Oh dear expectations, if I were an Aesop's Fable, you would be the cautionary moral to the story.
Disclaimer: This blog may in fact leave you with more questions and fewer answers than you started with. Consider yourself warned.
I've been doing a lot of thinking about long-term relationships lately. Being married for almost 2 years now, I'm strugling with what a marriage is supposed to look like. In the media we tend to see only 2 types of relationships...either the happy, lovey-dovey beginnings of relationships or unhappy long-term relationships. Examples: Ralph and Alice Kramden of the Honeymooners, Al and Peg Bundy of Married with Children, and Archie and Edith Bunker from All in the Family. There are rare exceptions however... Dr. and Ms. Huckstable of the Cosby show are probably my favorite TV couple! In contrast to this general misery, however, are the beautiful new relationships blooming in every chick flick released.
In the movies... Happily Ever After seems to imply that they lived as blissfully as they are when we leave them, enraptured in each other, unencumbered by day to day life, and never getting on each other's nerves. :-) But I think anyone who has been in a long-term relationship can attest to the fact that the heat of new relationships is unsustainable over the long haul.
But the the media can't be blamed for everything... or so I've been told. :-)
I think one of the reasons why this happens is expectations. When a new relationship is blooming, we have blissfully low expectations. Everything the other person does is a lovely surprise. Every phone call or text... every hug or kiss... every gift or gesture comes as an unexpected joy.
Once we've been together for a while, those blissfully low expectations soon become frustratingly high expectations. I'll stop talking in broad generalizations now and focus on myself. Hopefully, these things apply to you too, but I don't want to assume that everyone is like me.
I've noticed that I seem to focus on what I "don't" have or get. I notice the fact that my husband doesn't get me flowers or small meaningful gifts (like my favorite candy bar or card for no reason) but totally miss the fact that he refuses to go to sleep without me in his arms. I'm sure there are girls who would love for their guys to hold them as they fall asleep, myself included just a few short years ago.
I found this in a blog I wrote in March of 2007. I was coresponding with a new military girl and trying to impart as much wisdom as I could. Jay and I were 4 months into a 7 month deployment when I wrote this.
"It's going to be hard and there are going to be moments where you don't think you can put one foot in front of the other, but in the end, when you're standing there watching his ship or his plane or his bus pull in, you'll forget all of it and only remember how much you love him. And you will be more grateful for him, for your relationship, for y'all's love then the vast majority of the people in the entire world will ever experience. That sense of gratefulness is the absolute most amazing thing I've gained from this experience! The only thing I hope for, is that in 20 years I have the same sense of awe... the same feeling of overwhelming gratefulness to have Jeremy in my life that I do right now and that I expect to have the day I stand on that pier and watch that carrier pull in!"
Amazingly, it didn't take 20 years to lose that gratefulness, it only took 3. How does this happen? And how does one get back there?
First of all, is that overwelming feeling sustainable? Is it reasonable to expect that 5 years into a relationship you will feel the same way as you did 5 month in?
Are unreal expectations really at the heart of our dissapointment? Does one need to adjust one's expectations of what a long-term relationship is supposed to look/feel like?
Do those expectations need to be expressed more clearly so that they can be met by a partner who is willing? What about the slightly deflated satisfaction that comes with getting exactly what you've asked for... nothing more, nothing less?
These are the things that have been bouncing around in my head for the last few weeks. I told you, you might end up with more questions instead of more answers whent this blog was over. What are your thoughts? Successes? Insights? What's worked for you? What HASN'T?