What’s the Difference Between High Standards and Unrealistic Expectations

Morning friend,

I hope you had a day of Thanksgiving even if your turkey wasn’t delicious or you had a little (or a lot) of drama at your gathering. God reminds us to in everything give thanks – even in the rough times (1 Thessalonians 5:18). It then becomes a sacrifice of praise (Hebrews 13:15). 

Today’s Question: 

How do you help women eliminate the idea of having a fantasy husband?

Where do you draw the line between high standards and unreasonable expectations?

Answer: Your question piqued my curiosity. What is a fantasy husband? Prince Charming? The knight on a white horse or BMW riding in to save the damsel in distress? Girlfriend, there is no such creature – for a woman or a man, so get it right out of your head. 

People are people and can be wonderful, but they are limited and sinful. There is no fantasy husband or fantasy wife that will fix your life, rescue you from your problems, make everything better and always be there for you. It’s fantasy because it’s not real. 

Let’s move on to your next question about high standards and unreasonable expectations. Where do you draw the line?

When you ask about choosing a husband by having high expectations and standards, I think what you might be thinking of is not an intimate marriage relationship but more of a transactional relationship. 

A transactional relationship is one where your primary focus is on what you get from the other person. For example, I hire a cleaning person and I expect that person to do what I want in return for a certain payment. Both parties have expectations of one another in order to have a successful relationship. If my expectations are too high and my cleaning person doesn’t meet them, or my cleaning person’s expectations for a certain payment is too high, and I don’t want to pay it, we would not work together long. The relationship would end. It’s not terribly personal, even if I liked my cleaning person, it’s more transactional. 

This is often our relationship style with people at work, church, and even some friendships. We expect fairness like turn-taking, bill-splitting, a give-and-take rhythm that keeps both sides happy with the relationship. When we find ourselves giving more than our fair share, we get resentful, even ending the relationship.

Marriage is based on love and trust, not on should, especially when should is defined by the other person. How would you feel if you dated someone who said “I have high standards for my future wife. She should stay home with the children for their school years. She should never gain more than 10 extra pounds. She should be willing to have sex at least 4 times a week. She should cook a healthy dinner at least 5 times a week. She should be willing to clean the house without outside help. She should be a committed Christian which means reading her Bible every day.”

If you met someone who talked like this, I hope you would RUN! Especially if those are not your standards for yourself but his for you.

Therefore, I think you would find far more value in defining your own standards and expectations for yourself and how you want to show up in relationship, rather than defining how your potential future husband “should” be or not be.

Dating someone by allowing that person to fully be oneself is crucial in helping you discern whether or not you want to partner with that person for a lifetime. Telling him who he “should be” or what you “expect” in order to date or marry you is inviting him to lie and pretend in order to “win” you over to marriage. It’s a lose/lose approach.

If you desire to be a woman who is honest, kind, responsible for yourself, financially independent, curious, and strong, with healthy boundaries then show up that way. You will attract someone who has similar values and standards. You don’t need to define his standards, just live out yours. If he pushes against some of your standards or boundaries or for example, he doesn’t want to be as honest as you by disclosing his financials (credit score, tax records) then that lets you know he is not the right person for you.

Hope that helps you to clarify.

Friend, any other wisdom you would care to share with this person? How have you wrestled with this question?

11 Comments

  1. Connie on November 30, 2023 at 11:20 am

    When I read the question, I thought they were talking about all this talk about abuse. When are we just wanting a fantasy husband, one who meets all our ‘needs’, or when is it just normal human behaviour, and we are calling it abuse because we just don’t like it, and we are nit-picking.

  2. Anonymous on November 30, 2023 at 12:14 pm

    Similar to Connie, I read the question thinking about the gaslighting I used to get from my ex. As in, “I know I said I would wash the pots and pans that are taking up the whole sink and cooking area, and I will, but I’m busy and I’m not like you, I just can’t see all the things that need to be done and get to them the way you do. You’re just so much better at it then I am and I feel like you’re asking me to be perfect when I’m not.” Meanwhile, I was doing more and more, my ex less and less, and yet my ex had no problem managing “high expectations” in other areas or from other people, particularly when it got him something he wanted or made him look like he was a great dad/husband/employee/boss. To make things more confusing, I went to Christian marriage resources for help and I was basically scolded for wanting a “fantasy husband”, that my expectations were too high, and I should accept him as he was. I’m so thankful God opened my eyes and I got out. Now, years later, miracle of miracles, I now know all these men who *gasp* can somehow manage to take care of themselves and the people/things in their orbit — like normal adults and without all the drama of how the world expects too much. Turns out I wasn’t the one living in a fantasy. ;o)

