By Frank Kermit
If you are human and you are dating, chances are you have expectations. Even people who say they have no expectations when dating (at least as far as a potential future together goes), most people still have expectations about how they expect to be treated. Hopefully, people can also communicate their expectations while dating, to ensure those expectations are met, or at least acknowledged.
A mistake that people with dating expectations tend to make, that I often see in my coaching practice, is how people can confuse their Dating Hopes with their Dating Expectations. A Dating Hope is a feeling of wanting for a certain thing to happen. A hope is like an aspiration that people anticipate, a wish for something to be. It can be an unrealistic fantasy (like the person of your dreams knocking on your front door specifically for the purpose of falling in love with you, with no prior reasoning of why your soul-mate would know where to find you to begin with). A Dating Hope can sometimes be confused with an aim, plan of design or goal. It is not. You can work towards a goal, but hoping the goal will happen and working towards the goal, are very separate endeavors. That is where I usually have to step in to help distinguish what are actual Dating Expectations, and what are actually Dating Hopes.
One of the ways I help singles and couples come to terms with their Dating Expectations is to find out how long they have been dating.
If two people have only been dating for 6 weeks or even 2 months, this is usually where the Dating Expectations need some adjustments, as it is unreasonable to demand or assume certain levels of commitment or actions taken by the other person. Yes, you are dating and yes you may even be exclusive at this point, but ONLY if you have discussed it as a couple and both of you consented and agreed to be exclusive together. Without that conversation, assuming any sort of commitment or future together is not a realistic Dating Expectation.
If two people have been dating 3 months or dating 4 months, it is more understandable that individuals within the couple would have some dating expectations. Lasting together as long as a season of the year is significant enough to merit a conversation to see where this is going. Just because you have been dating 3 months or 4 months, does not mean the two of you will last the rest of the year together, but it is a sign that you like each other enough to still spend time together given that the infatuation phase has started to dissipate.
If two people have been dating 9 months or 12 months (a full year anniversary) I often recommend to couples that it is time to start asking more serious questions about where this is going. A year as a couple, especially if you have been an exclusive couple in that time, is a sign that if you haven’t had a serious talk about the future, do need to do it now. Spending a year or more with the wrong person is not a good thing. By wrong person, I mean a person who you think you have a future with and want a future with, but the other person has no such feelings or similar intentions about you. If the two of you both agree to staying together with the intent of building a future together, that is good. If the two of you both agree that you want to continue to see each other, but that you do not yet see a future together, by all means, continue to see each other on a limited basis, while you both keep your options open to meeting someone else for the potential of something more serious.
If a couple has been exclusively dating for 4 years, 5 years, or even 6 years, and they haven’t yet made any definitely plans for the future this would be a red flag. Any couple can date casually (non-exclusive), or even be friends-with-benefits for however long they want as long as the individuals in the couple are aware that neither one is expecting anything more serious to develop. To be together for years, and not yet planning to spend the rest of your lives together can be costly. If either member of the couple is working against a biological clock, or a life plan time line then being with someone exclusively for 4 years or more with no future goals together, could be the most costly mistake of your lives.
Dating Expectations, and the Dating Hopes you pin on the person you are seeing, need to reflect what you want long term for your love life. It is not just about what you expect from the other person short term. In summary, the quality of your ability to stay congruent with your Dating Expectations equals the quality of how your future relationship goals will play out in your life.
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