It’s all a Matter of Expectation!

Becoming Conscious of Gender Expectations in Intimate Relationships

The issue of expectations in intimate relationship has two dominant perspectives, the male and female. In reality, there are multiple perspectives. In fact, there is a different perspective for every person on this planet. But today I will focus on dominant Western gender perspectives about expectations in intimate relationship.

From the dominant Western female perspective of expectations in intimate relationship, a lot of women believe it is important to have high expectations of the men who date them. There is a culture of increasing “feminine desirability” and the concept of “deserving” that are echoed in how women want to be treated in intimate relationships. There is also the age old concept of male wealth, status and how well they can be provided for. Finally there is a new addition to women’s relationship expectations. This is wanting emotional safety and sensitivity from men in relationships. These are generalised and do not pertain to all women, but they are trends in media and Western culture.

From the male perspective of expectations in intimate relationships, I am hearing more and more from men that the expectations from women are simply too high. I am hearing a lot of anger and discontent from men about unrealistic feminine expectations of them. As men seem to feel more marginalized for not living up to these expectations, they are asking questions about what they see as women’s manipulation and criticism of men. I also hear men saying that they do not know what women expect of them or what they should be doing in intimate relationship. It is described as the goal posts are always moving and that it seems to men that no matter how much they try, they are never good enough.

Looking Down the Consumer Lens

As gender roles and beliefs have shifted post World War II in the West, there has been a great deal of discount between men and women, putting each other down, relationship disharmony and increased rates of divorce. Since generation X, most simply are not getting married at all. Ironically, through this journey there is actually more socioeconomic expectation on the individual to succeed financially and being everything to themselves. Given we are social creatures and that societies financial expectations are high in the West, this has lead to a whole lot of incredibly stressed men and women looking after themselves. This has also resulted in sole parenting (usually women, but not always) being the social norm which disadvantages families and children. It is sad that the only winner in all of this is consumerism!

Expectations and Gender Differences

Back to gender… Given this social context in the West, the feel of the connection between the genders is more like war than love. From both parties, there appears to be a great deal of misunderstanding and lack of healthy communication. Gender differences in expectations just seem to become polarized, leading to increased isolation and heart break. Rather than listening to each other, both men and women tend to be defensively reacting to each other in this tug-of-war. Women hear men say that women are manipulating and expecting all this stuff in relationships, while often they feel deeply hurt from previous relationships and just want to be loved. Men hear women say that men are useless and are bastards, while often they are carrying their own wounding from relationships and are protecting themselves from being hurt again. Let’s face it, this topic goes straight to our hearts like a poison arrow.

The truth is, love is healing! The loving connection that can be cultivated between men and women in inmate relationships can buffer us from the world’s harshness and increase our physical and mental health. The misunderstanding between genders partly stems from both men and women holding old traditional expectations in relationships as well as newer expectations that stem from social and technological change. This leads to a confusing mess. Feminism has often been blamed for this. However I think it goes deeper than that.

There have been huge shifts in consciousness in humanity which has affected gender beliefs, practices and expectations. We are all lost! These shifts require more understanding of ourselves and then each other more than what has ever happened throughout written history. It is challenging for all of us! As we are giving the other gender a hard time, we need to remember this context and give ourselves and the opposite sex a break. We need to bring compassion and gentle understanding into the mix. These changes in awareness of gender will take time.

What gender expectations have caused you problems in intimate relationships?

Have there been experiences of coming into compassion for the other gender rather than criticism?


12 Responses to “It’s all a Matter of Expectation!”

  • Vanessa this is a BLOODY good article and I cannot even BEGIN to share the REFERENCEs i have for exactly what you have described above!! YES, I was one of those women….WAY too many unfair expectations and not LOVING the man I had AS HE WAS! Men are DIFFERENT to us and that is why we LOVE them….Why do we forget this and try to change them once we are in a relationship?? I have learnt, through LOTS of pain, hard work and self-reflection to take responsibility for MY OWN happiness and LOVE my man for WHO he is AND who he is NOT! :)

    Thank YOU for your hand in helping me come to this :) We are more happy than ever and cannot thank you enough…! I only wish my parents could benefit from your wisdom!