  3. Rhonda on November 30, 2023 at 3:58 pm

    I can see this being a question of one who is married and wondering if what they want and/or need from their husband is too much because they continue to not get it from their partner. If this is the case, I understand. We expect people to show up for us the way we do for them, operate the way we would . Unfortunately, for many, that doesn’t happen. People are who they are and the best way to free oneself from those expectations that lead to hurt and resentment is to see them for who they are, accept who they are and decide if you’re able to be with them…

    • Leslie Vernick on November 30, 2023 at 4:59 pm

      Agreed Rhonda, it is not possible nor our job to put our standards upon another. However, an important part of that is empowering ourselves to DECIDE whether or not we want to be with someone who treats us poorly, or how much access we give him/her in our life.

  4. Caroline Abbott on November 30, 2023 at 6:41 pm

    When I read the question, I thought of my abusive first husband. He treated me terribly, and it got worse over time. He tried to get me to believe my unhappiness was due to having unrealistic expectations of him. I did not. My expectations were that if he were upset with me we would talk it out and come to a resolution. His expectation of himself was that he could not speak to me for a month at a time if he were angry, not to mention other forms of abuse. My expectations were not too high, his for himself were way too low.

    • Leslie Vernick on November 30, 2023 at 7:02 pm

      So it would be unrealistic for you to expect him to be any different than he is (was). I think that’s the problem that our women face. Their expectations are not unreasonable, but are not realistic based on the person who they are dealing with.

      • Caroline Abbott on December 1, 2023 at 9:23 am

        Yes indeed, Leslie. Based on the person he was, I guess my expectations WERE too high!! : )

      • Kerry on January 9, 2024 at 10:12 am

        Wow! That last part is quotable…even a mantra!
        ” expectations are not unreasonable, but are not realistic based on the person who they are dealing with.”

        This can also bring to light the intentions of the other person in the relationship. They may not be intentionally doing/not doing things to ignore or hurt you, they may just be mentally,emotionally or spiritually incapable to meet some normal or basic expectations.

  5. Marie G on December 25, 2023 at 10:29 am

    I became a very self reliant person due to having emotionally unavailable parents. Unfortunately, this has caused me to be overly sensitive to people’s issues and moods as well and i get overwhelmed quickly. I learned to cope by taking a lot of time to myself to calm down because the constant rejection and dismissive nature of my parents was miserable. I then internalized this imagined dialogue that said, i need to be invisible so that i don’t cause trouble or cause people to be upset with me… i have done something terribly wrong and i won’t do it again. So as to avoid the burning and stinging sensation of someone lashing out at me or giving me a miserable stare because they were going through something… i kept to myself. I was unable to have conversations with others due to becoming so scared for a long time. It basically ruined my career until i finally worked on it for many years.

    Fast forward to my marriage, my husband assumes that i need to be alone and for a long time he drank or slept on the couch due to feeling rejected by assuming… My worst fear had come true, i became like my family in certain ways but not 100%.

    My other fear was that their miserable ways would affect my spouse and it did.

    My husband was trying to figure out what i needed. He must have felt like his needs were a burden so he began to shut down. He realized that he couldn’t make me happy because he thought the expectations were too high. He took everything to be personal and didnt realize that its not his job to “make” me happy. He doesn’t actually control the outcome. It would make me feel happier if he began letting go of the outcome and started enjoying his life more by doing what makes him happy… because then two people can be themselves and accept who we are and bring our joy of doing what makes us happy to our relationship. So basically the entire thing needs to be flipped. For awhile it has started to feel like a guest has over-stayed their welcome in our house.

    • Kerry on January 9, 2024 at 10:21 am

      I can SO relate to all you said about growing up and learning to accommodate others by constantly reading emotions and placating. I’ve recently learned that I have a habit of assuming other people’s intentions and perceive rejection when it may not be there. I,too, need alone time to regulate and have been diving into therapy for 2 years and shocked by a traumatic childhood I never knew I had…because neglect and dismissal didn’t seem like true “trauma”.
      Working on the marriage now. It’s hard but there is hope. I married a lot of what I learned to tolerate as “normal” growing up, it’s putting up boundaries and speaking my truth (to me, him,to others…until I can believe it) is opening the door to authenticity. And I have to not be threatened by my husband’s hurts from me. As long as there’s some communication…it can always grow…and God can work through adversity. My husband and I just reconciled a 6 month separation….it was hard and it’s not a cake walk BUT for me, it was a reset that enabled me to find safety from real and perceived threats to my emotional well being. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Pamela Reinhardt on February 3, 2024 at 11:53 am

    Thank you for posting this question & the answer was superb!! It provided wise biblical clarity!

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