I’ll be the first to admit that expectations are hard to escape. We allow for extraneous factors and events to affect what’s currently going on in our lives, and sometimes this can be incredibly detrimental, especially when embarking on a new relationship.
Past experiences inform a lot of the ways we act on day to day basis, and this is fairly normal and healthy. What might not be so normal and healthy is assuming that your current relationship is going to be just like one you had in the past; that for some unknown reason, the expectation that a new person is going to behave in the same way as your ex lover. When we do this, we make assumptions about people that just aren’t fair. And really, don’t we want to give a new person, especially a new lover or romantic interest, the benefit of the doubt?
When expectations come into play, at least for me, there’s generally a lack of communication that accompanies them, and I believe that it’s this ultimate lack of communication that forces us to have expectations about other people in the first place. These expectations generally express themselves as insecurities about the relationship. And no one enjoys being blind-sided by their lover’s hidden insecurities.
And let me tell you. Those insecurities? They are a BITCH. Especially when you’re someone like myself, who comes with a lot of emotional baggage from past relationships, as well as self-acceptance issues.
But you know what? This new person does not deserve that kind of treatment. He/She deserves a fresh start, and a partner who is willing to communicate and take him/her at face value.
So, how does one manage expectations realistically, you ask? By communicating frankly and openly, and not being ashamed of what you’re feeling. Chances are, that other person might be feeling those same things, too. Asking someone you’re about to enter into a specific type of relationship with what they want and need out of this situation is not unwarranted. In fact, it’s necessary. How can two people expect to develop deep emotions and feelings of security for one another if they never discuss what they want and need? Questions you might consider asking for clarification, especially when it comes to a new romantic or sexual relationship, might sound something like this:
- What kind of a relationship are we planning on? Monogamous? Casual? Open? Poly? How should we go about navigating that decision?
- How often can we plan on seeing each other?
- How involved are we going to be in one another’s lives outside of sex (especially if the relationship is a casual, sex-oriented one)?
- What are your wants and needs? How do you feel that they’ll be fulfilled or hindered by this relationship?
Asking questions like this aren’t easy. These types of questions also force the asker to assess what he/she wants out of a relationship, and when these questions are answered honestly, feelings of vulnerability can rear their anxious heads.
So why do so many of us find vulnerability something to be avoided at all costs? Why is it so difficult to live and love openly and honestly, with no remorse or fear? Why is it so difficult to live without expectations? Simply put, because rejection hurts. Shame hurts. Feeling unacceptable hurts. And having expectations might just set us up to get a little less hurt.
No one ever tells you this, though: those same expectations also set us up to experience less joy and happiness. Those same expectations can make us feel awkward and strange because we are assuming people think certain things about us when they’re not. Those expectations can cause us to self-sabotage relationships.
So why hold on to this pseudo-security blanket when all it’s doing is hurting us?
New relationships can only grow and be healthy when we decide to stop expecting one person to act or think like another. New relationships require us to give the other person benefit of the doubt, and to be open, honest, vulnerable, and communicative.
I mean, really. You’ve made it this far with someone. Just let go. Let go of expectations. Your lover will probably surprise you, in a good way.