Let’s Talk About Dating, Part 5: Managing Expectations

When it comes to dating, too many expectations at the onset can be stifling.

Read Part 4 here.

A friend once told me: “Expectations are stupid.” I think he meant that since we can’t control outcomes, expectations — particularly unreasonable ones — often lead to disappointment. I’m not sure I’d go that far. After all, expectations can create a framework that helps you see if you’re wandering off course. But when it comes to romantic relationships, too many expectations at the onset can be stifling.

There are two main ways I think singles can combat relationship-squelching expectations:

1. Be open to someone who isn’t what you’ve always had in mind. In “Seven Myths Single Women Believe,” I addressed the expectations some singles have about meeting “the one.”

Just as my junior high mind projected who I would recognize as ‘the one,’ my grown-up self entertains expectations of how I’ll feel when my ‘soul mate’ arrives on the scene. The truth is, God knows best the kind of man who will inspire me to greater devotion to Him. As I seek the Lord, I can trust Him to reveal that person to me in whatever way He sees fit.

Basically, throw out expectations that aren’t related to the essentials — essentials being character, godliness and connection. You may be surprised by the type of person who is good for you and brings out your best. There’s a country song that goes: “She’s not at all what I was looking for. She’s more.” Be open to God showing you “more.”

2. Leave some room for a budding relationship to grow without the expectations that come later. Mark responded to “Part 4: Moving Toward Clarity” with this comment:

I feel pretty overwhelmed with all of the dos and don’ts of dating. In order to undertake all of the above-mentioned items at the outset, I’d have to be pretty blown away by the woman. Of course, it’s not entirely likely that I’m going to feel that way immediately so I’d have to spend some time getting to know the girl.

Personally, I have no problem asking a girl out. It’s the second or third date that perplexes me. How do you get to know someone without giving off the signal “we’re in a relationship” and not acting clingy?

Many of my guy friends have expressed this same frustration. It seems after a date or two, the woman may be already thinking about marriage, children and their future life together. I talk about this in “Not Your Buddy:”

Song of Songs puts it this way, ‘Do not awaken love before it so desires.’ As a generation of women drunk on chick flicks, we want romance to happen so badly we allow ourselves to fantasize about relationships that have no founding.

In short, girls need to cool it (and guys, if they’re expecting a woman to decide for or against them after one or two dates). If a guy asks you out, don’t immediately fixate on him as your future husband. Allow a period of time to simply get to know who he is, without forcing him to state his intentions. There is a time for that — I’m not condoning the lingering limbo relationship — but don’t send him into a panic after the second or third date by demanding clarity he’s not ready to give.

Give lots of grace. Don’t assume he’s a villain if he decides not to pursue further after a few dates. Being gracious and giving the person in whom your interested the benefit of the doubt also makes acquaintance less awkward if the relationship doesn’t work out and you have to part ways. Expectations may not be stupid, but letting them take control may be.

Read Part 7 of the series here.

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About the Author

Suzanne Gosselin
Suzanne Hadley Gosselin

Suzanne Hadley Gosselin is a freelance writer and editor. She graduated from Multnomah University with a degree in journalism and biblical theology. She lives in California with her husband, Kevin, who is a family pastor, and her four young children: Josiah, Sadie, Amelia and Jackson. When she’s not hanging out with her kids, Suzanne loves a good cup of coffee, conversation with friends, musical theater and a trip to the beautiful California coast.

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