Everyone, and I mean everyone, goes into most dating relationships with a specific set of expectations in mind. Most people face disappointment in these relationships, as certain expectations of theirs are contradicted or even completely shut out. Leading up to the start of a relationship, most people typically form this picture in their heads as to what that relationship will look like and what direction it will take. I myself have done that, and as someone having personally experienced this, I believe I have the freedom to tell you this. If you’re about to get into a relationship or are already in one, cancel your expectations. Cancel them hard. Or at least repress them. Our expectations for relationships are typically fantasy to begin with, fantasies that don’t qualify with reality in the least.
As someone who is on the autism spectrum and someone who is currently coming up on eleven months dating the same person, I have a few things to say about expectations in relationships that I believe everyone, autistic or not, should know about and learn to repress. Before I start though, I should point out that there’s nothing wrong with having hope. There’s nothing wrong with having hope for something as long as they’re not too high. Having hopes and having expectations are two different things.
1. More than half of the things that you want to have happen won’t happen exactly when you want them to.
Whether it’s physical affection, topics of conversation, and the places you want to go and the things you want to do together, there is the right time for everything, and sometimes the timing you have isn’t the timing of the other person. When two people start a dating/romantic relationship together, each of them typically has a different idea about the timing of everything, although sometimes they don’t have an idea at all and they’re just going with the flow. The latter are the kind of people I’m admittedly a little jealous about. They just take things as they come, and they don’t have to make a decision about something until the moment to make one comes. My girlfriend belongs to that crowd, which on one hand is fantastic because it’s refreshing to be with someone that doesn’t analyze every little detail, but because I tend to do that, I’m usually always wondering what is going through my girlfriend’s mind. This is where patience comes in great handy, and I’m happy to say that that patience is typically rewarded. Patience doesn’t put a timestamp on things. It’s the willingness to wait until both of you are ready to share something that you haven’t shared before.
2. When it comes to life, theology, philosophy, and all those kinds of things, the two of you are not going to be perfectly on the same page.
Your partner is going to talk about things he or she believes that you won’t agree with, and you’re going to say things about your own beliefs that he or she doesn’t agree with. Regardless of how alike the two of you may think, you’re never going to be consistently 100% in sync. There may be times or experiences where you do, but if you’re hoping to be with someone that is exactly on the same wavelengths as you, purge that hope now, otherwise you’ll end up being disappointed. Even two autistic people don’t think alike on everything.
I know I probably sound pessimistic, but bear with me here. Two people who don’t believe everything the other person does is not only necessary, but it can also be a blessing. If the two of you agreed on everything on every level, then what exactly can you learn from each other? How can you help the other spiritually grow if the other person already knows and believes everything you do? Now, am I saying that you should influence the other person to your side so that he or she does think like you? No. Don’t do that. Don’t try to rob the person of what he or she believes, because it’s also a large part of who they are as people. It’s a large part of their identity. Instead, love the person for who he or she is and let the person believe what it will, as long as it doesn’t happen to be self-damaging. As a Christ-follower, I’ve always believed that what’s essential to believe is that God is real, that the Bible is true, and that God’s son Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead three days later. There is so much else related to the Bible and Christianity that people interpret or believe differently, and that’s just the way it is in our spiritual walk.
3. Loving people isn’t always easy, even your dating partner.
You can’t tell me that you’ve never gotten frustrated, irritated, or annoyed with your partner. I feel like you’d be lying. The truth is, loving people in general isn’t always easy, even the one you’re dating and have a romantic attachment with. What would a relationship be without its disagreements or without its fights? How will either of you be able to learn? How will your character grow? How consistent will your spiritual growth be? Life is full of trials, obstacles, and tribulations, and romantic relationships have no shortage of these. That’s why it’s important to talk to each other and try the best you can to understand to each other. Be sacrificial. If you’re religious, pray. Better yet, pray with your partner so that both of you can seek God’s help and guidance in your relationship together. Love isn’t always easy for us human beings, but it’s something we’re capable of, even if things aren’t always going the way we want them to. Most importantly, it’s absolutely worth it.
Now, I do understand that I’ve only tackled these subjects from one or two aspects. The sad truth is that there are times where even though you want to believe so much that a relationship with a particular person will work, some people are simply incompatible with each other when it comes to romantic relationships. Simple friendships are one thing, but romantic relationships come with its own terms and conditions, and certain people together just don’t make the cut, whether they really want it to or not. But that’s a completely different subject altogether. The bottom line here is this: don’t let your pre-established set of expectations for a relationship get in the way of choosing to learn and grow with another person, even if their preferences and beliefs don’t always go hand-in-hand with yours.