My mother's favorite phrase is "Don't go shoppin' if you're not lookin' to buy." She says this nearly every time she learns of a new boy I've gone on a date with. My mother and I are polar opposites, you could say. She got married a month after she graduated high school and had four kids by the time she was 24. While she does not completely understand why I want what I want, she does know that boys are ultimately not in the proverbial "plan" right now. So she falls back to "Don't go shoppin' if you ain't lookin'" quite a bit. She's not the only one. Throughout college, I heard from friends, peers, professors, role models that dating should be taken seriously, and you should only date someone if you legitimately see a future with them.
Which brings me to today's Move Over, Carrie topic: Expectations. Are you better to enter a relationship and lay all your expectations out on the table from day one? If you find your expectations will not be met, is it best to leave the potential relationship? Or, should you enter with no expectations and be either pleasantly surprised or unshockingly disappointed? Do you only date if you're planning on long term, or do you approach each relationship as just another experience to be had?
Oh, and let's define expectations. I'm talking about "the list," ladies. You know, the "he must be A, B, C and D or this really isn't happening." Not the "I expect a phone call every night" type things. Habits can change, character cannot.
Against my mother's "don't go shopping" advice, I started dating someone my last semester of college. What I thought was a rebound, turned out to be a pretty great guy. Shocking.
My rebound-turned-not-rebound with MMM was made distinct by two things:
1) We were brutally honest with each other.
2) We laid our expectations out on the table first thing.
Let's focus on number two. Right off the bat, MMM laid out his expectations. Labels, time commitment, monogamy--you name it, I knew it. I also knew, from day one, MMM's checklist for a wife (we went to a really, really small private school where this was seen as a pretty typical conversation. I realize for most of you reading this it will be a 'WTF' moment). And based on that list, I knew MMM and I would never get married.
According to my mother, I should've walked away. If we weren't going to get married, why waste my time and energy? Well. I didn't. Shocking, I know. And it was great.
Not having to worry about whether he was "the one" opened the relationship up to a degree of a freedom I hadn't had before. Every time we got in a fight, I didn't have to question "can I really stay with a man who believes X Y Z? Will he do that annoying tick the rest of his life? Is this a quirk, or a deal breaker?" Hours of my life were freed from over analysis. I wore sweatpants. I ate Chinese out of a box. I put on makeup if I wanted to, but if I didn't want to I didn't. I wasn't trying to win him over, because I knew that wasn't really an option. This freedom made the relationship fun.
One night, we were sitting on his couch eating Subway and watching a movie.
"You know what's great," I said, turning to him. "I don't have to worry about any stupid relationship dramas with you, because we're never going to get married."
I think he choked a little bit. "Wait, we're never gonna get married?"
"Yeah. I mean, you already told me what you want in a wife,
and I'm clearly not those things. So now we just...don't have to worry about it."
He nodded, slowly. "I guess. But that kind of worked backwards."
Most relationships I enter into with the mind-set of "let's see where this goes, I think you could have potential for long-term commitment" crash and burn because they place unrealistic suffocation on one or the other involved parties. They lead to a whole lot of arguments and over-analyzing. My favorite relationships have been those that were entered into with a "I know I will not marry you, ever" mentality. Which has become my Catch 22. Those relationships flourish because they're given air. You don't pretend, you don't play games and you end up falling for that person the hardest of all because you've seen the real them and they've seen the real you...and stuck around anyways. At the end of the day, you're standing there simply because you genuinely like that person. You enter with "I will never, ever marry you" and leave with "I would marry you" because in between you're given the freedom to just be yourself. Is it possible to "date intentionally" and not even a little bit change your actions based on the pressures of "this could be the one"? I'm just talking about little changes you probably don't even notice, not huge things like suddenly converting religions.
Should dating be intentional, or should it be spontaneous? Do you "waste your time" window shopping, or only go when you have the intent and capability to buy? Or, do you do a combination of both realizing that love isn't something you can control either way? Or, am I just crazy?