Managing Expectations In Your Dating Journey

Pexels Shvetsa
Pexels Shvetsa

Welcome back for yet another engaging topic in the online dating guide.

You’ve learned a lot of things from choosing the right picture, to crafting your bio and about section. And from starting a conversation well, to managing anxiety when treading waters in the online dating scene.

Now, we shall go deeper in learning about expectations from a partner or just anyone to whom our personality hasn’t adjusted yet.

As I mentioned in the previous post, “All people are different people.” And rarely does anyone think or behave like you in similar situations.

But you automatically tend to assume they’ll respond based on your expectations of them and not how they know best. This couldn’t be more misunderstood.

Still, unfortunately, we operate from that default misunderstanding.

Managing expectations is rarely about being okay with everything that your partner does, but more about understanding that every kind of behavior has its reasons, and every different personality has its patterns.

AI generated image with prompt Create a realistic image representing a man and a woman as two halves of the same picture each in their own space embodying self-care and happiness

TLDR

It's normal to have expectations when using dating apps, but remember that people are raised differently, so don't expect them to perfectly match your desires, and be prepared for disappointment. Learn to communicate your needs honestly without ego, or malice. Find things that bridge the two unique personalities together. Every relationship takes effort, so put that effort into becoming a better person and worthy of someone else. Instead of hoping someone else changes for you to meet your needs, build cooperation that makes a relationship compliment the two personalities making it greater than the sum of the two individuals.

Understanding The Role Of Expectations

Expectations influence everything.

Your thoughts, your feelings, your behaviors, and basically your overall personality. And they’re there for a reason. They bring predictability to our lives. We’re conditioned to expect.

Take Pavlov’s case of classical conditioning.

Remember the dog and bell experiment. You ring a bell and give the dog some food. You do it again, and again.

Now for the dog, the sound of the bell is associated with food.

Now on the 7th day, if you just ring the bell, even if there’s no food, the dog starts salivating.

Why? Because the dog expects food.

This is not to say we’re dogs. But we’re not much different either. We do something long enough and so we start expecting it time and again.

That’s the way of conditioning and that’s the way we naturally are.

So expectations are an integral part of human nature, influencing our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in various aspects of life. Even dating.

While expectations do serve us to find predictability in places, it’s more of the subconscious expecting it automatically.

But at the same time, it’s important to tell the subconscious that unrealistic expectations won’t serve us.

In fact, they will hurt us. And that’s where we’ll need to fight our conditioning.

We’ll need to fight it or it’s bound to lead to frustration, disappointment, and disillusionment in relationships.

Let’s try to understand this in a more nuanced way, especially in the context of relationships.

We desire, and so we expect.

Let’s say after a long tiring day, when I come home from work, I desire some comfort and that’s why I expect to get some rest and a good night's sleep.

If something comes in the way of it, well that is a problem. Because I expected something (and I have worked for it) and something else has happened in its place.

Similarly, in relationships, the onus of providing that stability, that predictability, and that comfort is on the other partner.

Except that in an actual relationship, it’s a two-sided effort hopefully in equal measure. ‘

This also usually takes some time to come into existence.

In newer relationships, however, the dynamics are somewhat off-balance.

“All people are different people, but strangers are very strange people.” That’s what my English teacher in the 10th grade would tell us.

What it means is that people whose lives we haven’t witnessed and whose habits, preferences, and behaviors are so different from ours seem almost alien to us and it seems such a task to bridge the gap between expectation and reward (or punishment)

And that’s why there are dating apps, matchmaking apps, and your friends and families all just focused on trying to find us that special person who has somewhat similar preferences as we do, has the same expectations (or desires) as we do so that there least effort and resistance required to bridge that gap of expectation.

Not Without Effort

Do you expect your potential partner to want kids? Boom, you got it. A certain height? There you have it. Have more hair or less of certain habits? Done.

This is not a joke. This is the reality as far as online dating is concerned.

We can almost tailor our preferences on the apps these days like we’re ordering a customized meal from a five-star hotel.

While there’s universal human truth to the above statement, I would go as far as saying that the above has set a rather troubling example for relationships.

Because this negates the responsibility on the part of the individual to put in the effort that every relationship requires, no matter how easy that process is made by our well-wishing apps.

