The difference between standards and expectations

The difference between standards and expectations

Posted By: Kelly Seal Date: 06-06-2016 Comments: 0

We all have standards when it comes to meeting the right person for a long-term relationship. Standards measure the potential of any relationship, so it’s a natural part of dating. Typically, you look for qualities like honesty, integrity, respect and a mutual desire for commitment before you decide to keep dating someone you find attractive.

Standards are important because they are an indication of your values. If your partner doesn’t share these values, then you will likely run into problems down the line. For a relationship to last, you both need to be on the same page.

Expectations are different from standards.

Expectations are what you think others should do, or how your dates should be, based on your own experiences and perspective. For instance, if you go on a date, you might expect a man to open the door for you, give you flowers, or pick up the check. Another woman might expect different behavior, and get offended if a guy opens the door for her or pays for the meal. Just because you have certain assumptions about how things should go doesn’t mean everyone agrees with you.

There are expectations throughout the dating process as you move forward in the relationship, too. Let’s say you’ve met a great woman who finds you attractive and enjoys spending time with you. After dating for a few short weeks, you start texting her every day to check in and expect a quick response based on your experience in previous relationships. But a few days go by and she doesn’t text you back, not even to say hi. So you get frustrated and angry, wondering if she’s seeing someone else. Meanwhile, based on her experience with dating, she doesn’t feel the need to text you because she doesn’t think it’s necessary to text unless you are making plans or if you’re in a committed relationship. As a result, she assumes everything is okay. Her expectations of how a relationship should progress are totally different from yours.

Expectations have nothing to do with values, or with “must-haves.” They are not deal-breakers; they are negotiable, flexible, changing.

When you date, you actually have to learn how to let go of expectations without letting go of your standards.

Here’s another example. Maybe you expect to date a tall, handsome man with dark hair, or a muscular volleyball pro, or an Ivy-educated Jewish lawyer, or a Latina musician because that is your “type” – who you find attractive. You’ve tried dating other types but it hasn’t worked out, so that’s proof that your “standards” are correct! Or maybe you think that anyone who is truly interested should commit to you within a three-month period, or respond to your texts within a few minutes. Hey, we always have our phones with us, right?

Things get tricky in dating when we start to confuse our expectations with standards.

A woman might have expectations for romance when it comes to dating, and think that it’s only true love if a man tries to woo her with flowers and weekend getaways. A man might expect that if a woman is serious about him that she will make herself available when he calls to ask her out. These are both expectations of the dating process that don’t really indicate the potential of a long-term relationship, they are just preferences.

We may call our preferences “standards” but they are not.

Having standards means that you have deal-breakers when it comes to cultivating a long-term relationship. Standards are values that you carry with you, that you demand of yourself and those closest to you – qualities that are most important to you in all of your relationships, romantic or not. Maybe your values include mutual respect, honesty, communication, and kindness, so if your date doesn’t embody these qualities, you move on.  

The person you fall in love with might look nothing like what you would have expected. Maybe they are not at all your physical type, maybe they are divorced with children and you are an independent single, or maybe they don’t have the career you always imagined would work best with you. That doesn’t mean that there is no room for a relationship to develop. After all, most of us are attracted to a certain type, but often we find long-term love in a person who doesn’t quite fit our type, but they truly embody our standards.

If your love shares the same standards, more often than not, you are willing to overlook your expectations of how things “should” be. True happiness in any long-term relationship is based on sharing the same intrinsic goals and values. In other words, follow your standards, and let go of expectations.