. In reading and paying attention again and knowing myself like I do … which is pretty well, someone else’s stuff and hesitation is not my own. it doesn’t make me wrong for wanting one thing and if they’re not on the same page, well… we’re not a match.

    You wanted all good things so far as I can see. When you get that evil little birdie in your head that contradicts your good sense, you remind the little birdie how far you’ve come and focus on shifting those negative thoughts around to your life experience and what you do know. Which is that you’re worth all the things you’re after. It takes longer when we’re selective… which, sucks. 🙂 However, what would suck MORE is if we give up and simply settle.

  4. MC, you hit on something that is bothering me, too…. I think I knew early on that James wasn’t able or willing (whichever) to give me what I wanted, but I let everyone around me convince me that it was my fear talking…. that I was running away, not because of what he and I lacked, but because I was just plain scared. Looking back, I’m not sure I was so much scared of the intimacy as scared of NOT finding the intimacy and having a pretty good intuition that it was all going to play out this way. There’s no going back now, and I don’t regret any time I spent with him because it was special to me and wonderful in so many ways, but I think next time I’ll listen more clearly to my gut.

    • This is exactly what I did with CB honey. One night, early on, I was on the phone with my friend MM Venting and in response to a telephone call I’d made earlier, I got a text. I was NOT a happy woman.

      Yup. My friend’s advise was to give the guy a break. But I knew “right then” in that moment, that boy was not ready for anything. And there were other factors that I ignored as well. I mean, initially, it … the first 3 weeks were kinda fun and based on schedules and stuff I let a lot slide.

      I disregarded my intuition. That boy wasn’t ready. I knew that. I mean “I KNEW THAT” and did it anyway. Put myself through a whole bunch of mess that I did not need to.

      We ignore our intuition because we hope we’ve some how gotten it wrong. Mine’s never lied to me and I would not go through that again myself, however what I did get out of that in the here and now is that I will never, not listen, to me again. I have way too much experience and I’m pretty familiar with myself.

      I hate when you juuuuust can’t put your finger on it. It’s the slow nag feeling where they’re doing “something” but it still doesn’t feel quite right. My friends, who rarely agree with me, I have to argue with … hell, pretty much all my life and those times where I “knew” and listened to them? Never turned out so well… I’m a fairly articulate individual (although it’s very funny when I get stuck LOL) and there’s nothing I can’t ask a guy, nothing I can’t address, I want to know… and that’s how it should be.

      You did a good thing … 🙂 You allowed yourself to relax and enjoy something … I did that too, the situation was massively different but I got to feel the shifts I made on so many levels and now at minimum I recognize them, so I can address them. It’s not about being jaded or cynical, it’s about knowing ourselves well enough to trust that we do know ourselves best. Because if WE don’t feel that way (vibe wise) it’s them but we turn that mess on ourselves…. THAT is where it starts getting interesting. 🙂 oooh boy!

      Oh. Look. I’ve gone on and on … Have a good night Precious.

      • I think that not only do we hope, but we also give the benefit of doubt to the person. Maybe we would have saved ourselves some grief, sure, but the other option is “what if” and I can say I, personally, would rather not go there. Cliche, but ya, I’d rather have loved and lost than not loved at all and wind up wondering what could have happened if….

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