Expectation or Intention?
Often the topic of Romantic Love on Valentines Day focuses on the expectations involved. Husbands and boyfriends are wondering, “What will I get her?” What is she expecting?” Wives and girlfriends wonder “Will he let me down again?” or “I hope he surprises me.”
Single people are often thinking about their lack of a partner either regretting it or thanking their lucky stars. In my own experience, both personally and as a relationship expert, I believe that the one thing that can really mess up a good holiday like Valentines Day is expectations.
Have you ever heard the saying, “unexpressed expectations are premeditated resentments”? Think about that a moment. When we have an unexpressed expectation of someone else or ourselves there are only two possible outcomes. We will either be pleased or disappointed. Keeping it secret pretty much seals the deal for the latter result.
Expressed expectations are not much better: they put the focus of the expectation in a trap: either to comply with or to defy the expected behavior. Neither seems very romantic, especially for men.
Can you think of a day more loaded with expectations than Valentines Day?
How many of you remember those homemade little valentine boxes you used to have in elementary school? Where you wrote out a card for each of your classmates individually - even those you didn’t like? I loved that ritual but one Valentines Day it went south on me.
“I was in third grade. I decided to be really bold and write a little love note to Gene, a boy I was madly in love with at the time.
I will never forget how he blushed when he read it and then- he never spoke to me again!
I was so surprised and hurt. I just assumed my love would be returned. So I developed a shield for the many moments since in my life when I wanted to let someone know how I felt about them. My thinking was, “it’s better to stay protected then risk that kind of humiliation.”
When I look at that experience now, I see my expectations: he would be happy to know I loved him; he would return my affection; it would be wonderful.
It was my expectation that led to my heartbreak and subsequent lack of confidence in expressing my affection.”
When I told this story to my husband he saw it differently. “ I can imagine Gene’s experience of learning - very publically - that a girl liked him. I doubt he had any words in his lexicon to express his feelings and so was struck dumb. I imagine shame flooding over him and him running, and maybe he’s still running.” Women and men: what was God thinking?
Expectations set us all up to fail. You might well be asking, “So what can we do instead?”
Now…. we don’t believe that the opposite of having an expectation is to not have any expectations at all. To us, the alternative to having an expectation is to have an intention.
Expectations are dependent on others or on a particular outcome. Intentions are independent of external circumstances or other people.
An intention is a way of organizing our minds in service of creating a particular experience. Our mind then pays attention to all the possibilities, moment to moment, of fulfilling the intention by creating the desired experience.
“I expect you to bring me flowers, take me to my favorite restaurant and make mad passionate love to me tonight” is very different than “my intention for this evening is to meet each moment fully with my heart open to romance.”
When we have intentions we are the ones in power. The possibility of fulfilling an intention is present in every moment. Anything can be romantic. We are directing (and starring in) our own personal play as it were.
So this year my intention is to be loving and open to everyone we encounter on Valentines Day, especially each other. Want to join me?
In my opinion that’s what romance is all about - the rich and varied experiences of loving and being loved that are possible to all of us every day of the year. Valentines Day is a recognition and celebration of that kind of romance.