At the end of the day – all people are different people. And no amount of matchmaking expertise is going to shun the energy required to make them last. And any person in a relationship for more than a couple of years will tell you that.

Each human brings with them cultural, societal, and personal nuances into the scene making it far more uncertain than anyone can predict. And with these dynamics in place, come rising expectations of a specific emotional connection, or physical or intellectual intimacy.

If you’re a person who has been exposed to more of the world, or if you’re generally pampered with a certain level of privileges, you may even have specific expectations regarding physical appearance, personality traits, lifestyle choices, hobbies, and philosophical stances from your potential partner.

As and when you enter the dating scene, these preferences can be entered in the form of mere easy filters.

But the hard truth is that the apps are only as good as the next someone in finding you a decent match.

The filters are only half as effective as they seem to be and every relationship takes serious effort, compromise, and understanding from both partners to stand the test of time.

And I’m here to tell you to not let these apps trick you into thinking otherwise.

If you feel that I have digressed and these are not the things that you want to hear given the topic of the post is expectations and that you’re not looking to get married as yet, I want to iterate – every relationship takes effort, especially an intimate one.

Even if you’re not planning on having kids or even committing to one another. And it helps to set this expectation straight so you don’t roam about feeling betrayed later.

It’s important to be aware that these unrealistic expectations stem from grand notions of romance perpetuated by media, fairy tales, and our society.

These expectations may include finding a perfect soulmate who fulfills all our needs, completes us, and resolves all our insecurities and fears.

However, the reality of dating is far more complex and nuanced than what’s portrayed in the movies.

This involves accepting the imperfections and complexities inherent in humans including our partners instead of seeking perfection from a partner.

Unrealistic expectations not only place undue pressure on ourselves but also come in the way of genuine connection and intimacy.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

Having expectations is not the root of the problem, but rather poor communication of it.

From my experience of relationships in my own life, and that of other people, there seems to be one place where the issues often sprout – Ego. And both the consequence of that is the lack of communication.

How easy this life would be if just everyone knew what was going on in someone else’s head? But that’s all we expect.

So I’ll go on to say that have your expectations, but learn to communicate them without ego.

Tell other people what is that you expect of them without imposing the burden of expectation on them.

A simple communication that could have ended by saying ‘I wished you called me when I was sick.” turns into endless passive aggressiveness, an ego-play, and the pretense of one’s indifference.

Not many relationships survive that kind of ordeal.

All that is because we couldn’t bring ourselves to communicate to others that we desire them and that we sometimes need them.

So, honest and open communication is the only way you can express your needs, desires, and boundaries clearly to build transparency and understanding in your relationships.

We must also ask ourselves – why does ego come in the first place? What causes miscommunication that works against us and disregards our relationships?

The little child in us knows it’s insecurity (or lack of security) and lack of self-esteem.

It comes from the underlying worldview that people are out there to hurt us making us pessimistic and bitter. Allow me to peel a few more layers on this subject matter.

Own Your Uniqueness And That Of Your Partner

To all Indians finding themselves new in the dating pool, not knowing how to communicate, and unable to keep their pessimism in check, I want to say this.

Own your uniqueness.

Own your exoticness.

Own your mystery.

The world’s not so bad.

All people are different people, but they still deal with similar burdens of stress and anxiety.

And while having a partner to help you manage it makes it a whole lot better, no one wants more stress than what is on their plate.

The desire to be loved and be understood is fair, but don’t be so fixated on your needs that everything is about you and you’re shut off to the beauty of cooperation, intimacy, and tango.

As a general rule of thumb, every time you seem to be intrinsically disappointed in yourself because of unmet expectations, ask yourself the following questions.

  • Does the other person know that my expectations are unmanaged?

  • Do I know their expectations of me?

  • Did I manage all of their expectations?

And if in any of the above questions, the answer comes up to be a No, maybe there’s an ego issue that needs to be checked at the gate.

Your Partner Is Not Your Parent

When a relationship fails, it’s because of a large number of reasons. And for bonds that never turn into intimate relationships, it’s largely because of unmet expectations.

Usually when a relationship doesn’t work out, we blame the other for being so.

We tend to forget that people out there are neither there to hurt us nor fulfill our expectations.

Our sense of insecurity comes as a natural response to the desire of the child within us to seek attention.

We let our attachment styles dictate the expectations we keep from our future relationships as if the job to heal us of our childhood traumas and injuries is of our partners.

