It’s almost Valentine’s Day. Radomir and I were casually discussing V-day and the crass commercialization of just about all aspects of it and we started thinking about what to write about for this so-called holiday. What topic would hit the nail on the head? For me, it was easy to see – Unfulfilled Expectations. Sorry Charles Dickens, not Great Expectations but the unfulfilled ones. They just pop up everywhere, in all places, at all times; not just in romance. They do tend to stand out more on Valentine’s Day, though, because of the hype our culture has built up around what we should do, what we should have and most, most, most importantly what we SHOULD GET!
Oh, to be a woman (and I am) on V-day. We should get the flowers, the chocolate (even though we secretly or maybe not so secretly complain it makes us fat), the candles, the romance and yes, THE RING (if that’s where we’re at in our relationship). Hey, even if we’re past the ring stage, television commercials tell us our man SHOULD be shopping at Jared Jewelers or the like and buying us a trinket from this or that lovely Valentiny collection of jewelry. Depending on the man, he might even be springing for Tiffany’s and buying us way more than a mere trinket. The point is, though, he SHOULD be doing something for us. He SHOULD be showing us he loves us. He SHOULD be spending more money on us that he usually spends and if he doesn’t usually spend money on us, this is his chance to make it up and really show us he loves us.
I was so poignantly reminded of this whole nasty can of Unfulfilled Expectations by watching the Valentine episode of Grey’s Anatomy. Yes, you can pick up relationship advice from these dramas, if you’re paying attention. A couple comes into the ER, he on a gurney, she walking on her legs, both exiting from an ambulance that had picked him up from a car accident. He was chasing her in his car – she ran out on him when she found out that once again, after 8 years, he didn’t give her an engagement ring. Once again he got her hopes up with a small box, but instead of a ring, it had a “cheap necklace” inside (as she put it). She was haranguing him as he was being wheeled into the treatment room lying flat on the gurney, strapped down to protect his neck, a gauze pad under his nose to sop up the blood, since his nose was broken.
Once again, after 8 years her expectations were unfulfilled. She couldn’t even open the necklace, which was a locket necklace. All she could do was run out of their home to escape the noise in her head which was probably saying something like, “He doesn’t love me, he’s using me, he’s this, he’s that…”
He needed surgery and after the surgery, as she was sitting by his bedside watching him hooked up to tubes and wires, looking washed out and gravely hurt, she told one of the doctors that although she had the ring picked out for when he finally proposed, looking at him there, she realized that all of that was crap. All she wanted was for him to be OK. Unfortunately, it was too late and he crashed. They couldn’t revive him and he left the earthly plane with all of its unfulfilled expectations floating around. Later, the doctor with whom the girlfriend had been speaking found his effects and in the midst of them was the “cheap necklace”. The doctor decided to open the necklace and what did she see? Written on the left side of the heart, “Will You”, written on the right side of the heart, “Marry Me.”
That particular story line ended right there. But can you imagine the anguish of the girlfriend if she was given the necklace? Or if she wasn’t given the necklace? Either way, her unfulfilled expectations would be what she would have to live with vs. what was so.
All that really happened was that her boyfriend of 8 years had not yet proposed on Valentine’s Day morning, when she was hoping and expecting he would. SHE was the one who had it mean something. And there’s nothing wrong with wanting to get married (sorry guys who’ve been dragging your feet – this is not a “get out of jail card” for you to justify foot dragging). It’s just that we need to take responsibility, each and every one of us, for our expectations and own them as our expectations. They are not our partners’ expectations, our pets’ expectations, our boss’s expectations. They are OURS. If our expectations are not being fulfilled or met, we can decide if we wish to proceed or not. As Einstein said, the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over and expecting to get a different result. (Radomir reminds us of this often too, in his blog posts). Probability wise, a different result might be gotten at some point but is that good enough for living a fulfilled life?
What should the girlfriend in the show have done? I can’t say – I wasn’t there during the times she was disappointed previously, during the talks they had, during the weddings she mentioned she attended with him where she cried her eyes out nostalgically thinking of HER non-wedding. I do know that she could have taken responsibility for her role in their relationship. She could have quit blaming him. She could have grown up and decided if it was worth waiting for someone 8 years, even if you loved them, if marriage was your ideal and not his.
I do know she could have decided what was really important to her and taken that as the credo by which to live her life. This way, when Valentine’s day came along and no ring showed up, there would be no drama, no running out of the building in a frenzy. Just an ability to be with what was so — that what was important to her was not there in their relationship. And finally, then she could have opened the necklace, or not, while the man was still alive.
I wish you a guilt-free, calorie-free, expectation-free Valentine’s Day!
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