For a variety of reasons, I’ve been musing a lot on love and relationships lately. Thinking about why I love the people I do, and what I want from and what I get from the people who love me. Part of this has included re-reading old journal entries and e-mails, and in the process of doing that, I came across this entry from early 2004, which was written in response to a series of questions one of the people I love asked in her journal. Rereading it, I realized that in that post, I had very neatly summed up my ideals and convictions on the subject.
So, I’m reposting it here, but this time as a statement of intent. This is what I think about love, this is what I want from my partners, and these are the ideals that I shall endeavor to live up to in each of my relationships. This is a declaration of who I am and what you can expect from me.
1. What do you expect from someone who loves you?
I expect basic respect, first and foremost. I expect that a person who loves me cares about me as a person, and cares about my wishes and desires. I don’t expect that they will necessarily always do as I wish, but I expect that my wishes will be part of their consideration in decision making.
I expect to know what the other person is thinking and feeling, even if what they are thinking or feeling is something that will upset or hurt me. I expect honesty and trust. I expect to metaphorically have my butt kicked when I’m acting like an ass.
Basically, when you get down to it, I expect to be treated like a human being, with consideration, affection, and respect.
2. How do you tell someone you have expectations of them without sounding pathetic, demanding, or like a beggar?
Directly. There are a lot of ways to phrase it, but it should never be a guessing game. “I’d really appreciate it if…” “I feel hurt when you don’t….” “I’d really like to…”
There’s a fundamental clue to the thought processes inherent in this question. It takes for granted that asking for what you want is either pathetic, demanding, or begging, unless it’s done in some special way.
Poppy! What you want (and need) is important, and your loves need to know what those things are. If you were hungry, you wouldn’t hesitate to tell someone you were hungry, and suggest dinner. Your emotional needs are no different; it is a hunger of the soul, and it must also be fed.
3. What do you do when someone you love, who tells you they love you, isn’t meeting your expectations?
I tell them. As I said before, this should not be a guessing game. In a relationship where a *proper* amount of communication is happening, the only way a person doesn’t know they aren’t meeting your expectations is if they are utterly clueless or simply don’t care.
That’s an important caveat though. Communication is key. Most people cannot read minds, so if you aren’t telling them, you cannot fault them for not living up to your needs.
On the other hand, if you have repeatedly made your needs known, received acknowledgment of what those needs are from your partner, and those needs continue to go unmet, then it becomes time to consider whether or not you are being treated with the basic respect you are due, and whether the relationship is really worthwhile.
4. In light of phrases like, “If you really loved me, you wouldn’t put conditions on our love,” and “If you loved me, you’d let me manipulate you!”– is it appropriate to have expectations of people who love you at all? Why or why not? Is there a better way to say you expect things of the people who are in your life than to use the word, ‘expectation’?
Any phrase which starts with the words “If you really loved me…” is bound to be toxic bullshit. It’s passive aggressive, manipulative mind-fuckery, and should not be tolerated by any intelligent adult.
That said…of course it’s appropriate to have expectations of people who love you. Just because some people have *unreasonable* expectations does not mean that expectations are themselves unreasonable. I’d be surprised if ANY human relationship, be it business, personal, or family, didn’t come with some amount of expectations, usually on all sides.
A relationship is, in many was, a covenant between two (or more) people. We all have things we bring to it, and we all have things we want to take from it. It’s not important that those things be “equal”, but it is important that they are balanced enough that everyone feels they are getting something worthwhile from the arrangement. If one side is constantly not getting their needs met, it is unreasonable for them to continue pouring their resources into it, when they could better use them elsewhere.
Love is infinite. Time and energy aren’t. No matter how much you love someone, if you aren’t getting back what you need from them, you must put your resources elsewhere, or you will eventually run out of them. You KNOW I know this is true. Some of you may remember what I was like at the end of one of my previous relationships. That’s the result of pouring your time and energy into something that doesn’t give enough back, all in the name of “love”.
One of the hardest lessons I learned in that relationship, and the lesson that flew directly into the face of all my romantic notions that I had held dear since a child: Love is not enough. Love is important. Love is essential. But love is not, by itself, enough.
5. What expectations do you assume your lover(s) has/have of you? If you aren’t sure what those expectations are, how do you find out what their expectations are? (I know, the simple answer is “ask them,” but….)
It’s the simple answer because it is the RIGHT answer.
At one time, the friend who posed this survey and I were living together, and we got into a large stress situation because I was doing some inconsiderate things without being aware that she considered them inconsiderate. That went on for three weeks or so before we finally talked about it, and as soon as we did, we were able to work things out.
The perfect love knows what you want at all times. The perfect love is infinitely kind, infinitely wise, and always has only your very best interest at heart. The perfect love never forgets to call, always lets you know where they are, and is generous with their time, always there when you need them, and never thoughtless or inattentive.
The perfect love also doesn’t exist. There’s a lot of good love out there. There’s love so good that you swear it’s perfect for you. But there’s still just us in these fragile vessels of flesh, and we’re often self-absorbed, thoughtless, unintentionally cruel, or just plain dumb. it happens to the best of us.
Since you cannot expect anyone to be the perfect love for you, how can you expect to be that person for someone else. Goddammit, ask what they want. Discuss it. Make little lists for each other. Communicate your hopes, fears, dreams, desires, and hopes to one another. This is the important stuff. Don’t leave it to chance.
6. Is it unhealthy to assume that what other people do for you is what they’d want done for themselves, or just stupid? Corollary: How stupid is it to presume or hope for the converse– that other people will do for you what you do for them?
I’m not sure it’s unhealthy or stupid, but it can be unrealistic.
I treat people the way I’d like to be treated, and the way I know they would like to be treated. The first is fairly automatic; the second requires getting to know a person, and making notes of their personality and the things they express. When a sweetie says “I like X”, then I file “Sweetie likes X” in my mental database, and add it to the list of things I do for that person. Conversely, if they say “I don’t like Y”, that also gets added. All this builds into a profile of “best way to treat this person. But the basic components are still respect, compassion, and kindness. The rest is mostly just details.