Any relationship that’s burdened with such expectations is on a ticking clock to its end.

Sometimes a romantic bond may indeed become strong enough to resemble that of our parents, but it takes some time and effort to get there.

For a lot of us in the beginning phases of a relationship or if we’re seeking our potential partners, this is not the truth.

It’s safe to say that the burden of care, nurturing, and fulfillment of expectations we impose on our parents, cannot be put on our potential partners.

That’s because the parent-child relationship is inherently unequal where one is the giver and another, the taker. And that’s no way to start any relationship.

If we do, we may expect our partners to put our needs before their own and validate our existence time and again.

This hyper-dependent dynamic can create an unhealthy power imbalance in relationships and lead to resentment and dissatisfaction.

You must be prepared to handle all the ups and downs of a relationship in equal measure, take responsibility for your emotional well-being and self-esteem, and learn to behave like grownups when it comes to dating.

Talking about equality, it may be important to not see everything in life as cause and effect. Input and output. Cost and return.

Relationships, in fact, are bigger than the two individuals that make it happen.

Recommended Reading: Coping With Rejection When Things Didn't Go As Planned On The First Date For Indians

Greater Than The Sum Of Its Individuals

If you’re an Indian individual (pardon the generalization) there is a cultural expectation to find a partner who meets certain criteria in terms of social status, career success, and family background.

The seeds of wrong expectations are sown in us from what society expects from us and we learn to expect the same things from people which is not only unrealistic but can also toxic.

I understand that people who come from the same background as ours tend to relate to us better, and that makes them fit rather comfortably in our environment.

But still, this inherent mindset deems a potential relationship as a transaction. Where one plus one is equal to 2.

We tend to go automatic in that reductionist approach that we cannot adjust if (it always does) and when the chaos ensues.

The problem with that reductionist approach is that we cannot help but expect that someone must let go of one thing completely to gain the other.

For example, if I want to be in a relationship (especially in a committed one), the sense of independence or individuality must be abandoned.

There’s a reason why more and more people are choosing to stay single or unmarried. It’s because it’s not as valuable.

If the cost of me having to be in a relationship compromises someone’s integrity, freedom, or mental peace, they don’t want to enter that dynamic. Especially when the returns are not so great anyway.

This must not be confused with the reproductive quality of human beings.

In fact, it has nothing to do with growing your progeny. The reason is far more simple.

If the cost of effort is much higher than the benefit of being in a relationship, I don’t want it.

And that is why a relationship cannot be seen as 1+1=2. It has to be seen as 1+1= 2+ That’s as simple as one can put “A relationship is greater than the sum of its individuals.”

Let’s see it this way.

If you grow into a person that people desire, your partner would also want to become better, just to match you and you can help each other be better versions of each other creating compounding effects.

It’s about wanting to put more effort into something because it’s for something bigger than our ego.

A collective higher well-being of you, your relationships, and everything you interact with.

Trust Has A Price

“I trusted someone, but they broke my trust.” “I have been ghosted so many times, never again.” This shouldn’t be new to anyone who hasn’t been living in a barbie-land.

Everything of value comes at a price. Even trust has a price. And sometimes you pay it with deception and feelings of betrayal.

But trust me when I say this – The price better be paid than resorting to escapism.

You cannot glide through life without paying a price for everything that matters.

If you want freedom, you might have to pay for it with the lack of it.

If you want good health, you may have to pay for it with a lack of pleasure.

If you trust people, you pay the price with betrayal.

As previously stated, “The thing about trust is that someone has to do it first”

When you trust openly and freely, yes you open yourself to hurt, deception, betrayal, and fraud. But you are also open to collaboration, compounding returns, companionship, and creativity.

While the burden of cost can sometimes become a little too heavy to bear, the upside is what makes one better prepared for life. You simply cannot escape the price.

If you go tip-toeing in relationships, always too suspicious, always too cautious – the magic of intimacy will escape you and you’ll have lived a perfectly safe and dull life.

While you learn to cultivate trust, you might also want to check another trait that is probably coming in the way of expectations around finding a partner: ADAPTABILITY.

Get Better At Being Better

Many individuals enter relationships with a laundry list of criteria and expectations for their partners without taking the time to reflect on their flaws, insecurities, and shortcomings.

