Why can’t we ever seem to find our dream guy? We’re constantly inundated with rom-coms, books and advice columns telling us we “deserve” to find Prince Charming… and yet, he is nowhere to be found. Sure, we’ve met some great guys, but no one ever seems to be charming enough or make us laugh all the time or know exactly what we’re thinking every minute of every day. So what gives?
What we sometimes forget is that our dream guy doesn’t exist (outside of the lives of Disney princess movies, that is!) and that—as much as we hate to admit it—we’re not exactly perfect ourselves. If you want to finally see the potential in the great guy who’s always been there instead of continuing your search for him, there are a few dating expectations you’re going to have to abandon. We talked to some dating experts to get the lowdown on what’s unrealistic to expect from our men.
1. A guy should be willing to fight for you.
If your guy really thinks you’re worth it, he should be willing to take some pretty crazy risks to keep you on his arm—right?
According to Carole Lieberman, M.D., psychiatrist and author of Bad Girls: Why Men Love Them & How Good Girls Can Learn Their Secrets, you should only expect a guy to fight so much for your affection, both emotionally and physically. “If your guy really cares about you, he should stand up for you and feel challenged to win your heart over the guys who are competing for you,” she says. But really, there shouldn't be a reason for him to literally “fight” for you.
It’s fair to expect your partner to want the relationship, but what you can’t expect is that he’ll do anything to save it—especially if you’re the one putting your relationship at risk. “It is poor relationship etiquette to play games to get him to ‘fight’ for you,” says Lesli Doares, licensed marriage and family therapist at Balanced Family. “Purposely making him jealous to get him to show much he cares will only bring you trouble.”
So don’t flirt with another guy right in front of your significant other or not text your guy back for three days straight just to see how much he cares; trust that your guy values your relationship instead of testing him to see just how much he does.
2. Your guy should be willing to help you with anything you deem too gross, scary or difficult to deal with yourself.
A nice guy will kill that scary spider in your shower for you, but a guy who cares about you should also help you realize that the damsel-in-distress act won’t get you anywhere.
“A man who loves you generally wants you to be happy, and will help if that would add to your happiness,” says Jasbina Ahluwalia, Founder and President of Intersections Match, an Indian matchmaking site. “That said… he also typically wants you to be able to stand on your own two feet.” A guy should want to help you assemble your IKEA bookshelf so you can learn and grow, not just to do it for you.
Guys should be willing to help you out, but that doesn’t mean they should always take over and take care of everything for you. “I think if your partner can and wants to help you with these things, that’s fine,” Doares says. “However, it is the expectation that they will that is problematic. Doing things out of love and generosity, not expectation, is the best policy for a healthy relationship.”
Basically, it’s great if your guy wants to help you research grad school programs, but don’t expect that he should start filling out the application forms for you.
3. A guy should pay for everything.
You may think that if a guy really likes you, he should be willing to dish out any sort of money to keep you happy. And while you may expect your guy to treat you in the beginning of a relationship, Lieberman doesn’t think it’s fair to expect this to last. “Guys should offer to pay for dates,” she says. “But, as the relationship proceeds and you’re going a lot of places together, you can offer to pay for some of the things.” If he’s paying for the expensive concert tickets, then you can offer to pay for dinner beforehand.
Chivalry is nice, but that doesn’t mean you can’t treat your guy now and then, too. “The best rule of thumb to follow is that whoever asks for or arranges the date should pay,” Doares says. “If this is him, he should pay; if it’s you, you should. Once you are in a relationship, things should become more equitable.”
So unless you’re dating an actual prince with an unlimited bank account, your guy will probably appreciate your financial assistance.
4. He should remember everything you tell him.
How could your guy forget your favorite flavor of ice cream or how you lost your first tooth or what the name of your pet fish was when you were six? Well, can you honestly remember all those things about him?
“Unless you can do the same, you have no ground to stand on,” Doares says. “Even if you can remember everything he tells you, including the minutiae of his favorite sports team or video game, you are setting him and your relationship up for failure.”
You and your guy naturally don’t have the same levels of interest in all things, and it’s fine if you’re more attuned to what you’re interested in. What you must keep in mind is that the reverse is true as well.
It is fair to expect your guys to remember the important things, however. “If he forgets your birthday or something that’s important to you, such as where you want to go to grad school, where you were born or that your parents are divorced, this is not a good sign,” Lieberman says. The best you both can do is put forth your best effort and spend as much time listening as you do sharing.
5. He should always know what you’re thinking.
Sure, you didn’t tell him you were upset that he had to cancel your date last Friday night, but he should just know you are… shouldn’t he?
You may think that people can read you like a book, but you can’t always expect your guy to read you correctly. Even if you think you’ve made it clear you’d rather not go to his friend’s party tonight or that you want to order in sushi for dinner instead of pizza, your guy can’t get on the same page as you unless you say your thoughts out loud.
According to Doares, guys aren’t mind readers, and we shouldn’t treat them as such. “Neither of you can change your personality, but you both are in charge of your behavior,” she explains. It’s up to us to convey to our partner what we’re thinking and feeling rather than expecting him to know that crossing your arms over your chest means you’re hungry and sighing means you’re bored of watching his football game on TV.
6. Your guy should always know the right thing to say.
Sure, Ryan Gosling knows just how to charm you—but what you forget sometimes is that Ryan Gosling has all his best lines written for him.
“While Hollywood (or Bollywood) screenwriters always seem to know just the ‘right’ things to say at just the right time, holding men unversed in the script to such an unrealistic standard is a recipe for disappointment,” Ahluwalia says.
Guys can be at a loss for words just as often as you are. As Lieberman points out, “Guys are notorious for saying the wrong thing, especially when they are feeling awkward, nervous or pressured.”
More than anything, you should be cautious when a guy seems a little too smooth. “Any guy who knows the right thing to say before he even knows you should send up warning flags,” Doares says. These are the guys who have mastered the script and will say the right thing to get what they want. Real people fumble sometimes, especially early in a relationship.
If you’re willing to take the time to show your guy what you like and need from him, he’ll say things that will make you happy—and better yet, he’ll mean them.
7. Your guy should make grand gestures that sweep you off your feet.
Who doesn’t want to be kissed in the rain or get a dozen red roses or ride a chariot into the sunset? According to Doares, however, this is the expectation that needs to be shattered the most. “This desire for grand gestures isn’t about him or about the relationship,” she says. “Real love is what is done when no one can see.”
Whether your guy is bringing you soup when you’re sick, making you dinner when you’ve had a hard day or watching a romantic comedy with you when he really wants to watch the basketball game, little acts of generosity can leave a big impact.
Even though those small, thoughtful gestures can mean a lot more than grand ones, it’s okay to want something other than dinner and a movie sometimes. Your guy may not have all that imagination or courage, but Lieberman says there are ways to make your hopes clear to your guy. “You could drop hints every now and then,” she says. “For example, if you're watching a movie together where a guy brings a girl roses, you could say, ‘I would love it if a guy surprised me with roses for no special occasion other than to show me he cares.’ Wink, wink. But, if he doesn't get the hint, don't push it.”
If your guy is on the shy side, just know that his small gestures are still evidence of how much he cares.
While we can have expectations set up for ourselves, our relationships become destructive when we create expectations for other people. According to relationship coach Kim Olver, “Expectations are the things that get us in trouble in our relationships and our lives.” Expect your partner to treat you well, to make you feel special and to accept you for whom you are as a person—but never expect your guy to be perfect, or you’ll only end up disappointed.