EXPECTATIONS ARE MISCOMMUNICATIONS
Expectations: (noun) a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future.
I spend my days unraveling the headstrong beliefs and assumptions my clients bring to our work together. It never ceases to amaze me how many rules and constraints we are bound by. Most are embedded in our overall belief system in childhood. Many permeated our psyche through difficult marriages and loss. But one of the most common miscommunications I come across that can tank a relationship faster than a torpedo is the expectation around sex and commitment. Not the topic of when to have sex, but the meaning behind what sex means to people early on in a budding relationship. (Check out my IG post on the topic of when is the right time to have sex here: Dating Divorce & Sex)
I often say I'm a communications coach at the core of what I do. My fundamental principals are what I call the 3 C's of Relating. They are curiosity, clarity, and communication. Be curious about others. Get clarity around what you want, need, and desire. And be committed to communicating with intent and fearlessness.
Imagine you're on a date, and you realize the person you are with is someone you're sexually attracted to. Could be the first date, second-date, third date, it doesn't matter as long as you are both consenting adults having sex from a place of mutual desire, not pressure or manipulation. One of you believes sex is an act of commitment while the other thinks sex is something they share with someone they are attracted to. Neither of you communicates your expectations around what sex means. Instead, you respond to your instincts and hope (or assume) your expectations match.
Everything is rainbows and unicorns. Post-coital bliss is divine, and you agree to see each other soon. You text each other, you call, you float, you shut down your dating app account, you start dreaming about the trips you'll take and the dog you'll adopt together. Next date, next sexy time, and you roll over and whisper how you're so happy to have found this person. You declare how you have stopped dating other people, and you hope they've done the same. Their response...
Cue up the sound of a record scratching.
Hope is a word we use when we are uncertain, and uncertainty is the mother of fear. It's also a word I hear people use when they don't have the courage to declare what they want. I hope you will do this. I hope you will say this. It's a wishy-washy word filled with desperation. Yes, I know hope is also a word of positivity and love. Words have multiple meanings, and intent in communication is the key here. You can hope your new sex partner is now your committed partner, but unless you communicated your expectations around sex before having sex, you are now faced with potential confusion and disappointment. Neither of which is the best foundation for a new relationship. Back peddling through these murky conversations isn't easy. Someone typically bolts, and the other feels violated, angry, or ashamed.
Let's say you are up for the challenge. You're open to a communication reset, or maybe you've realized the other perspective might be one worth trying on for size? Take a breather and ask to have a conversation outside of the bedroom. (When the dopamine, oxytocin, and now cortisol-the stress hormone-all subside) Admit you might have misunderstood what the other person's expectations were. Perhaps, you both became swept up in the sexy time moment? Whatever it may be, own your role in the breakdown of communication. Then ask questions. What do they want? What are their expectations Be curious and listen to what they have to say. Then check in with yourself and see how you feel. Are you in alignment? Can you express what you need at this point? Keep checking in with yourself and assessing if you are again in alignment with your needs and their needs. If not, be an adult and graciously share that you don't think you two are aligned or a match. Own your part in the miscommunication and move on.
But guess what? Most of you won't do that. Why? Because you are scared. Communication is the most challenging tool for people to use. It puts us in a place of vulnerability and opens us up to disagreement and judgment. We fear being hurt and hurting others. We are programmed to care more about what others think of us than we do our truth. We are raised to be pleasers. You know who you are. Raise your hand! I'm right there with you! I heard the messages you did. Don't be selfish, don't brag, don't be too happy because it may make others feel bad. Be a good boy or girl. Shall I continue??? We worry about how people will perceive us and what they will say about us. I know this, not only as a professional coach but as a human. I still screw up. I still hurt people. I still sound stupid and mushy and say shit that I later regret. But I try, and I try, again, and again, and again.
Communication takes practice. It takes intention. It takes speaking your truth and taking risks. It takes accepting the outcome. What you say may not please another. It may break your heart. It may break their heart. If you dissolve your expectations and instead practice curiosity, clarity, and communication, your dating, and relating experiences will transform. Don't leave communication up to chance. Speak up, and have those conversations that you're scared to have. Screw-ups are inevitable, but victories are as well! And who knows, maybe that scary conversation will ultimately be with the love of your life?
Go for it! 💗 xo