Great Expectations, The Relationship Files

We all have an ideal when it comes to relationships. He/she should be tall or short, thick or thin, amusing or serious. Some components of our ideals remain flexible and some are as unyielding as a brick wall. I’ve always maintained low expectations are the keys to happiness. How low is low enough and when are we fooling ourselves thinking we expect nothing at all?

When it comes to dating and relationships, it’s tough not to have great expectations. After all, time and again we see the great relationship depicted in films. Even when these unrealistic expectations of love and happiness fall apart, the main characters always come back together, the offending partner offers a grand gesture of apology and the couple in question lives happily ever after. Real life plays out in real ways and the grand happily ever after is never realized, if it is, it’s based on hard work, pain and compromise. It’s never the happily ever after movies have taught us to expect. The cold hard truth about the work required to achieve such happiness is something we never see on film.

I like to think of myself as a girl with no expectations. The fact is I have very real expectations. I justify my ignorance of my expectations by convincing myself they are not expectations at all, but rules I use to avoid what I like to call ‘the great fail’. Those times when I’m left feeling devastated and heartbroken, hide in my shell and renounce the idea of ever dating again. The heroine in the film never lifted a finger; she didn’t change or make some grand gesture. She sat on her ass moping and stuffing her face with ice cream and chocolate and the man she felt she would love one day came to his senses. So when we want someone in our lives and they do something we perceive has screwed it up, we can just lie about and wait for them to wise up, right? Bullshit.

Relationships take work from both sides; they are full of disappointment and heartache. The reason? Expectations. It’s impossible not to have them and whether they are reasonable or not, they will never all be met.

I have done no market research on the expectations of others beyond the occasional observations of those around me in similar situations. So what follows is based on my own introspection, a laundry list of my own expectations, both perceived and real.

I like to think of myself as a girl possessing only one real expectation with regards to dating. I expect the man I am dating to set my expectations. How’s that for a circular reference? I want the man to set the tone and pace for the dating ritual, especially in the beginning, because personal experience has taught me men don’t want to be chased. It is their nature to pursue us, from the beginning they have been raised as the hunter/gatherers in the familial hierarchy. Some men may claim they appreciate the advances of a woman they find attractive. It’s my steadfast belief those men just want to get laid.

I wear the pants in my family. I am the man and woman in every aspect of my life from finances to household. I am not a very traditional woman, but in the realm of the personal relationships, I don’t want to have to be the man. I’m already one evolutional step away from having a dick and balls of my very own.

This expectation of mine, the only one I will admit I have, does exist and I perceive it to be a fair one. If he only calls once a week, I am neither surprised nor disappointed if he only calls once a week, right? I like to tell myself this works for me. The sad fact is I still want him to call more often and make more of an effort, but I don’t tell him. This hidden expectation I refuse to confront eventually leads to the disappointment I fool myself I can avoid with my ‘low expectations’. My laundry list of expectations can be summed up in one word. EFFORT. There is no need to make a list. The list changes depending on the man I am dating, but all my expectations take root in effort.

I’m not one of those girls checking off a list of qualities a potential partner must have. The only item I require to consider accepting a first date is an initial attraction to a man who makes an effort to arrange a first date. As I get to know someone, compatibility in other areas determines whether my interest waxes or wanes. But, when the first date goes well, my expectations start and end with…

EFFORT. I expect him to call more often, be more available, and show increasing interest as the weeks turn into months. If I feel his efforts waning, I bolt like a horse pursued by a plastic bag flapping in the wind. I am happy to play the rabbit to his fox in the great partnership chase. The sad fact is, the second I can’t feel his breath on my tail, I go to ground. Chase over.

I don’t want some dryer sheet stuck to my leg, but I want to rest assured from one date to the next his interest is growing. I want to know he will go out of his way, change his schedule now and then and make me feel important. I want effort. Don’t tell me you love me after a few months, just show me you could, one day, far down the road or I’ll stop running.

EFFORT. I know I want it and I can’t deny it. Call more often than I have grown to expect, make a date on an atypical night, take me someplace special; arrange some sweet surprise. Prove you are still interested, you think I am different and worthy of your effort. I am, after all, pretty damn amazing. But remember, the more effort you make, the more I will expect. Oh, I’m sorry; did I imply I have no expectations?

Sex and the City once analogized men and women to a taxi cab’s availability light. Women drive around and always have their light on; we are always ready to meet the right guy. Guys sit around with their light off forever, switch it on when they are ready and the next fair they pick up is the one they will make the effort for. There is nothing special about his choice but her timing. She was there and his light was on.

Could it really be that simple? I certainly hope not. If the fox chasing you is too slow, should you save your energy or go to ground? Could it be some of us just run too fast?