Pros and cons of expectations

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.

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5 responses to “Pros and cons of expectations”

  1. nysharon Avatar

    Stop–, “I said I looked forward to seeing him later today.” Hello->I think you were clear enough. The problem lies when you didn’t text him back that you were disappointed.
    Or he may be just playing games–not cool.

  2. Single Mom Seeking Avatar

    I agree: I think you were pretty darn clear.

    I’m curious how he replied when you communicated your disappointment.

  3. Another Ellen Avatar
    Another Ellen

    There’s a saying I’ve heard: Expectations are premeditated disappointments. But does that mean you just go with the flow and be satisfied with whatever? Not necessarily. I think there’s a difference between expectations and wishes or wants. You can *want* something — even work towards it — but not get pissed off and resentful if you don’t get it, particularly when the thing you want has to do with another human being’s behavior.

    I guess I”‘m into “reality therapy” these days — I can make an effort towards what I want, but if it’s clearly not happening, instead of being angry, maybe I have to either revise my want, look elsewhere, or accept that it’s going to be a long process.

  4. Meari Avatar

    The way I viewed it… You didn’t have concrete plans, so more than likely in his eyes he didn’t think anything of planning his day and doing the things he needed to get done. If you were disappointed, you should’ve communicated it to him immediately after receiving that text message from him. Three weeks really isn’t all that long. It’s not surprisng to me that he’d flake like that.

  5. Mike Avatar

    I think you were clear, but I do agree with everyone else. When your disappointed you need to let him know. The mind reading thing just doesn’t work.