I once read a quote, “The source of all disappointment is unmet expectations.” Perhaps unmet hope fits in there too, since all hope isn’t an expectation.
In the beginning — and sometimes past beginning — of a relationship there are unspoken expectations on both sides. You expect he’ll treat you with respect, honor your spoken boundaries, make contact frequently and see you regularly.
But what if his expectations of a budding relationship are different? Perhaps “contacting you frequently” for him is every few days and you expect at least once a day? Or “see you regularly” to him means once a week when you’d like at least two times or more? And perhaps he expects intimacy after the third date and you are thinking the third month.
Voicing your expectations is one of the hardest things in a new relationship. You don’t want to come across either demanding, needy or clingy. But in the absence of spoken expectations there is only guesswork. He’s guessing how to make you happy, and if he guesses right you need to tell him. And if he guesses wrong, you need to help him see what you’d like. And vice-versa.
This involves courage, especially if you really, really like the guy and are concerned your clarity may drive him away if it sounds like demands or neediness. So you have to word it carefully as “I’d like…” or “I have a request…” or “What I’d love from you is….”
I had this lesson recently. I’ve been seeing a new guy for 3 weeks. He has been the poster man for thoughtfulness, romance, kindness, chivalry. So much so I’ve dubbed him King Charming. We both tell the other how much we’re attracted to the other, how much we like each other, and yes, we even use the “smitten” word. So there’s no doubt we’re into each other.
Yesterday he asked gently, “What do you want?” I said, “I want as much time with you as possible before I leave next week.” When we parted, we discussed seeing each other today and that we’d talk to confirm a plan.
He called my cell phone a few minutes before I had an appointment this morning, and before we hung up he said he’d call me after my appointment. I said I looked forward to seeing him later today. During my appointment he texted me that he was going to have breakfast with a friend, putter around a bit and get some needed things done. He’d call me tomorrow.
Tomorrow?????? What happened to today? Did I misunderstand that we would see each other today? I guess so! Did the cell phone drop out when I said that? When I said “I want to see you as much as possible before I leave next week” was that not clear that I wanted a lot of time together? So now I’m wondering if I just wasn’t specific enough: “I’d like to have dinner together tomorrow night and go for a hike on Sunday.” Some gal pals tell me I was too nebulous.
It’s true that sometimes what seems clear to you is fuzzy to others. Maybe I didn’t use the exact words I think I did. Maybe “See you as much as possible” to him means a few times, or spending a day together. I didn’t ask how he interpreted my comment.
Who’s responsible for unclear expectations? I think both parties need to take some responsibility. I take responsibility that I wasn’t specific enough. When we talk I’ll ask him about his understanding.
Expectations — you need to have some, but you also have to have some flexibility if there are hiccups.