Am I Too High Maintenance?
In the first moments of dating someone, it all seems fairly simple. It’s like math: two people have a romantic connection. It’s presumed that both individuals, in those first stages, would be cautious to not neglect the needs and expectations of the other. After coming out of my most recent so-called relationship, I lost track of what those expectations actually were. So when I was let down more times than I thought possible in the space of two months, I wondered about what were ‘normal’ expectations in a relationship, and if there really was such a thing. And more importantly, I wondered if I was what I dreaded to be—high maintenance. I never considered myself as high maintenance. I never really badgered any of my boyfriends. I never complained about not being taken out or not receiving gifts, not even on my birthdays or holidays. I didn’t pay attention to the conventions other couples and society placed on my relationships; telling me what was supposed to happen, like when to meet the parents or when to start having sex. And I wasn’t the most confrontational person. If I wasn’t happy with something he did or said, I usually kept it to myself and let my anger and annoyance pass. If I felt like I should have voiced my concern, I didn’t. I didn’t want to rock the boat that was, more times than not, already on stormy seas.
But all those times when a guy I was dating sparked my anger, were they just a product of my expectations that I just didn’t bother communicating? And was I angry and disappointed because my expectations were too high, and therefore couldn’t be reached? I thought the last guy ‘ghosted’, an frighteningly increasing common phenomenon. We had known one another for a long time, but started exploring the possibility of a presumably short-term, two-month relationship until we moved to opposite ends of the country. We were apart for a vast majority of those two months—hell, we were still states apart, with the exception of when he visited, which wasn’t as frequent as we had hoped. I was really okay with the situation we found ourselves in. In fact, I expected the relationship to be so short-lived that, when he said something to make me question whether I even liked him as a person, I still kept my disappointment to myself.
So after two months of sweet-talking and ‘I-miss-you’s’ and constant planning, when he finally came to town, he failed to deliver. Even within a two-mile radius, he couldn’t spare five minutes to see me, before eventually never seeing me again. He couldn’t even respond to my one text asking what the verdict was on our planned night out, the only night we would have together. Needless to say, I was excruciatingly angry—mostly at myself. How could I have even dared to hope that he would demonstrate his affection in such a forward way. I thought, if he really did like me, he would have wanted to see me, and he would have made some kind of effort to do so. In fact, he should have. Or at least, I thought so. Was that really too much to ask for? Or was I wrong?
A month later, I got a surprise text from him. He wished me well, and apologized for not texting me for such an extensive amount of time. He had been busy with his move. It turns out that he had expectations as well. I was blown away—did he really expect for us to continue to talk, to continue our nebulous romantic relationship from across the country? Did he expect me to respond to him favorably after what I believed to be a dating faux-pas? And if I was so surprised at his expectations, did it make sense that he was surprised at mine? He didn’t respond very well to my bitter response: “If that’s what you have to be sorry for, you have bigger problems.” He didn’t respond at all after that.
I didn’t understand his outrageous expectations. But it occurred to me that maybe I didn’t understand because I didn’t know where they were coming from. Maybe it was a need for affection. Maybe it was a blind faith in my forgiving nature, which he obviously misread. And maybe it was a simple desire for me, which enabled him to ignore what my feelings could be. Whatever the reason was, his expectations came from a deeply selfish place.
But that meant that my expectations were selfish too.
Maybe they weren’t as selfish as his. I didn’t bother to tell him what I expected of him, and I took those expectations come from common sense. And I suppose he didn’t tell me what his were either. We both failed at communicating what we needed the other person to do. And after thinking about it for far too long, I still maintain that what I expected of him didn’t need to be said out loud. But I have to accept the fact that maybe he didn’t want to see me, even if he did like me, and he may not have wanted to for a bevy of reasons. And maybe he didn’t want to tell me that, not because he wasn’t interested in me, but because he didn’t want to hurt my feelings and that whatever he was feeling was too hard to put into words. So no matter how angry I am, I have to accept the remote possibility that he ignored me for our mutual benefit. It would be easier to ignore the problem rather than addressing it.
But isn’t it always? When you start expecting logic in a relationship, you have to remember that dating and love aren’t logical to begin with.