We’ve all ended up in relationships that didn’t quite break our way. From friendships to work colleagues to significant others to spouses, some of the relationships we’re in don’t match up to our expectations of them. However, since our focus is dating, we’ll key in on that and allow for the trickle down theory to take into account other kinds of relationships.

For example, stemming from our friends without benefits discussion from last week, we might have a guy who is frustrated by women who have either wanted to date him (or who have previously dated him and have moved on) who end up just dumping him as a friend. Or a woman who feels the sting of not getting enough attention from the men in her life whose friendship she wants to deepen.

Relationships are a delicate dance of expectations (read: romantic ideas) clashing with the reality of another person intruding into your life. That also points to the crux of the matter: having realistic expectations of the relationship. Not lowered, not raised, but simply realistic. (Don’t get me wrong: I unapologetically expect a lot from people, especially those closest to me, myself included, and the relationships that I’m in. Sure I’m often let down, but that’s part of the deal I sign up for.) There are at least two things I try to keep in mind as I approach the people I’m in relationship with:

Accept who they are. We can’t be with people based on our expectations/daydreams of who they ought to be. People are just so darn … people-ish. They tend to not cooperate with our ideas of who we think they ought to be and how they ought to act. They are who they are. Their faults are their own and a part of what makes them who they are.

Forbear one another. One thing that HeWhoWouldBeHeadPastor said recently was that we need “to give someone room to be, and to become”. This applies even to (especially to) high maintenance folks.

It’s not wrong to have expectations from folks. Granted, having no expectations is a safe way of going through life: no expectations means you’re never let down. Another person is not the solution to the problems you face in life (no, not even loneliness as counter-intuitive as that may sound). A friend of mine passed along this observation:

“More specifically, we expect our love relationships to be exciting, romantic, erotic, passionate, cute, conflict-free, and perpetually novel. And like the consumers we are, we often break our commitment when we don’t think we have enough of these, and move on to a new relationship to find them again. Our materialist/consumerist mindset treats relationships as a department store for our personal satisfaction and pleasure. This defeats long term commitment, which must include compromise and hard work. Why do any hard work when you can just pick up a new one, or even get an upgrade?”

When I look at my marriage vows, I realized that I committed to the idea of our relationship as much as I committed to the person herself. During some of our bad patches, our commitment to the relationship was one of the things that kept us together. It was something worth preserving (even as we figured out how to live with each other). Granted, dating is a long way from marriage in terms of one’s commitment to it, but there is something to be gleaned from this. Deeper levels of true love and intimacy can only be mined over time. Once the “romance” has cooled, or rather the white hot feelings of “being in love” have.

We can’t force a relationship into our idea of what we want it to be. We have to take it on its own terms. Only from there can we judge whether it is a relationship worth pursuing or keeping in our lives. Because relationships take work, time, and commitment, but not all of them are worth that kind of effort. Some are best to simply let go.

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