Reality Bytes: Reflections on Managing Expectations

two seagulls walking in waves on shore


The photo above was taken in September 2017 while walking on the beach with my visiting long-distance partner.  (Henceforth, long-distance partner = LDP)  The photograph seems metaphorical somehow.  Perhaps it is the solitary-ness of the birds; though they are both meandering through the waves at the same time and in the same place, they are clearly not ‘together’ in a way that indicates that they are experiencing the moment in the same way.

My takeaway:  Commonality of place, time, and shared activity does not necessarily equate to mutual interpretation of / understanding about the experience.

I saw my LDP twice in 2017.  During our visits this past year – spring and fall, respectively – I think the two of us were, at times, very much like those two birds in the photo above.  We were in the same space, doing the same things…  We were together, yes.  But I don’t think we were having the same experience.

Sometimes, when doing something with/alongside someone I care about, my impressions of our shared experience are very different than the other person’s.  I think part of that is down to personality — we all have our own way of processing things, after all.  But I also think it’s often a matter of preconceived notions and/or unvoiced expectations.

Not to say that we shouldn’t have expectations.  Of course we should.  It’s important to be clear about feelings and discuss fears, determine hard limits and share ideas.  In that way, by all means, set your expectations.  (And communicate them concisely.)


Sometimes it’s better to forego our pre-conceptualized ideas of How It Will Be.  Because, on one hand, we don’t know what will ‘work’ until we try it.  So {a} building an activity (or a person, for that matter) up in our minds to be spectacular and/or {b} assuming we will not enjoy __________, can lead to confusion when reality doesn’t match our expectations.  And on the other hand…  We see what we expect to see.  And if what we ‘see’ does not meet our prior expectations, we have to adjust both our vision and the lens through which we view it.  Otherwise we will always come away with a skewed perspective.

This past year, I saw my LDP twice.

I tend toward…I dunno…pragmatic enthusiasm(?)…when anticipating our time together, taking into account that there will be adjustments for sharing space and changing time zones, and that mood/health/weather/appetite will impact both our desire and our ability to do certain things.  I make sure we talk about things – sexy and otherwise – we’d like to do together ahead of time; sometimes we do those things, other times we don’t.

ASIDE:  I’d much rather *not* have the time/ability to do ALL THE THINGS each time we get together, because {1} I abhor checklists/bucketlists, especially where sex and/or sexual fantasy is concerned, and {2} if we didn’t get to do everything we discussed this time, it means there are still things to do/try/explore next time.  Leaving things for later gives us something to look forward to.

As a general rule, I strive for fulfillment.  For enjoyment.  For memorable experiences together, yes.  But also for balance.

In the spring, I took my LDP to one of my neighboring islands.  We trekked through a state park along the water with my husband, visited an abandoned fort and retired lighthouse, conducted an impromptu gallery tour, and sampled local cuisine.  We watched movies, read books, took naps, and reveled in general domesticity.

Yes, there was sex.  There was teasing and touching and tortuous, delightful sensual saturation.  There was a blindfold and handcuffs.  Bubble baths and a razor.  A bed, a fire.

But mostly there was time.  Time exploring, time sharing – sharing words, sharing silence, sharing space and touch – and just beingTogether.

It was peaceful.  Relaxing.  I felt, at the end of our spring visit, that it had been the smoothest, easiest, most refreshing time we’d spent together to date.

His impression{s} of our time together did not quite match mine.

Partly because he was depressed (he’s bipolar, and I have actively chosen, throughout our relationship, to not allow his manic or depressive states affect my own mood or choices), but also partly because – I think – The Actuality Of Us during that long weekend did not match his prior expecitations.

What, exactly, did he expect?

Other than “more sex” and “for the time to not go so fast,” I never got a clear-cut answer from him.  (Though I tried.)  The bottom line is that his expectations did not match reality, and the mismatch affected his perspective.

A mismatch between Expectations and Reality occurred during our fall visit as well.  Differently, but for both of us.  For me, our autumn Together Time was hindered in a variety of ways.  Realizing afterward that part of the problem was my subconscious expectations going in was helpful to me in deconstructing the experience.  (Also, my hubby is awesome and listened to me think-aloud process afterward, which helped immensely.)  And now that I understand the What and the Why, I can take steps to prevent future misconstruals. 


The mismatch between expectations and reality is applicable to much more than just romantic relationships, and it applies in both positive and negative ways.

I’ve been confronted with disconcerting realities over the past year and, as a result, have re-evaluated my expectations.  Sometimes in difficult ways. It has meant grieving the unexpected loss of a good friend and exorcising some ghosts.  But it has also meant Good Things:

I took a family vacation for the first time in 12 years, and was pleasantly surprised that the outcome was NOT what I expected.  (Typically, ‘time off’ does not even remotely equate to ‘vacation’ when my family is involved.  Afterward, I am usually so emotionally exhausted that I need a vacation from my ‘vacation’.  Not so, this time.)  Time and distance – both physical and emotional – have affected all of us.  Mostly for the better.

My spouse began a medical treatment program in October that, while a bit overwhelming at first, has turned out to be a huge positive.  (I rarely talk about his health in this space, but it makes a huge impact on our lives.)  We expected it to be difficult and that at best his new treatments would just maintain.  The reality is that it’s been easier than we could have hoped for and he’s seeing an improvement.

My body finally started to feel like my own again this year, after several years of dysmorphic dissociation between the ‘me’ in the mirror and the ‘me’ I know myself to be.  I’m starting to recognize myself in images again, and – thanks in no small part to the 30 pounds I lost this year – sometimes, unexpectedly, I like what I see.

Expectations.  Reality.

Never Occasionally the twain shall meet.  To surprising ends.  🙂

You know…  When I started this post, I did not expect for it to take the direction it did.  (There we go again:  Expectations vs Reality.)  I had a somewhat nebulous idea that I would do some reflecting and discuss a bit about my ancillary relationship, perhaps look back on my year in a quasi-analogous manner (because, bird photo) and then wish you all a 2018 that lives up to your expectations.

Well, we got to most of those things.  🙂

And rather than hoping the coming year meets your pre-conceived expectations…  Perhaps it would be more fitting to say:

I hope 2018 is better than you could ever expect.


How well did your expectations match your reality in 2017?

What do you expect 2018 to bring?

6 thoughts on “Reality Bytes: Reflections on Managing Expectations

  1. Dok Urtybitz

    Your words say beautifully what can (and has) happen(ed). You also show how misconceptions can be handled and diffused so that there is a positive outcome regardless 😊. Sometimes that requires some time, sometimes it’s communication, communication, communication.

    1. Mrs Fever Post author

      I think there are a lot of “Oh, it’s wonderful! And glorious! And perfect!” takes on both polyamory and LDRs. But that’s not reality. At least not all the time. Not for me.

      I think that’s important to work through, and to allow people to see.

      And yes, ALWAYS communication. 🙂

  2. May More

    ” Time exploring, time sharing – sharing words, sharing silence, sharing space and touch – and just being.”

    I love just “being” at times. It does seem that most find that concept difficult to do. Many people seem to eager to pack so much in rather than think, be and enjoy. I love silence too.
    May More recently posted…Drunk on Sinful SundayMy Profile

    1. Mrs Fever Post author

      Quiet time, when shared with the right person/people, is rejuvenating for me.

      Shared space, whether we’re each engaging in the same activity or different ones (him cooking while I sit at the bar reading or researching, for example), is important to me as well.

      Maybe it’s an introvert thing, but I’ve found that “just being” is a uniquely bonding experience. It’s a must-have for me in relationships.


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