Sunday, May 8, 2011

Relationships: Are You Expecting Too Much?

Dating around is exciting, even healthy. Exploring what it’s like to be with all different kinds of people is really the best way to evaluate the one that’s best for you. But what happens when you finally want to settle down, and you find that you can’t? It can be a sad thing when you’ve actually tossed the this-is-just-a-trial-period mindset, fallen head over heels for someone and want to make it work … but it doesn’t. The freedom to relationship hop is fun when you want it. But it’s a whole different story when you feel like it’s your only option.

If you’re ready to get one guy to actually stick, but none are, here’s a scary fact: the only certain common denominator between all of those relationships that didn’t work is ... you. Thinking about what was wrong with him is a great start, but you’ve only done half the work until you consider what you might be doing wrong. I’ve had to do it, and it sucks. But it's worth it.

Here are three major areas where women often run in to trouble:

You always want him to anticipate your needs.
Maybe you’re tired and would love a calm, relaxing night at home with none of your guy’s friends hanging around. Maybe you wish he’d realize it drives you insane when his mother comes over and starts cleaning your apartment and that he’d say something to her about it. Whatever the needs may be, women often expect men to foresee them. We can become quiet, cold and just plain pissy because a.) something pissed us off and b.) he couldn’t figure out what it was on his own.

Sometimes it should be obvious to a guy (my ex once yelled at me in front of his friends and guilt washed across his face immediately after. See, they’re capable of figuring some things out!), but for the more subtle things, his only responsibility is to address what you’re upset about, not predict it. For whatever reason, men tend to tell us immediately when something bothers them, so they rarely have to get upset with us for not figuring out what they need. Their immediate communication makes things a little easier, so maybe we could take a tip from them and just say what’s on our minds, too.

You always want to be # 1 on his priority list.
“The 49er’s, God, my country, my family, my friends, my career, and you.” This is the priority list a past boyfriend once felt the need to inform me of after I was so bold as to ask him out to dinner when I “knew the 49er’s were playing that night!” (His words -- and no, I didn’t know).

Your immediate reaction to this list is probably something like… “a*%hole!” And though he could have put it more tactfully, I later saw some logic behind the way his priorities stacked up. We had only been together for two months. His family, his friends, his career and yes—those oh-so-holy 49er’s—had been in his life long before I had, and, to top it off, he knew they were there to stay. The length of my existence in his life was far less predictable at that time.

It’s easy to get aggravated when we feel like a guy is putting everything else before us, but we have to be reasonable about just how much he should sacrifice for us early on in a relationship.

Ok, honestly, my ex could have missed one 49er’s game to have dinner with me. But for me to have ever asked him to miss a family event, maybe a work-related trip or even to start skipping out on guy’s nights would have been unreasonable at that time. When a relationship really starts to get serious and a guy can tell you’re there to stay, then he can start re-evaluating his priorities. (God forbid a potential wedding date ever conflicts with a 49er’s game for my ex!)

You want him to text and call you multiple times throughout the day, from morning ‘til night.
Some guys do this, and that’s great. It keeps you feeling connected if he texts you little funny things throughout the day or sends you pictures/YouTube videos etc. However, if you really think about all of your girlfriends who have ever dated, what is a pretty universal desire of women? “I wish he would call me more!”

Obviously, men just aren’t attached to their phones as we are. More often than not, it’s nothing personal. Women thrive on relationships and intimate connections -- we evolved that way, so we can start to feel very disconnected if we don’t hear from a guy all day. My brain can run a million miles a minute if I don’t hear from a boyfriend all day: “Is he mad at me? Is he reconsidering how he feels about me? Is he dead?!”

And then I feel like an idiot when he finally does call, totally calm and sweet as if nothing is wrong.

Oh yeah…nothing is wrong. It was all in my head. Trouble is, at that point I’m already aggravated and I let him know it. This is not at all a rare beginning for a fight between couples.

To avoid the above crazy train of thoughts and ensuing argument, find a girlfriend you can text with throughout the day. Just having that constant communication with someone could distract you from the fact that it’s not your boyfriend. There’s a reason so many women jokingly set their Facebook statuses as “In A Relationship with [Insert name of best friend here].” It’s because they are in a relationship—a phone relationship.

It’s smart to figure out what you want and need from a relationship. Dating around can help you develop a mental (or real) list of must-have’s and can’t-live-with’s. But if you’re starting to wonder why you haven’t dated anyone longer than a few weeks or even months, it can’t hurt to re-evaluate that list and tweak it, just a little.

Julia Austin is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles.

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