Written by Evi Idoghor
I was listening to a conversation about relationships the other day. No, not quite. It was about Situationships. You know, when two people act as if they're in a relationship but neither party has defined it yet. The issue was raised because it was discovered that people are being misled (a lot) by their potential “romantic partners.” After stringing people along, these defaulters sail into the sunset with someone else, leaving their other lover on the beach, in a state of confusion.
As a result, during the discussion, people began to speculate on what could be done to prevent this grave offense from recurring. Setting boundaries, for example, asking the dreaded question, “What are we doing?” Or take a step back, were mentioned. As I reflected on their conversation, I realized that the problem wasn't a lack of boundaries (though that can be a factor) or a lack of courage to ask, “What are we doing?” Rather, it had to do with people's inability to manage expectations in relationships, both men and women.
If anyone has a gold medal in situational relationships, it is me. I was an expert at making presumptions, making assumptions, and jumping to conclusions. And when my heart was shattered, I wondered who created the male species, abdicating any responsibilities that came with the territory. I was like the customer who parked their car in a supermarket parking lot that said, “park at your own risk.” And when my car was vandalized, I blamed the supermarket for failing to properly secure it. It was not, however, their responsibility to do so. Rather, it was my choice whether to leave that supermarket and shop elsewhere if I was uncomfortable with their disclaimer, or to arm myself with insurance so that in the event of an incident, the insurance company could take over.
When someone is nice to you or shows some sort of interest in you, it does not always imply that they are interested in a romantic relationship with you. In fact, there is an unwritten disclaimer that this may not result in a relationship, so proceed with caution. However, caution is thrown to the wind, as you choose to ignore that possibility, by allowing yourselves to become entangled in what hasn't even been communicated clearly.
Where women (and men) fall short is in starting to build castles in the air before the other party announces their intentions. Long before they lose their glass slipper, they run around informing everyone that Prince Charming might be right around the corner. As a result, they expose their hearts to the possibility of being hurt. They go ahead and place unnecessary expectations on someone who is simply conversing with them, and if the person doesn’t engage in conversations on some days, then something has awfully gone wrong with the world—learn to manage your expectations.
When I was being strung along by someone, to everyone else, we were just friends, or so I told myself, even though I knew I was infatuated with him. Then there were about 4-5 days when we didn't communicate with each other. He didn't call me, and when I did, he didn't answer or return my call, as such, I was devastated. One day, I cried to a friend, and she said to me, “I thought you guys were just friends; why are you letting his silence affect you in this way?” I had set unrealistic expectations for someone I wasn't in a relationship with, and when they didn't live up to them, it left me heartbroken.
If a man does not make his intentions clear from the start, you are at best acquaintances or friends. Expect nothing more from him. On the other hand, if his constant checking in with you and asking how your day is going is starting to make you feel a certain way, because you might like him too, then have a conversation with him, letting him know that you might be interested. If he says he just wants to be friends, you've gained the necessary clarity. Keep all fantasies at bay and treat the relationship as such. If he stutters, bites his fingers, and mumbles his words because you caught him off guard, or if he says something like – I like you, but let's see how things go, or let's go with the flow (if people still use that line), that person is a time waster. Take a step back. His gestures and response lack intentionality.
Most of the time, women find themselves in situations where the man has engaged or married someone else. Then they start cursing the day they met the man. However, they failed to manage their expectations. They assumed that because he called and texted them every day, occasionally sent them food and data, and bought them gifts on their birthdays, that they were in a committed relationship. The women, on the other hand, didn't let the men know they were interested. Both acted in ignorance – if you ignore it, it will become what you want, they presumed. That is not how relationships develop. You must be deliberate in your approach.
Now, speaking from a non-Christian perspective (though this does occur within the church as well), once a person expresses interest, most people begin having sex or engaging in sexual activity. Then, when the match strikes the gasoline and everything goes up in flames, we hear phrases like “men are scum.” Well, there is some truth to that statement; I've met quite a few of them. Yet, if I'm completely honest, I almost always put myself in that position to be trampled. If a man hasn't said he wants to be with you, or wants to know you because there might be some interest and attraction there, don't run away assuming or placing unrealistic expectations on him when decisive communication is lacking, or providing him with wifely benefits such as sex, when you both haven’t said - I do.
Don't put all your eggs in the same basket or even count them before they hatch. Don't go around asking for their opinion on personal matters when they haven't earned it. Don't zero in on him if he hasn't expressed a desire for your laser focus. It only allows your heart to continue bonding with theirs, and you to expect them to always be there when you need them. Set your boundaries, communicate your feelings before things escalate (if you're brave enough), and most importantly, manage your expectations. Failure to do so may result in unnecessary disappointments. If, on the other hand, you want to leave everything to chance (because we all have that option), you do so at your own risk.
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