Expectations play a big role in how we react to the world around us. For example, if you are waiting for a bus that is supposed to come once every 10 minutes, then you might expect to be waiting for that bus for around 10 minutes, because when you show up to the stop there is a chance you might have just missed it. So if you are waiting at the bus stop for 20 minutes, then you will be disappointed, because you weren't expecting to have to wait that long. But if the bus comes right after you show up, then you are thrilled, because you were expecting that you might have to wait at least 5 minutes or so. If you were waiting for a bus that only comes every 20 minutes, however, then waiting for 20 minutes will not upset you, because you expected that as a possibility.
In some ways the key to being happy is to lower your expectations. An example I heard in a shiur once is let's say it's your birthday, and you and your group of friends have a minhag that for everyone's birthday you go out for pizza. If for your birthday, they just show up with a card, you'll be upset- where's the pizza? But if your minhag is that you don't really do anything for anyone's birthday, then if they surprise you with pizza, then you're really happy. Basically, if you don't expect anything out of life, then any good thing that does happen to you will make you happy because you weren't expecting it. If you expect life to be perfect, then whenever it's not going your way, you'll get upset.
Where am I going with this? Here is my question that I'm putting out there to everyone- single/married/dating/not dating etc.: How long do you/did you expect to be dating before you found the right person? Let me explain what I mean by dating. Presumably there was a point in your life when you decided "OK, I'm ready to get married, I'm ready to start dating to find a spouse." There was some time when you announced, "Ok I'm in the parsha!" When you started actively trying to find a spouse, whatever measures that entailed for you personally, when you took started letting people know that they should set you up if they knew someone. Maybe you had just graduated high school or just got back from seminary/yeshiva in Israel, or perhaps it was a number of years later. Whether you were 18 or 25 or anything in between, from that general point in time, how long did you think it would take you to find your bashert?
I never expected to marry the first person I dated. How many people marry the first person they date? I have a few friends who did, but that is not the majority. So when I went out with the first guy who I dated, and he wasn't my bashert, I wasn't disappointed, since I didn't expect to find my bashert right away. I also never expected to find my a spouse in the first year I started dating. I figured a year or two was normal to be dating. I guess it was after I hit the two year mark that I started to be like, "hmmm, this is taking a bit longer than I expected." And it hasn't been that much more than 2 years. I think if you had asked me for the longest number of years I thought I would be dating back when I first started, I would have said 5 at most, and I'm still under that number. But I know people who have been dating for 5, 6, 7, years, or even more than that.
This also relates to my post about pressure, but I feel like it would be better if I didn't have this perception that dating for longer than 2 years is a long time. It's not really that long, when I think about it and compare it to people dating so much longer. Why did I have this expectation that I would just find my bashert and there would be challenge involved? In other areas of life I have learned to always expect challenges- that's how life is, and I love growing from challenges. I wish I could go back in time to before I started dating and change my expectations, so that I wouldn't expect to be married by a certain age, by a certain point in my life, or after a certain period of time. I had certain expectations about those three. I still haven't turned the age that I expected to be married by, but I have passed the certain point in my life that I thought I'd by married by, and the certain period of time that I thought I'd be dating.
And it's not that I'm unhappy, I don't want you do get that impression. It's hard to read my posts from an objective standpoint, but my feelings towards dating aren't completely negative. Dating is frustrating and not what I expected, but overall I am lucky to have mostly a positive overall experience. There are definitely others who have much more of a right to complain than I do. But there are times when I find the stage of shidduchim frustrating, and I think a lot of people do. I just wonder if I apply my formula for happiness of "lower your expectations" if it would be less frustrating.
So, now that I went on a tangent on my thoughts, let me get back to my original question, since I'm wondering if I'm the only one with unrealistic expectations: If you're not engaged/married yet: How long do expect to date? If you're engaged/married- how long did you expect to date and how did real life compare to your expectations?