Welcome to my group text thread — a four person squad of gawds, consisting of me and my three guy friends.
Between memes and voice memos, the thread doubles as a two-way mirror for dating between the sexes. I see myself in heels of the women they date and on the flipside, they share a male perspective on my own dating wins and woes. Last week, one of the guys relayed a tale about going out with a woman who led too hard with “what she expects" on the first date. Their date night went more like a business interview for a role in her life, rather than a meet-up to explore mutual interest in each other. Her “agenda" for dinner covered her likes and dislikes yet magically failed to include any inquiries about him. When they finally got to the Q & A segment of the night, her questions weren't open-ended — instead she asked “yes" or “no" questions to determine if he was a qualified candidate. Ultimately, this led him to cut her, and her action items short with this line:
“Look, I'm not trying to date your expectations."
How profound. A true king. Voice of a generation. In one line, he had artfully expressed a common conundrum in dating: women expressing their expectations. When it comes to women and our expectations, they're either too high, too low, unclear, expressed too soon, or shared too late — after the damage is done. Aside from broken hearts and bruised egos, there are actually legit strategies to communicating your expectations without ruining brunch. Here's my personal toolkit.
Take the friends until further notice approach.
When you met your closest homegirls, did you say, "Okay, I expect you to share your darkest secrets with me, support me emotionally and answer my 3:00 a.m. 'Girl tell me why…' texts?" No. You had mutual interests, you hung out and learned y'all had shared values, and then voila, your girl gang got in formation.
Same thing applies for your new guy. He's a friend. Listen to how he talks, how he presents himself. Find out what he cares about. Even if he appears to check off the boxes of what you're looking for in a partner, he's just a friend until he actually delivers on those boxes.
At times, our girls don't even check off the boxes for what we look for in friendships. Decide which expectations are adaptable, and which ones are non-negotiable. If he's your friend first, you will know whether he meets-or is interested in meeting-your expectations before you even have to state them. Which brings me to my next point.
Real expectations move in silence.
Don't wait until you pull up to McDonald's to tell him you deserve filet mignon. If he believes that you deserve Mcdonald's, then you need to come through with the value meal version of you. What this looks like is less investment, less attention, and less prioritization on growing your friendship. He's showing you what he's ready for and what he's about. If you're not impressed, pull back. From there, he will either step it up or in the midst of pulling back, you'll find fulfillment elsewhere.
Boundaries are a girl's best friend.
Boundaries and expectations are two sides of the same coin. Setting boundaries helps to implicitly (and explicitly) communicate what you will and won't allow from a potential partner. If you're new to it, it can be awkward and uncomfortable at first, hang in there! Setting and committing to your boundaries protects your peace and keeps everyone on the same page. One of my own boundaries is that I don't spend the night with anyone I haven't established a certain level of intimacy with yet. For me, intimacy means we have an understanding of who we are and what we're after. Why? Because I'm big on “laying up" and having lazy Saturday mornings that slip into afternoon routines in each other's company. For most people, that's a lot of contact but luckily, I'm not interested in dating those types of people.
Drawing my boundary at whatever time I decide to Cinderella myself back to the comfort of my own home does several things. Most importantly, it encourages conversation about my expectations. “Hey why don't you just stay the night?" If I'm not into him yet, the answer is “I've got a busy day/early morning" — even if I'm doing nothing. If I'm into him it's, “I'm not there with you yet." At that point we usually either discuss what “there" means or he can now decide if “there" is something to work toward or not.
Boundaries help me “stay present." I can enjoy the evening in his company without over-thinking about whether he's a sleep-late-spend-the-day-together kind of guy. For me to wake up there, we'd either have to plan for it or he'd have to explicitly communicate his wants. Having boundaries removes the pressure and shifts responsibility of discussing expectations from just me to us both.
Ultimately, leveraging my boundaries during the getting-to-know-you process helps me weed out people that are not interested or capable of meeting my expectations. Think of it like this: be clear and committed to your boundaries so that you (and he!) may be intentional and open in your friendship.
He may come up short, and it's okay.
Don't be so afraid that the bar is too high that you either lower it or blurt all your expectations out in a three-minute speech over chicken and waffles. Your expectations, however high they are, can stay right there. When our friends suck, we have two options: commit it to memory and act accordingly or, cut them off. You cannot be afraid of losing a friend, we're all leaving this thing alone. In fact, the best part about having friends is that they are a renewable resource.
As with anything, these aren't strict guidelines on how to go about getting what you deserve. These tools are for you to consider, and tailor to your own world and relationships. The key to communicating and ultimately managing your expectations is to reflect on why you have them and make sure that you live them.
No one will ever take your expectations seriously if you don't honestly believe that you are deserving of them. Remember: You are.
*Article originally published on Medium