    All my love,
    Bridget xo

    • Hi Bridget, great points!!! As a women, we often find it difficult to accept our men for who they are, but when we do accept them we can feel lighter and freer. I’m so glad you and Brad are finding your way!!!

      Lots of love

  • Very interesting post Vanessa. I don’t remember having any gender expectations in my marriage of many moons ago and I think that is most likely because I was completely unaware and just going unconsciously about living life as best I could, through the good, the bad and the downright ugly so to speak. Having now reached some small level of awareness I do of course see all the expectations and forgive myself for them.

    For me now, it is only and always about looking at all of us,male, female, child, geriatric, sick, gay or any other incarnation, as human beings, all wanting the same things from others – love and compassion.

    Love, Anne x

    • Hi Anne, thank you for your comment. I’m glad you can forgive the unconsciousness in the early stages of your relationship (its very normal!!!). And I’m glad you are becoming more aware. It is so true that we all fundamentally want the same thing, compassion and love!

      Lots of love

  • So what you’re saying is?

    Forget everyone else, or what society says is right, if it works for you just love each other wherever you’re at right now and we’ll work the rest out as we go.

    I like it

    • Hi Rodney, great stuff!!! Becoming more conscious of social conditioning in relationship is a fantastic way of coming out of social expectations and defining our own agreements and boundaries.

      Lots of love

  • Enjoyed the post and you have made some great points.

    I would like to add that if both men and women changed their thinking about intimate relationships from:

    What can I get out of it, how is he or she going to complete me etc, which is totally a projection of fear being that they are not complete already.


    An extension of love and what ever I give and see in my partner I am giving and seeing in me, making the relationship one and extending its love out into the world.

    They would all find that any expectations only hinder a True loving relationship.

    • Hi Gavin, thank you for your insight. You are so right… being able to give to our relationships rather than expect the world from them is vital to cultivate a loving, respectful and nurturing relationship.

      Lots of love

  • Hi Nessie, I read this, and it makes perfect sense!! But why is it SO hard to do!! Grrrr…’s frustrating. Why do we hurt the ones that love us? Why do we tear each other down? What does that say about us? I feel so incredibly flawed because of the tug-o-war. But I don’t know how to fix it. Compassion is ideal, but it seems so fleeting. Why is that? I just don’t get relationships. They are such a mystery to me.

    • Hi Krishna, you’ve been asking similar things in several comments and I haven’t answered it yet… So here goes!

      There are several reasons it is so hard to stay in compassionate in intimate relationship. The first is that this is one of the main arena’s that our patterns are triggered which often leaves us hurt, confused, angry and frustrated. So to incease compassion in our relationships, we need to heal these patterns so we do not react the same way to our partners actions. Secondly, intimate relationship is where we experience the most fear and therefore defensive patterns. This is because the loss of relationship leaves a huge impact on our lives. Thirdly, we often hold unconscious romantic expectations, projections and different love languages. Without open, honest and respectful communication, these can detract from real intimate connection and create resentment and hurt!

      These are only three reasons but they are a start. Maybe I need to write more blogs on this topic!

      Thank you for your comment!
      Lots of love

      • Thanks Nessie. Communication is the key word. And trust. And honesty. Without those, what is there?

        • I agree that communication is A key. I also believe that timing your communication is another.

          Trying to communicate an important message when one or both of you are upset is like trying to wash a boulder off your driveway with a garden hose. It’ll be messy, There’ll be splash back and you’re likely to walk away long before the objective is achieved.

          There are two headstrong determined people in my marriage and so we’ve had to learn to give each other space until we’re both in a place able to receive whatever message is being shared in order to communicate effectively.

          Admitting my wife is married to a dork also helped.

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