How to go from Expectationships to Relationships

Last week in my excitement while talking with a client I blurted out the word ‘expectationships’ when I meant to say relationships. But I actually took the word down because I felt like it was an important mix up that I had made and could possibly help others. I believe there are no accidents so this week I am going to talk about expectations in dating, what they can look like and how they hold us back from having the relationship we really want.

I remember very clearly the expectations I put upon the dating process, the men I was going to meet, and the ones I started dating. Basically they were: He should pay for the first few dates, open my doors, treat me like a queen, he should be the one reaching out to make plans, keep in touch and make me feel special, he should be the one introducing me to his friends first, talking about meeting the family first and I shouldn’t have to mention any of this to him, he should just know because if he doesn’t do those things then he’s not a gentlemen and I don’t want to date him. Now, even as I write these things down its hard because there was a time when I truly felt like this was the best way to date. I felt open and hopeful that I’d be able to attract and keep an amazing partner with this attitude. It took a long time for me to figure out perhaps there was something wrong with this approach. And please believe, I am NOT saying that a man should not do these things for a woman, but as I found out, it was my attitude of expectation and dis-contempt if these things did not happen that was the problem. Nowhere in my approach was I taking responsibility for what I wanted. I never communicated what I was looking for in a partnership, what was important to me in a relationship, or what I wanted for my future. It was the expectation of the other person reading my mind that got me into trouble.

Now, you might say something like “but, if he doesn’t do those things automatically then he’s not the kind of guy I want!” And to that I say this: that’s totally fair, and you should never settle for being treated poorly in any relationship, but to be so black and white about specific things you want while simply getting to know someone is a wonderful way to disguise your fear. And I would know. I hid behind my fear of an actual relationship for so long, I just didn’t know it. I felt like I was being honest about what I wanted but the truth was, it wasn’t working for me. And nowhere in that process did I allow myself to be vulnerable or open to the relationship I actually wanted! I was completely closed off because of my expectations. They kept me safe, at arm’s length from any potential suitor and they blocked me from seeing the true person in front of me as I was getting to know him. I blocked the good parts of my dates, but it also blocked the red flags because I wasn’t looking for them. I was focused solely on my expectations and that was it.

What I finally figured out was that I was allowed to have expectations, but I wasn’t allowed to use them as a block to intimacy. The way I moved from using my wants and needs to actually getting them was to communicate them in a loving, open, vulnerable way. In the past when I finally had mustered up enough courage to tell someone I was dating that I wanted more, I was so scared that I was going to push him away that I ended up doing just that from the way I said things. I made guys feel backed into a corner because I came at them with such intensity and anxiety. In my mind, I had waited so long for them to figure out what I wanted, that by the time I had the courage to say it, I was upset, mad even, and this came across strongly in my communication. My fears were being thrown at him because I didn’t feel worthy of what I was asking for.

Once I realized that I was actually allowed to want and need things like exclusivity early on and it didn’t mean I was needy or difficult, my whole dating world changed. My attitude became one of communicating what it was I was looking for, speaking up for my wants, and accepting if the other person didn’t feel the same. I was no longer afraid to be alone, so the thought of having someone tell me they didn’t want the same thing was OK. This allowed me to enjoy the dating process so much more and I began attracting emotionally available men. It was amazing to me to see the transformation and my confidence increased majorly. It was a process of feeling I was worthy, having the courage to communicate what I wanted, and coming to terms with being alone if I had to be. It took time and a lot of tears and struggle, but the strength I gained from the process was something I’d never felt before.

If you are using expectations as a way to stay safe, and it’s not working, I invite you to try another way. It may feel uncomfortable, but that is the only way to change that which no longer works for you. This process can seem never ending, but I am here as a reminder of hope. Things can change for the better and you can be the reason for this change. You have the courage and you have the power to make it happen.