You must be thinking this is in contradiction to owning your uniqueness and exoticness. Well, it isn’t so.

Owning your exoticness is about building self-confidence while this is more about cultivating adaptability.

You see every relationship goes through a series of cycles of evolution. If you don’t evolve, you risk straining it.

The first step is preparing yourself to change time and again. That’s becoming worthy of managing a relationship, more than just getting a reply to your text message.

I have often come across people – my own friends, saying things like, “I cannot find the person who’s interested me.” or like, “Where can I find a woman interested in a person like me?” or “She likes this and they like that. I am not that.” That is the wrong question to answer.

Instead of finding a person to fit into your life, try to fit better into their lives.

Learn to ask yourself “How do I make myself into a person that people are interested in dating or having a conversation with?”

The first response to that is: To become more responsible. By opening yourself up to criticism and acknowledging your flaws.

By opening yourself to caring for “WE” instead of being all about “ME”.

This single piece of advice seems to be a game-changer, especially for men.

So, instead of asking yourself “What do I want in a partner?” try answering yourself “If I had to offer everything to become worthy of an intimate relationship, who would I be?”

The answer to that does not necessarily involve getting a six-pack or getting rich. It’s the basics.

Being hygienic, being reasonably fit, being productive, honest, generous, and not full of yourself.

The next topic offers a perspective on how to build the perspective that helps you want to be better at being better.

Love Your Better-Self

Or must I say love better parts of you? I wanted to do a pun play on “Loving yourself” but that idea has been (mis)represented enough already.

Loving yourself doesn’t mean loving the part of you that’s just a pessimistic bundle of rigid fuss. We can keep that side of you on the sidelines.

The parts we need to nurture are the better parts.

The enriching, calmer, hopeful, adaptable parts that know it’s important to be a better human being before being a better partner.

It’s important to look after yourself and cultivate thoughts that fill you with gratitude and joy.

For you to have better expectations from a relationship, you have to expect better from yourself.

The best way to go about loving yourself is to go from outside to inside. Start with outer space.

In this case, open your eyes and look at your immediate surroundings. Are they something you’d consider clean? If yes, then don’t worry about it.

Move to your flesh and bone. Do you feel good about yourself when you look in the mirror? Could you be more hygienic? Or fitter? Or more energetic? If yes, move on to your emotions.

Could you be a little less stressed? Or more productive with your time? You get the idea.

Remember, no one expects you to be perfect. But you’re supposed to be striving to be better. And you can only do that by nurturing the better parts of yourself.

Parting Words

Managing your expectations sets the ground for all your relationships, not just your partners. You’ve to be willing to manage your expectations as most of them are simply unrealistic and unproductive. And setting your expectations straight will set the foundation for the quality of your interactions. Be willing to put in the effort to meet people halfway, acknowledging your imperfections and insecurities and accepting them first. Learn to communicate your feelings but impose them. Learn to trust fully and completely even if it hurts you at times. Challenge yourself to be better at being a better person so you can be a better partner rather than expecting someone else to fit in your life.

Recommended Reading: The A-Z guide to dating on dating apps for Indians

Author's Bio

Anurag is a filmmaker turned farmer turned entrepreneur. Originally from Faridabad, Haryana, he loves to read and write on the subjects of relationships, free will, faith, and similar 'delusions' that collectively make us human.
Having written and directed several films before, and then working with farmers in revolutionizing their supply chain, Anurag has now landed on his latest venture called Dahlia, a new-age matchmaking app that uses games to foster purposeful intimacy. His deep knowledge of human relationships coupled with scientific research has helped hundreds of individuals navigate the landscape of modern romance with authenticity and confidence.

Author's Bio

Anurag is a filmmaker turned farmer turned entrepreneur. Originally from Faridabad, Haryana, he loves to read and write on the subjects of relationships, free will, faith, and similar 'delusions' that collectively make us human.
Having written and directed several films before, and then working with farmers in revolutionizing their supply chain, Anurag has now landed on his latest venture called Dahlia, a new-age matchmaking app that uses games to foster purposeful intimacy. His deep knowledge of human relationships coupled with scientific research has helped hundreds of individuals navigate the landscape of modern romance with authenticity and confidence.


Anurag Gulati

Anurag Gulati


Anurag Gulati

Anurag Gulati

Anurag Gulati
Anurag Gulati

Anurag Gulati

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