Letting go of Expectations – Dating an Actual Human Being
When we grow up, especially as girls (not like I’m trying to generalize here), we start to develop ideas of who we want our partner to be. What should he/she look like? Eye colour or hair length? What about personality – funny, awkward, shy, outgoing, etc? And although we can hopefully grow up and become a little more flexible with who our ideal or potential partner should or could be, I think we all still harbor little expectations about the person we want to end up with.
Me? I wanted a prince. I was so caught up in my family drama and sometimes abuse, that I wanted someone who would be able to save me from my situation, and eventually, myself. I wanted someone to fix me. He had to be kind, patient, and understanding. He would have to love me no matter how insane I get, or how many issues I have. He’d have to be honest to a fault, rarely ever get mad, be a bit sappy, and definitely a nerd. He’d always have to put me first, be serious from the very beginning, and someone I could have a really deep emotional connection with, because anything physical terrifies me, and he’s going to have to be okay with that.
Flash forward to today.
Now I love my boyfriend with everything in me. He’s my absolute favorite person in the world, my safety and protection, and my best friend. But what he isn’t, is perfect.
He’s not an emotional person – he’s actually a lot more touchy. He used to get ticked off when I got all teary eyed because he didn’t understand it. He tends to be passive avoidant, has a tendency to cover up the truths he doesn’t want to admit by brushing them off, and sometimes he gets so caught up in his own life and whatever he has going on in the moment, that he completely forgets to spare a moment for me.
Now, granted, a lot of those things he’s getting better at. He’s a boy trying to figure out his own life in a world that offers very little grace, and I’m so exceptionally proud of how much he’s grown in this past year alone. However, my point isn’t to talk more about my boyfriend, it’s to talk about a problem most, if not all, relationships have.
I expected a lot from him. A lot that really wasn’t that realistic. Always has to put me first? Has to be there to ‘fix’ me when my issues come up? Has to instantly know how to love me in the way that makes sense to me without me teaching him how? He has to be able to pick up on all my subtle signs so I don’t have to be straight out honest with him? Those are some big stipulations to fill.
And you know what? He doesn’t fill them. He messes up. He makes mistakes. Sometimes he gives me exactly what I need, and other times he doesn’t. That’s not a bad relationship, that’s reality.
No one can fix you. No one can fight your battles for you, and no one, absolutely no one, can anticipate your expectations and fulfill every one of them.
I’ve had a lot of one-sided arguments with my boyfriend in this past year. And by that, I mean that I’ve gotten upset with something he’s done – or usually something he hasn’t done – and I’ve taken it out on him and our relationship. It’s only when I step back that I come to realize two things. Number one, my anger for him is because of an unrealistic expectation I expected him to fulfill, and number two, he had absolutely no way to meet my expectations because I never told him what they were in the first place.
This is where we come to a bit of a crossroads here – the expectations you let go of, and the ones you teach your partner.
Now, as a side note here, I’m not talking about boundaries and expectations you should have for a relationship to be healthy. You should expect your partner not to be abusive, to want to be involved in your life, and a whole heck of a lot of other things that are vital to making it work. I’m not talking about things like that, so put that aside for now.
Often times, what we come to expect from someone is quite unrealistic. Take mine, for example. He has to be able to save me? To always put me first in everything? Not only are those impossible for someone to fulfill – those are unhealthy! As I write this, I’m binge watching Netflix. There’s a show, Hannibal, and a husband and wife are talking about their issues. No spoilers here, but he turns to her and says, “this isn’t my battle to fight, it’s yours. But I’m going to be here with you every step of the way.” I don’t want my boyfriend to fix me, or solve all my problems. I want to do that by myself. I just want to know that he’s got my back while I fight my own battles. And no, I don’t want him to put me first in everything. He needs to have a life outside of me! He needs to have friends and work and space away sometimes, and if I don’t allow him that, our relationship gets pretty messed up. So in which case, these are expectations that I need to let go. And when I get particularly frustrated with him, I stop, take a breath, and decide whether I’m ticked because of the unrealistic standards I hold to him, or for a good enough reason.
Then we come to the expectations that we need to teach our partners about. No one will instantly know how to be in a relationship – how to love their partner in the way they need to be loved, and so on. We need to learn that as time goes by. Following my previous example of needing my boyfriend to come along side and support me – well he’s not going to know that I need that, or what that support even looks like, until I open up and tell him about it. For me to expect that he’s going to figure it out on his own, that I can just assume that he’s going to pick up on my subtle hints, is going to do nothing but make me mad, and put a wedge between us.
As a key point here, we need to learn how to love one another properly. And that takes time. Only through open conversations and honesty can that actually happen.
Here’s the thing guys: as soon as I was able to let go of my unrealistic expectations, and start opening up about the things I need, my boyfriend’s been nothing but accommodating, sweet, and has been going out of his way on a consistent basis to make sure I’m being taken care of in the way I need to be.
So take a moment to stop and think about this. What expectations do you have in your relationships, your families, or your friendships? Which of those expectations are ones you can let go of, and which ones are ones you need to teach to others?