Every day in group therapy at my practicum, we would begin our session with an inspirational quote. There were many great quotes, but the only one that I remember and that has stuck with me after half a year was the following:
“Expectations are resentments waiting to happen.”
Hmm. Simple, yet profound.
I don’t know if you could possibly understand the fullness of what I mean when I say that I am blessed to rub shoulders with the people who are in my life, but I wish you could. God has blessed my life abundantly by crossing its’ path with the paths of so many quality people, and one of these quality people is Shayna, one of the nicest, if not THE nicest, and most encouraging people you could ever meet!
As we chatted tonight about dating, we stumbled upon a question that many men and women I know have wrestled with, heck, one that I’ve wrestled with myself: is it bad to have high expectations when dating? Which usually, this question arises after an expectation hasn’t been met in dating. ;)
At first glance, I’d bet most people would answer, “Of course not!!!” In fact, I think that’s where Shayna and I began as we talked about expectations in dating. But then we started to backtrack: “Well…..is it?”
You see, I fully believe that men and women should never settle in dating and marriage, within reason (You want to marry a millionaire? Well…good luck with that…and if you DO marry one, ask if they want to support any missionaries, haha). As men and women, we should all expect to be treated with a certain level of respect, dignity, honor, and love. This is a good expectation. But a problem arises when our expectation of HOW to be treated with respect, dignity, honor, and love differs from the other person’s expectation.
For example, I feel loved when my dear husband provides public displays of verbal affection to the Facebook world. “My wife is the best wife in the whole ‘verse, and she’s so pretty and she cooks so good and I just love her to bits and pieces and she makes me a better man and her hips will be excellent for childbearing!” (oops, too far?) That’s not TOOOO much to expect, right? Well, RJ’s version of this public display of verbal affection for the Facebook world to see on the day that he proposed to me was, “The princess is not in another castle.”
……..What the heck??? What does that even mean??? How much more cryptic could you be, you robot!!!
Anyways, this became quite a pervasive argument while we were dating and even into marriage because you see, he just wasn’t meeting my expectations in the particular way I wanted him to. Uhhh…don’t all men who love their women show it publicly in this way????? Shouldn’t it come natural to you??? And since it doesn’t, does it mean that you’re just not that into me?? Well, he is into me. He just doesn’t show it the way I expect him to.
So though we should expect to be treated with dignity, honor, respect, and love, at the same time, expectations can just seriously disappoint and even breed resentment towards one another.
So what do we do, then? I mean, on one hand we don’t want to expect too much and be SO disappointed, but on the other hand we don’t want to expect too little, settle, and not ask for change when we are seriously unhappy in a relationship.
And that’s where Shayna and I stumbled upon the gloriousness of the standard; different from an expectation, but much better.
So how is having standards different from having expectations? Well, I feel like expectations are standards that are expected to be lived out now. Hahaha. How vague, right? Let me try again, but this time with the previous example. The desire of mine to be shown love through public displays of verbal affection is really important to me, something that I hold high in value. It is a standard. But it becomes an expectation when I expect, when I believe RJ SHOULD fulfill this desire in exactly the way that I want it NOW. And when he doesn’t meet them, I am disappointed. Going into dating with expectations, you are bound to be greatly disappointed.
Going into dating with standards, however, is a different story. With standards, you’re not settling, but you’re not expecting either. You’re not communicating, “You SHOULD be doing this now,” but you’re saying, “This is really important to me, and it would mean a lot to me if you would grow in meeting me in this way.” There’s no expectation, so there’s no disappointment. There’s no settling, so there’s no loss of hope for a better relationship. We don’t need to get it right right away, and we don’t need the other to get it right right away, so long as we are both willing to grow to meet the other’s needs, extend grace to one another, and be open and honest with where we are at.
And that, my friends, is the gospel in its’ truest form. A value of growth, of dying to self, of long-suffering and enduring with another, of looking to the other’s needs before your own, of patience, of open and honest communication, of grace. Because the Lord knows that the other person won’t get it perfect right away, and He certainly knows that we won’t get it perfect for our sig o right away. But He journeys with us through it all, as we journey with one another through it all.
So is it bad to have high expectations? Probably. But is it bad to have high standards? Absolutely not, and don’t lessen them to make it easier for someone to reach! Unless they are ridiculous, then maybe lessen them a little (millionaire husband, good luck…). Having and maintaining high standards becomes almost a self-weeding out process. Some might decide, “Yes, YOU are worth it,” and you know, those are the ones you want to keep around. I got really lucky with this one. :) Some might decide, “No, it isn’t worth it,” and that’s fine because they won’t be the ones to stick by you in tough times. It’s not a reflection on you or your standards.
I often get asked by women, “Am I needy for wanting to bring this (whatever standard) up with my boyfriend??” and that really makes me sad, but I understand why they’re asking. It seems to me that American culture has tarnished this view of having standards in dating, particularly for women, by labeling people with high standards as demanding or overly needy. There are plenty of movies out there that exalt the liberation of the man stuck with a needy girlfriend. So it’s easy to conclude, if I’m unhappy and I express it, that makes me needy. In my opinion, absolutely not! Having, keeping, and expressing high standards makes you empowered, confident, and with enough self-respect to not just settle for whatever. And girls, don’t try to be cute and make them guess what you want because “they should just know.” Just say it because they really don’t. ;)
So with the shift from having expectations to having standards, this, my friends, becomes the determining factor: not whether whoever you are dating meets all your wildest expectations because 99.99% of the time they will not, but rather, are they willing to grow towards your standards, as un-intuitive and uncomfortable as it may be for them, are you willing to grow towards theirs, and are you willing, gracious, and patient enough to help them do so?
And while there may be moments where you lament and moan, saying, “He’s just not getting it! His Facebook posts are still robotic and not as gushy as I want them to be!”, step back, take a look, and appreciate those small victories when he goes out of his comfort zone, against every natural fiber of his being, just because he loves you and knows it is important to you.
Now that’s a keeper. :)