The Burden of High Expectations & Checklist Dating

I blame Walt Disney for the issues in my love life.

Those films made me believe in a fairy-tale happy ending when it comes to relationships, they made millions of girls like me believe that there is a perfect person out there for everyone. So where exactly is MY Prince Charming? As a result of these idealistic dreams of a happy ever after, women today have become accustomed to a phenomenon known as checklist dating. Checklist dating describes the habit of mentally creating a list of ideals that you want your future partner to have, and then comparing those to the characteristics of the men you meet. If the man in question has a few of your desirable traits you take him seriously, if he does not have these traits you lose interest and move onto the next one. The problem with this tactic, is that it is near enough impossible to find someone who embodies ALL of the characteristics you want in a partner; so these women tend to end up alone and bitter. The bitterness comes from a lack of hope that this Mr Perfect is out there for you and resentment towards all the women that have found their dream guy already (lucky cow).

In films and romance novels, the storylines are usually pretty predictable. Either the couple in question do not get on, and then eventually end up together; or their love life is great until some major issue occurs, and then they end up back together for their happy-ever-after. But what exactly is happy-ever-after? What happens after you find the right person for you, do they stay a perfect match for you year in, year out or do they change and inevitably become Mr Wrong? Even relationship guides like The Rules by Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider, leaves readers with the assumption that when you find the right person, life together just works out. In reality, relationships are hard work. There are always going to be conflicts and obstacles that get in the way of your happy ending. Both of you will have to learn to compromise and make the effort to make both of you happy, because if the effort is mainly one sided, eventually one person will get tired of being the only one trying.

High expectations are not just restricted to finding the right person for you personality wise, but also cause problems when it comes bedroom activity. Porn is the main problem. Men and women (yes women watch porn too) have built up this expectation of how their partner should look and behave in the bedroom, and often get left disappointed. Men expect perfect boobs, a round bum with no stretch marks or cellulite and no pubic hair. Women expect men to be ‘equipped’ shall we say, and dominant in the bedroom. 50 Shades of Grey is also responsible for the latter. Porn has also upset feminists, as it tends to portray women as sexual objects for male pleasure, rather than equal partners in the art of love making. This fact has also meant that male attitudes towards women have been affected in how they treat women between the sheets, and what behaviour they find acceptable that some women would not be comfortable with. Personally, I find high expectations in the bedroom to be a good thing as it pushes both parties to put more effort in, especially in the case of couples, neither of you should ever get too comfortable. I also think porn can be a helpful tool within relationships, it can teach you new skills to make your partner happy. People take porn too seriously in my opinion. If a guy acts like a chauvinistic pig it’s usually because he is one, not because he was taught to be that way by watching an X rated video.

High expectations of how your love life is supposed to pan out may also be a mistake. I know a lot of women want the whole big white wedding, kids, a big house and a dog thing but that’s not the only option in today’s society. More and more people are finding alternatives to religion, and as marriage is traditionally a religious ceremony you may find yourself asking what the advantages are to being married instead of just being in a committed relationship. All I ever seem to hear about lately is divorce and tales of partners cheating. It’s like no one really cares about the sanctity of marriage anymore, what happened to until death do us part? I may be old fashioned, but despite not being religious, I still really want to get married. Not just a temporary marriage, but a long lasting one with someone who understands the value of those vows as much as I do. I just think marriage is a more secure environment for when you want to start a family both financially, legally and emotionally. The guy has proven his devotion to you by saying those vows and signing those papers, which can work wonders for your self-esteem. The ceremony is also a beautiful memory you can cherish forever. But for those who think it’s just an unnecessary title, which makes people feel trapped under the weight of the commitment it symbolises; there are alternatives. Cohabitation and having children out of wedlock seems to work for a lot of people. Maybe it’s the appeal of not having that pressure on the relationship to work, and knowing that you both have to stay committed due to your children anyway. As my dad would say: “getting married, ruins everything”.

Commitment is another issue that seems to be a big problem for my generation. With celebs like Will Smith and Jada Pinkett admitting to having an open marriage, monogamy seems to be less and less important. Maybe I’m selfish, but I don’t like sharing and will never be cool with the concept of an open relationship, or accept adultery after marriage. There is also this notion of threesomes being a good way to spice up your relationship, how does that even work? Surely it’d all start out ok and then one of you would end up killing the other out of jealousy? Then there are the self-esteem issues that would surface later on, when your mind starts overthinking just how much your partner was enjoying the other person. I just don’t understand the appeal, fair enough when you’re all single it’s cool. But surely when you are in a committed relationship that sort of thing would be out of the question? I don’t think fidelity should ever be too high of an expectation within a relationship.

Your Mr Wonderful may be someone you have already met. He could be your best friend that is just waiting to be taken out of the dreaded ‘friend zone’. It could be the guy at the coffee shop, who always smiles when he sees you come in for your regular. It could be the seemingly perfect man your friends and family are forever trying to set you up with. The possibilities are endless. In some cases the man that is right for you is not necessarily the man you think you want. Typically good looking guys tend to be players, making the most of the female attention they receive. The apparently perfect men your friends have found may be demons behind closed doors. As a person you are going to change over time, and so will the attributes you look for in a partner. Negative personal experiences in relationships may completely transform your ideas on what makes someone marriage material. You may decide you want someone who is the opposite of your ex, because that relationship did not work, and you do not want to be left hurt again. The universe works in mysterious ways, sometimes women need to experience heartbreak in order to change into the person they need to be, to make a future marriage work. So try not to overlook the good guys already in your life or expect a ‘perfect’ relationship.

So the moral of the story is. Throw out your checklist of the perfect man, because ‘perfect’ is not realistic, finding someone willing to put the work in to make things work is. To find Mr Right we have to learn to be more realistic in our expectations of a future partner, it is very possible to find someone whose personality fits well with yours, and who has similar goals in life, but that person will still have flaws, no matter how insignificant. Although this future partner of yours will have a lot of attributes you are looking for, he may not have all of them, and sometimes we don’t know what we need until we have it. As Walt Disney would say, “dreams do come true”.

Sometimes, despite throwing out your checklist, you’re just plain unlucky when it comes to the guys you end up on dates with. Here are some of my experiences.

Even though us females tend to look at the bigger picture when considering potential love interests, men don’t always do the same but pass judgement all the same *side eye*. Here are some more examples of gender double standards.

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