Thursday, February 9, 2012

Letting Go of Expectations

After dating for what feels like an eternity, there are some things I've had to learn the hard way. I think my biggest relationship lesson has been learning to let go of expectations.

Movies, television, magazines, friends, past experiences, parents, websites, blogs - all of these things tell us what our relationships should look like. We're bombarded with images of picture-perfect couples. We see our best friends experiencing relationship bliss. We see Facebook statuses (or is it stati?) that read:

Hubby woke up early, cleaned the house, made me heart-shaped pancakes, filled my car with gas, took the kids to school, told me to go back to bed, then ran me a hot bath!

I now expect Brian to get out of bed, make me some pancakes, update his Facebook status, and tell everyone how beautiful I am.

Then I'll Instagram it and the world will be jealous.


Breakfast in Bed!!!! Best Boyfriend EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Fortunately for Brian's sake, I have a firm grip on reality.

Reality rained down on me once.
Literally.

It was sometime during our first weeks of dating. We were going out with friends in downtown Raleigh and it was raining outside. Of course, I figured Brian would drop me off at the door, but he didn't make that offer and I never spoke up. So we parked a half-marathon away from the restaurant, and I walked there in my high heels. No umbrella. In the rain. And since Brian wasn't wearing high heels, he thought it best he sprint to the door.

It wasn't one of his shining moments.

You can predict how the rest of the evening played out.

But if nothing else, it was a lesson learned.  
  
Be vocal about what you want instead of silently expecting it. I can't begin to count how many times I've stomped around the house in anger, given him the silent treatment for twenty minutes, or loudly sighed in frustration, and gotten absolutely zero response from Brian in return.

I've gotten much better results by saying "Brian, I'm mad about ______. Here's what you can do to fix it."

That night I spent in downtown Raleigh with frizzy hair, wet clothes, and a bad mood could have easily been avoided. I could have said, "Brian, drop me off at the front door please." Instead, I expected him to be a gentleman, then I was mad at him when he wasn't.

Stop expecting anything in the first place. There was a time when I thought my boyfriend would eventually give up his late nights of drinking, playing pool, and hanging out at the same bar every Friday and Saturday. When the weekend would roll around, I would get extremely frustrated to hear his plans and realize that they didn't involve me. After a year of this constant struggle, I finally resolved not to expect anything different. It changed my attitude entirely, and I became a much happier person because of it.
 
Hold yourself to your own standard of expectations. There's no doubt that you should have expectations when it comes to specific aspects of the relationship, such as treating each other with respect. It's also true that you get what you give. I've tried to turn the focus inward and hold myself accountable to my own standard of expectations. When I do this, things always seem to fall into place. When I make Brian a priority, he's more inclined to make me a priority. When I give a compliment, I usually get a compliment in return. When I don't nag, I usually don't get nagged. If we focus on improving ourselves, the people around us will naturally do the same. 

I don't ever try to make my relationship appear to be something it's not. It's not romantic, sappy, or Facebook worthy. 

You want to know what my relationship is?

A lot of hard work.

And I'll never expect anything less.

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