So, in this week’s episode of The Break Up Journal, I grapple with expectations. Mostly my expectations of others (my PoA in particular) and whether or not they are realistic or unrealistic. On the one hand, I’m angry at P for being “lazy” and not reaching out to me enough while I am away. On the other, I turn my anger into a sort of “suck it up” attitude, directed inward, and basically determine that I am a whining, complaining, ungrateful person who should be happy with a boyfriend who is a hard worker and does the best he can.
So, which is it? Is my anger warranted? Or am I being too whiny and demanding?
This type of dilemma is very common in love addiction and the reason for it is based on values, or, better yet, lack thereof. When we do not have a firm grasp on our values– a thing (a principle, a belief, a standard of behavior) that we regard as essential to our being, so essential, in fact, that without it, we feel lacking or wrong or worthless–we cannot determine which way we need to go to “feel good” or be right within ourselves. We especially don’t know who date! Had I known that trusting a person I am dating is one of my values I probably would not have stuck around in this particular relationship. Had I known that I cannot be with someone who smokes pot is another of my values, this relationship would have been over before it started.
In the July 9 blog, I am angry with everyone BUT myself. I am blaming others for not supporting me or meeting my needs or reading my mind or catering to my loneliness. But, if I were driven by my values versus depending on others for my happiness, I most likely would not be so angry.
Healthy people choose their values over their relationships. Unhealthy people do not.
And yet, even knowing that your values need to come first, it’s often very hard to figure out if you are being realistic in your expectations of others, or unrealistic. In The Break Up Journal example, should I expect P to step up to the plate and give me more attention, or is this expectation unrealistic?
To answer that, I would need to calculate the times he gives me attention versus the times he doesn’t. If I ask him 10 times to spend more time with me and the response rate is low (i.e., I only receive the attention I am looking for 1-3 times out of 10), it would be unrealistic of me to think he is capable of meeting my needs. I, therefore, have no right being angry with him because at this point, the onus is on me to recognize this. More importantly, I would need to turn to my “values” to see if I am holding true to one that states, “my partner pays me a realistic amount of attention.”
The flip side of this argument, of course, is, Am I being unrealistic in the amount of time I am demanding from my partner? I find this to be an extremely important question that must be asked. The trouble is, you most likely won’t like the answer. Why? Because it’s ironic. We tend to seek the most attention from people who have trouble giving it. The more distant or avoidant my partner would become, the more I craved his attention. This pattern was repeated for years until I finally caught on and finally knew how to recognize the avoidant personality.
Expectations are not bad. We want to have them. We want them to be relatively high (perhaps not too high), but in direct proportion to our self-esteem. But, more importantly is that we have expectations of the right kind of people. If I date a man with a high school diploma and expect him to think, act and perform as if he had a PhD, who’s at fault here? Are my expectations of him realistic?
I’ve said it before, I often feel sorry for the girl (me) writing in The Break Up Journal. She desperately wants to grow and change, but she’s not there yet. She’s still holding on. And yet, I smile, knowingly. A complete transformation is only months away from her. Unfortunately, from her vantage point, she simply cannot see it. Perhaps YOU are in the same situation. 😉
14 thoughts on “Expectations: realistic or unrealistic?”
This article describes me exactly and your conclusions are so true. Somewhere along the way I never determined what my values are and I think “values” is such a better way of thinking as opposed to my “needs”.
@Cynthia 🙂 Values are the key!
Wonderful article and so very true. I also have the tendency to crave attention from people who are not willing (or are not able) to give it to me. I am in the midst of waking up from a situation like that. Learning my lesson. It helps to concentrate on the people who are there for me and love me. Slowly finding back my own value and worth. Thank you!
I have a value just like yours “my partner pays a realistic amount of attention” but really struggle to feel confident that it is realistic.
As a recovering LA, i just ended a relationship like this one. I am excited to see my progress, but still struggle with the realistic part when i think about my future relationship(s)
Any suggestions on how DO you determine this?
Hi MagicMuse! So happy to hear that you have “my partner pays a realistic amount of attention” as one of your values. But it is VERY tricky to figure out what is a realistic amount. The answer is not an objective one, but rather a subjective one. In order to figure out what a “realistic” amount of time is, you have to ask yourself three questions:
1. How much time do I typically need with people to feel close to them? To answer this question, look to your HEALTHY relationships, not your past relationships with PoAs. Every one of us has a different requirement. Some of us require lots of closeness, others, not so much. But the only way you can tell how much intimacy and closeness you really require is in your healthy relationships. Unhealthy relationship will be too imbalanced to tell.
