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An Expanded Relationship Guide for Millennials
Without expectations, you can never be deceived but neither can you establish trust. However, with them, you can rely on someone other than yourself but also risk getting disappointed. So how to find a balance between the two?
I was born in 1989 so that makes me a straight up elder millennial. And I believe my entire generation (myself included) tends to have unrealistic, augmented expectations of relationships.
Ever since we were kids, pop culture relentlessly bombarded us with this idealized representation of love, which, in all candor, does not have a solid basis in reality. To risk sounding like a conspiracy theorist – it gets into your subconscious, man!
Let me explain. The hero always defeats the villain and gets the girl, right?
Well, the more I grew, the more this outcome seemed distant, misleading even. Everyone believes they are the good guy of the story but what happens when circumstances point otherwise?
What happens when we are the root cause of someone else’s discomfort, pain or – disappointment? How we deal with this prospect can determine our ability to maintain and nurture our relationships.
I’ve deliberately put an emphasis on disappointment because unfulfilled expectations lead to this complex feeling of sadness and lack of better judgment. Make no mistake, we are all capable of disappointing someone. And coming to terms with that fact is the first step to becoming better at relationships.
According to a sublime character called Dr. Wong played by Susan Sarandon in Rick & Morty’s Emmy-awarded episode “Pickle Rick”, relationships are work.
There’s no way to do it so wrong you might die. And I couldn’t agree more. We must understand that love is earned, not something we are entitled to – and this is something my generation has to learn if we are to shake off some of those labels glued to our peer name. So let’s start with…
Expectations in sex
As an open-minded thinker, I believe sexuality is much more complex than what is located between our legs. We all have a tendency to experiment and broaden our sexual horizons but society is known to curb that tendency, which can lead to a lot of frustration.
So I say to you, don’t let anyone stand in the way of your sexual freedom and identity (and vice versa). If you feel like incorporating sex toys and vibrators in your solo or couples routine, do it.
If you prefer being in an open relationship, discuss it and make it happen. If you are turned on by both men and women, do whatever rocks your boat. As long as it feels right to you, no one should stand in the way of your happiness.
Additionally, I’d like to focus more on our need to connect, which is an integral part of sex – and this is where our expectations truly come out on the surface. With love being a two-way street, you need a trustful relationship to fully express your sexuality because the very exchange of emotions is what gives the act weight and meaning.
Everyone can have mindless sex, but the deeper you delve into your urges and appetites with someone, the more you learn about each other. Without sexual experience, you wouldn’t be able to communicate your expectations with your partner – and sex can reveal a lot on where you currently stand as a couple.
Becoming self-aware helps build relationships
One of the moments which really resonated in my head was when my then-girlfriend, now-wife told me that I do not get to decide how she feels or thinks during our heated arguments. I rebelled against the fact that I can be the cause of her distress or discomfort.
My most common reaction at that time was that she was just blowing things out of proportion (which she admits can be the case sometimes). But the bigger truth is, I didn’t expect to be held responsible for what she was feeling at the moment – and that is what hurt her like crazy.
The moment I became aware I could do such damage not just to my best friend, but to people in general, was the moment I realized the importance of emotional intelligence and empathy. Before that, I was just a momma’s boy who blindly considered himself immaculate and incapable of faults.
After that, I became a supportive companion who learned to value people’s needs and provide them with space to address them, regardless of my personal opinions.
I’m not saying you should stop doing hurtful things to people this very instant – it is virtually impossible. To paraphrase renowned author of Harry Potter franchise J.K. Rowling, human nature has both dark and light in it.
What I am saying is that constantly avoiding responsibility for all the negative things you CAN cause does not make it right. Your relationships will suffer for it.
And let me tell you, no woman needs a man in shiny armor to save her. She can save herself just fine without one. If you really want to help her, just take Duke Ellington’s advice from Netflix’s hit animated series “Big Mouth”, which is – listen! That’s it. Become an ear and truly listen.
One thing I love about the relationship with my wife is how we talk about everything, both good and bad. Nothing is off the table. We dissect and analyze everything from every angle possible and when all is explained and understood – we archive that experience into our wicked sense of humor.
So whenever you hear a guy use the argument “You are being unreasonable!” during a fight, chances are he is just too lazy to confront her feelings. Accepting your mistakes and taking responsibility for the feelings you cause to others, whether intended or not, is vital to sustaining relationships.
Marriage – the culmination of a relationship?
When I was young, the very thought of marriage as an institution was repulsive to me. What did it mean? Why all the formalities? Why strictly the white dress of all the colors? I had crazy expectations in that department. But later I realized there is a practical side to marriage amid all the pomp and circumstance – and it has a lot to do with heritage and taking better care of kids.
You see, I never proposed to my wife (neither did she propose to me) but we made a pact back when we were fresh out of high school. If both of us were either single or in crappy relationships when I turn 28 and she turns 26, we’d tie the knot. And it was one of the best decisions I ever made.
I’d rather have a loving friend who still makes me laugh when we are old and wizened than someone who I had an intense yet temporary chemical reaction to. I’ve witnessed many relationships fall apart because even though couples were madly in love, expectations were just too damn high.
But here is the deal breaker, something I feel everyone should put to practice: I learned that what I think or believe is not so important when there is something greater than myself at stake – us as a pair, us as a home, us as a family.
We didn’t abide by the matrimonial rules, so we made our own rules, our own little rituals, and traditions. We toned down our personal expectations so that we could thrive as a couple. And now, I officially have a partner with whom I can build something greater than both of could ever manage as individuals.
Learn to love yourself first!
To quote the queen of all drag queens, RuPaul:” If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else?” I think it is wrong to expect from other people, even your soul mate, to be your principal source of love.
Whenever those expectations aren’t met, your whole world, including the very fibers of your self-confidence could collapse. You practically handed that power to someone else.
That is why I felt the need to teach my wife to find her inner strength and it started with a question: Do you like spending time alone? – to which, at first, she replied negatively. Allow me to explain…
I have been raised to be self-sufficient on both emotional and practical matters. Even though that, too, can be a double-edged sword, I learned to love myself in that process, for good or for worse. My wife, on the other hand, considers herself a team player and didn’t prefer being alone at all.
As much as her communication and social skills are brilliant because of that preference, she had a hard time dealing with her fears and involuntarily intense situations. This raised a question: If you cannot tap into your own source of confidence and self-love, how do you expect to draw the line and not be a pushover in relationships? How do you expect to say NO to someone?
Somewhere down the line, I managed to show her (and myself for that matter) that holding your ground and staying true to yourself builds a little thing called self-respect. Life ain’t no picnic but how we deal with our personal problems is what truly defines us and builds character.
At the end of the day, you go to sleep with only your own thoughts. If you manage to find a reason to love who you are amid all the internal chaos you deal with on a daily basis, then you, my millennial friend, are worthy to be loved.
Now, I am not here to tell you how you should live your life. Nobody should. But what I am going to suggest is to try toning down your expectations in relationships.
Yes, some things are implied due to common sense but nobody is responsible for your happiness except for you. It is a by-product of transcending your personal trials and tribulations. So take charge. Rise above.
When you give power over your emotions to someone else, you will easily be disappointed. But it also takes courage and strength to be vulnerable and open. The key is finding that balance, similar to a coin landing on its edge.
We are all social creatures and we need companionship during our stay here on this planet.
Remember, being good with relationships is a vital skill, it is something you can learn and improve on. The things I’ve picked up during the relationship with my wife are not reserved solely for her. They are meant for everyone I’ve come to cherish and love. And so can you.