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Dating Desires and Expectations

Mark Dombeck, Ph.D.

People go into dating relationships with a variety of desires and expectations (psychological, social, physical, etc) that they are looking to see fulfilled. They may be aware of some of their desires and expectations, while being unaware of others. People's desires and wishes come strongly into play as dating relationships begin; they determine to whom people are attracted, and they are also frequently projected onto potential partners, making those potential partners appear more (or less) desirable than they might actually turn out to be. In the absence of actual experience with new partners, it is easy for people to see their new partners as possessing ideal characteristics and sharing similar beliefs and values. This tendency to idealize new partners, combined with the thrilling prospect of sex with a new partner makes new dating relationships very intense and exciting.

The passage of time reveals partners' characteristics more objectively. The idealization of early dating and the thrill of early sexual relations tend to wear off as people come to know each other better. While just about everyone is shown to have redeeming characteristics, some partners are revealed as unreliable, unable to communicate or unable to offer trust and intimacy. Some people become hurt and let down when their idealized prince or princess charming turns out to be just another imperfect human being, but others find ways to stay connected to their imperfect partners such that their relationship endures and grows with time. It is true that most dating relationships fizzle out into nothing and that only a small number will endure. However, people by and large very much want to find a relationship that will endure, and will endure a number of dating relationships that don't turn into anything substantial in order to find one that will.