2. How healthy, trusting, respectful and loving is my current relationship? If this is a love addicted relationship you may be in a situation where you cannot gauge the amount of attention you need. Why? Because when you distrust your partner your need for attention automatically increases. You obsess. If you are in a healthy relationship, and you trust your partner, you may be comfortable enough to not have so much attention.
3. Do I share the same level of/need for intimacy as my partner, or is it imbalanced? I have been in relatively normal relationships, but my partner wanted to spend far more time with me than I would have liked. If I told him I needed more space, and he respected that, the relationship would work. But if he didn’t respect that or couldn’t provide the right amount of space I required, the relationship naturally didn’t work. You need to be realistic yourself and ask your partner what is a comfortable amount of time for him to spend with you versus him needing space, and match that up to yours. If you guys match up that’s good. If you don’t, there may always be tension. Also be aware of what he says versus what he does. Is he agreeing with you that you two share the same need for intimacy, and then wanting space, or do his actions match up with his words?
Bottom line, the best/easiest relationships are those where the couples share the same level of intimacy. When they don’t, but the relationship is healthy otherwise, it will take both of you a bit more understanding and tolerance of the other. Lastly, if there is a severe difference in this department and this is a value of yours that’s not being fulfilled, you may be with the wrong partner.
I hope that helps!
How much time should you expect for someone to spend with you when you’ve just started dating?
It depends, Jennie, on their “level of intimacy” but in the VERY beginning, don’t expect to spend a lot of time with a new person. Once a week? If they are really interested in might look something like this:
-You talk a lot via texting, email or social media before going out on a first date.
-You have a first date (Friday night)
-They call or text a day (or two, or three later to say they enjoyed the date)
-They call or text or email a 3-4 days after that to ask for another date (a week or two may pass between dates)
-You have a second date
(Repeat above scenario)
You have a third date…etc.
After a 3-5th date you both should have a pretty clear picture of other person and if you want to move forward or not. It’s here where the relationship will either stall, or move forward to maybe TWO dates a week. 🙂
I strongly suggest reading “A Fine Romance” by Judith Sills. It gives a much more in-depth description of what healthy dating should look like!
Hope this helps!
Thank you. I know I’m rushing things. I just wish a guy could say “I’m not interested” instead of just leaving me hanging.
Remember to use your gut. Look for signs that he definitely likes you versus trying to make more out of signs that are not clear. Unclear signs coming from someone IS A CLEAR SIGN that they are unsure and you should not bet on them being a serious part of your life. Remember too, some people don’t know if they’re interested or not so early on. Dating is all about giving up control and not knowing. This is why you MUST have a life of your own to help you get through this time of unknowing. 🙂
I keep messing up. I try really hard. I literally deleted his number from my phone and recents so I wouldn’t contact him first. I couldn’t tell if he was totally unavailable or if I was too needy. I went back to look at our first date and it was only two and half weeks ago. I saw him 5 times in 2 weeks and I was freaking out. I keep sabotaging things. He went from making plans to responding to my texts with emojis. I always waited for him to tex me. And yes I slept with him.
It sounds like you don’t want to experience the normal, natural pace of a potential relationship, but rather, you want to control things. You want to control his response to you, and so, you push. When we push and try to force people to proceed at our pace, not theirs, we jeopardize the delicate possibility of growth.
You cannot tug at the roots of a flower to force it to grow faster.
Deleting his info is a positive step forward. I think you really need to learn the art of letting go of control. Did you pick up A Fine Romance yet? If not, do. And read it!
Thanks for the clear detailed reply!
I’m going to try to finish my 12 step program and not date. I’ve always jumped head first into relationships with willing participants who are somehow not available and never been exposed to a healthy adult relationship. I grew up without a father (unless you include all the men my mother brought home) and my mother was an alcoholic and abused prescription medication. When she was actually home she was closed off in her room. So, yes, I have plenty of issues. I was married for 14 years to someone who worked all the time and when he was home read books, played video games, and watched porn. I didn’t see any of his flags. I “rescued” him from a horrible ex wife and an unhappy marriage. Ha! Oh lord. It took an affair (on my behalf) and divorce to finally let go and discover I had issues. I’m getting better because I am aware of my issues. I’ve let go of two unhealthy relationships in the last few years and I’m not holding on as long and passed up an attempt to be seduced by an “unhappily” married man. I didn’t even blink an eye. I’ve never really “dated” so I’m not familiar with the process and my insecurities creep in and there are PLENTY of unhealthy men on dating websites. I just need to keep working on myself.
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That’s great that you plan to finish your 12-steps first. And you’ve come soooooo far, my friend. Those are high mountains you’ve climbed. Recognize that. Just remember, there is no “promised land.” Life is and always will be a struggle. But, knowing how to manage life better and healthier sure makes things a lot easier!