Great Expectations

Hang on to your hats…this will shock you.

I’ve been thinking a lot about relationships lately.


I know, right? This is pretty surprising. But the focus of much of the circular, pointless monologue running through my Crazy Girl Brain* has revolved around what issues, exactly, make or break a relationship. Okay, there’s the obvious:  infidelity, geography, kids (love ’em/hate ’em), inexplicable addictions to show tunes or cartoon figurine collections and/or unreasonable aversion to toilet cleaning. But what about the more subtle issues? What about the little things – quirky, or cute, or only mildly annoying at first – that so quickly become heavyweight contenders in the relationship ring?

*Henceforth known as CGB. And for the record, sometimes guys have this problem too – Crazy Guy Brain.

Somewhere in the endless cycle of questioning all the little things, I’ve managed to latch on to one big thing:  the success of a relationship is largely based on the communication of expectations. This is the Catch-22 of any relationship:  you can’t move forward unless you communicate, but sometimes communicating prevents moving forward. The tricky part is that when expectations aren’t the same, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the potential relationship is doomed – it just means that you’re going to have to work a lot harder to find a common ground.

An example (this has happened at some point or another with basically everyone I know in the beginning of a dating relationship)**:

Guy and girl like each other. Guy and girl are really busy. Girl has a night free; guy may or may not already have plans.

Guy says that he’ll call IF he’s free to get together on said open night for girl.

Girl hears (with her CGB) that he’ll call (early in the day) and update her on the status of whether he THINKS he’ll be free, and then will call again when he knows for sure (regardless of whether he’s free or not), and then if he IS free will have already made plans to do something with her and will be all excited about it (which he’ll share on said call) and if he’s NOT free will be all disappointed about it and sorry that he can’t get together and will also make future plans to get together at another time and then will text at some point during whatever thing he has to do that night and tell her how he wishes he was with her instead. Naturally.

Guy doesn’t call.

Girl is pissed.

Guy doesn’t really understand why, and is sort of annoyed that girl is so annoyed.

Girl is doubly pissed, because not only did he NOT call, he ALSO now doesn’t even understand why she’s mad.

Guy and girl now have no plans for future dates. Naturally.

So here we have a classic example of different expectations. Guy did exactly what he said he was going to do:  He didn’t call because he wasn’t free. Girl, on the other hand, has not communicated exactly what her expectation was, which is basically that she would have liked to hear from him one way or the other. All the rest of that stuff she thinks…well, that’ll be a life-long quest to quell the crazy, and at some point a very good (or patient) man will figure it out and do all those things she wants but doesn’t say as a preemptive strike against a pointless argument later.

In the meantime, this one tiny miscommunication – a drop in the proverbial relationship bucket – is now probably the reason guy and girl won’t be dating, unless guy gets a clue (from men more experienced than he) or girl can figure out a way to communicate a reasonable expectation without demanding it.

**This obviously isn’t specific to heterosexual relationships.

So should girl have said, “This is what I’d like _______ (insert reasonable expectation here).”? Would that turn guy away from making an effort to meet that expectation? Should guy have said, “This (a reasonable modicum of time) is what I can offer right now – if you can accept it, I’d like to date you.”? Would that turn girl away, knowing that the dating path may be long and bumpy?

Obviously if we could answer these things quickly and easily, there would be a lot less frustrated dating and a lot more contented couples. Not that contented couples don’t also go through this, but that’s another blog post.

So what’s to be done? At the end of the day, the only things to do are the simplest – and hardest. Be honest. Be clear (without providing to potential partners a laundry list of needs and a checklist of questions). Let the little things go, before the collective frustrating moments in a dating situation lead to so much miscommunication that you’re not dating at all. There’s always the possibility, too, that someone just isn’t that into you, and that’s why you’re not hearing from them, or getting less of their time than you’d like. But if they are into you…well, don’t wreck it by letting CGB run the relationship. We should be clear about what we want, so the other person has any kind of shot at delivering – and then deliver in return when expectations are communicated from the other party.

However, for guys, a parting thought:  For the record – you can almost NEVER overcommunicate with us. Seriously. If someone hasn’t already told you this, and you actually are interested in dating, write it down – and then text the girl you like. You’d be amazed how sometimes just 160 characters will not only meet but exceed our expectations.


4 responses to “Great Expectations

  1. Oh my stars. Just call him!

    When I was 23, I started dating this guy. We went out every night for two weeks. Finally, I said to him, “Are we dating? I think that’s what we’re doing.” He agreed. Two months later, I said, “Are we boyfriend and girlfriend now? Can we cut the BS and call it what it is?” Four months after that, after dancing around the issue, I sat down next to him abruptly one night on the steps outside my apartment. “Listen, I’m going on vacation without you tomorrow, and am a little superstitious. I just wanted you to know that I love you.” Four and a half years after that, we were married.

    CGB is a tool of the devil, and must be outsmarted by strict honesty at every turn. But the trick is, you’ve got to be honest with yourself before you’re honest with anyone else.

  2. If I could “like” your comment, I definitely would. And I love your dating-to-married story. 🙂

  3. Good stuff Kelsey. I am a fan.

  4. Kelsey,
    You’re brilliant, because I feel like your story is the story of my life lately.

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