We all put a lot of effort into certain aspects of our lives: ones of high priority, ones that offer peace, ones where we can thrive, ones that allow us to connect with others. Sometimes I put too much effort, (as my kids would say, “you are doing the most”) and I end up disappointed, wondering if my efforts were worth my energy and time. My standards are high as to what “worth it” means. When I put effort into something, I expect a certain outcome. When I study for a test or put effort into an essay, I expect a good grade. When I exercise, I expect to look and feel strong. When I spend time planning and preparing a meal, I expect a well attended, peaceful dinnertime. These things do not always go my way. I sometimes fail tests, at times I feel weak, and dinnertime can be overly chaotic or I can eat solo, more peaceful than I had hoped. I have also put a lot of effort into online dating. I have learned to delineate between standards and expectations to stay sane during this process. When I put in the effort, I expect the person on the other end to do the same. But we all define ‘effort’ differently. I have learned that you have to find somebody whose standards align with yours and who has their expectations in check.
The other day, I wallowed in the pathetic role of a victim and texted my cousin, “Why is everybody else able find somebody to date, but not me?” Her answer quickly propelled me out of the victim role, and I landed securely and victoriously in a prominent position of pride and empowerment. The power of words never ceases to amaze me.
She said, “Because you have standards.”
Wow. What a compliment. Because I have been meeting people who do not meet my standards, I am brave enough hit the delete button instead of modifying my standards.
A week later, while taking a class, learning how to be a better teacher, we did a lesson on standards versus expectations and how the two need to intersect for optimum success. What a coincidence. I remember daydreaming during the lesson thinking, I need to write a blog about standards and expectations. Maybe even a series. I could start with messages then move into first dates….This is going to be awesome…what did the teacher just say? Shit.
Perhaps you are like me and have often used the two words interchangeably? Well, we are wrong. A standard is defined as the level of quality to be used as a basis for judgement. An expectation is a belief that something is going to be achieved. In other words, standards are facts, based on criteria, and expectations are fiction, based on our desires and beliefs. In this class, we learned to project high expectations for students so that they can rise to meet standard. This lesson, combined with my cousin’s observation about me, got me thinking about how expectations and standards come to play in the perplexing game of dating game. And how I often confuse the two and wind up with unnecessarily hurt feelings. If I stay focused on my standards then expectations do not have to be involved. And then I am not let down.
I have standards and then I have expectations. My standards are high, and I can hold on to them tightly without harming anybody. In fact, staying true to them is at times challenging but always exhilarating and rewarding. My expectations are also high, but when they aren’t met by another person, I am left feeling defeated and disappointed. My expectations would best serve me if I limited them to only expecting myself to stay true to my standards. Allow me to illustrate.
When I am presented with a match on a dating site, I ask a question and expect a response. I spend a lot of time scouring my match’s profile to come up with a riveting starter question. Trust me, I deserve an A for this effort. Sometimes I get a response to my thought provoking questions and sometimes I don’t. I am learning to not take it personally. For some reason or another, my profile just does not match their standards. That’s cool; gotta respect that. But when somebody does respond, I have two basic standards for their response. And trust me again, I deserve a solid C for patience when men do not meet my standards. But, oh well, we cannot be A students all of the time.
- A reasonable response will answer my question. Does this one meet standard?
You are correct. This response does not meet standard. Delete. Do not get blindsided by the compliment. Stay focused.
2. A reasonable response will include a question directed back at me or will keep the conversation moving in some way. Does this one meet standard?
You are correct. This does not meet standard. Delete. Wasn’t that nice of me to give him two tries though? That is why I do not give myself an F for patience…
Let’s try another one. Does this one meet standard?
You are correct. This does not meet standard either. For this one, I had been texting back-and-forth with a friend, expressing my frustration with how many men seem to enjoy an interrogation style of “conversation,” where I am doing all of the work while they simply provide answers. No effort. She wisely suggested that I respond to him, not with another question, just with an LOL, and see if he keeps the conversation going. So I did (see the “Haha?”). He did not. Delete.
We now have two standards that need to be met in order for me to continue in a conversation. I was chatting back and forth a bit with one man and shared that I prefer beer over vodka and asked him what type of band his brother plays in. This is what he said:
Where do I even begin with this response? I could dissect the obvious reasons why this guy needs to just be deleted, but I have learned to just keep it simple and evaluate on my basic standards. No need to allow judgements to interfere. We do not need to not get into my personal expectations that somebody won’t over share weird stuff in their responses. That will exhaust even the toughest online daters. Did he answer my question? Yes. Did he ask me one? No. Delete. Is there more than that one reason to delete? Yes, of course. But we just do not need to go there. Stay focused.
Sometimes men do not respond directly to my question or do not ask me any questions in return and then do this:
Did he answer my question? Yes. Did he ask me a question or make an attempt to keep the conversation going? No. Then, two weeks later, why was he wondering why the conversation ended so quickly? His expectations that I ‘do the most’ to keep him engaged went unmet. Haha. Delete.
I am learning to find the appropriate intersection between my expectations and my standards. I feel like I have a pretty good grasp on it with the messaging part of the dating apps. Setting specific standards for messaging emerged naturally. They allow me to stay detached and consequently not get my feelings hurt. As much. The first date gets trickier. Already, emotions are flowing and time has been invested. Figuring out some simple standards for the first date was a more complicated system.
On deck, standards for a first date: a comedy of errors.