Love fuels our dreams. Love is hope. Love is what we live for. And when you’re swept up in it, anything seems possible. This is the message conveyed in the majority of romance novels and romantic comedies.
According to the media, love is dramatic and all consuming. When it’s not a fairytale — candlelit dinners, champagne, and rose petals on the bed — It’s an apocalypse of crying and laying in bed, sad breakup songs, and Christian Grey creepily stalking you outside your window.
While I’ve had my fair share of fairy tale moments — meeting a handsome stranger in Central Park, kissing in the rain — I’m also aware that these moments are a sparkling façade for what dating and relationships are actually like. And as much as I would love to meet my husband in a movie moment kind of way, if I met my Prince Charming in a gas station, I’d have to embrace it.
When it comes to romantic expectations, it’s common to set the bar too high without knowing it. However, if your standards are too far fetched, you might be missing out on a great guy or girl who is worth pursuing.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself to find out if you have unrealistic dating expectations:
1. Are you looking for someone who actually exists or are you living in a fantasy world?
Too picky: “I want to marry a doctor who has a six pack, is passionate about traveling, and loves to cook.”
You might as well be looking for shirtless McDreamy to ride down the beach on a white horse.
The standard: “An ambitious, health conscious man who shares similar interests whether it’s traveling, cooking, and so on.”
The bottom line: Look for traits that are realistic in a man, not a fictional character.
2. Is your dream guy/girl checklist a defense mechanism?
Typically, those who set unrealistic expectations are either trying to escape reality or have a fear of intimacy or commitment.
There are many people who take themselves out of the dating game altogether with justifications like “I’m too picky.”
I have a few friends that only go after men who believe will never reject them. The “nice guy”, safe in every way, the one they know will never leave them. But they will never approach the guy who could potentially hurt them but also may be the love of their life. Essentially, they trade the butterflies and true happiness for security.
In this case, the solution isn’t lowering your standards, but rather letting yourself be vulnerable and opening your heart again. The thing about taking risks is that while you may fall on your face nine out of ten times, that tenth time can change your life.
3. Are you giving people a chance in the beginning?
At some point in our lives, we’ve most likely used the phrase: I didn’t feel a spark.
I’m not denying having said this in the past, and at the time I genuinely believed I was justified in walking away. But it’s a problem if you’re making these kinds of snap judgments on the first date.
Try to remain open-minded. I can vouch for meeting men who didn’t have that initial wow factor, but after several conversations, I became considerably more attracted. If you can make me laugh (and know the difference between “their” and “they’re”), you’ve already won half the battle.
All of this isn’t a suggestion to lower your standards, but to have honest, achievable ones—to give someone a genuine chance early on. Having high standards simply means knowing your worth, staying true to your values and maintaining boundaries that you feel comfortable with.
Most importantly, don’t view every first date with the hopes that this person is your “soulmate.” When it comes to expectations, the best strategy is not to expect anything. If you knew how everything was going to turn out, where’s the fun in that?