Powerful things start to happen when we uphold our standards and perceive expectations as dwelling in the other person. I can see how the two can be perceived as similar, but they are far from it. Standards are centered in us and are a reflection of us, but expectations are centered in the other person and are a reflection of what he or she should be. We should not allow our standards to be violated and we should not condemn ourselves when someone does not meet our expectations. We should always maintain our self-respect and self-worth by having standards and boundaries as we grumble through the dating and relationships saga.
When we create standards, we are demonstrating that we are someone special and have the inner strength and courage to walk away when our standards are not upheld. When we know our standards with certainty, our eyes are open to recognize disrespect a mile away. Some experiences break and test our hearts but they improve our outer and inner vision.
For example, if my standard is: a man must always speak respectfully to me and I meet someone, who in the middle of a conversation begins to use vulgar language, I immediately know that he is disrespecting me and my standard insists that I walk away from him, even though he may have redeeming qualities.
So how do we get our standards up and running? Whether you realize it or not, you have already developed standards because our inner self must have guidelines to determine what it values. Our standards evolve and change over the course of time because we change over the course of time. I am not who I was ten years ago, ten days ago, not even ten minutes ago.
My standards have changed drastically from a variety of experiences, good and bad, happy and sad, anxious and peaceful. Memorable changes in my standards occurred after I was bullied, rejected at an audition, and was a victim of a relationship gone bad. Every experience causes us to revise our standards because our self-identity is continually evolving.
To further clarify standards we must shed light on boundaries.
Understandably, most people confuse the rationale behind boundaries, especially what they are and what they are not. Unlike a fence, boundaries do not shield us from the outside world but assume that others should acknowledge and respect them, and if they are violated, we become transformed into Old Yeller, howling, “How dare you cross my boundary!”
Boundaries are set by our standards, but unlike a country’s border, they are not meant to keep people out, but are emplaced to inform ourselves of our dignity, value, and individuality. To put it plain and simple, when a boundary has been crossed, we have been mistreated and disrespected because one or many of our standards have been violated, so we must tell ourselves to walk away because this situation, person, or relationship is toxic.
I have discovered three important tactics to uphold your boundaries and maintain your standards.
1. Temper your enthusiasm
So often we create this ideal image of a person in the beginning, and we never update that perception as time progresses. If you have disturbing or demoralizing experiences with someone, such as: he or she doesn’t message days on end, doesn’t banter in between dates, or doesn’t ask for another date and apologizes for being busy–update your perspective of this person. Ask yourself, “How right is this person for me?”
2. Understand your needs, know yourself
If you know your value and are secure in yourself, when a person does not meet your needs, you will not suffer self-deprecation nor insecurity. For example, if you desire that initial excitement, fun, and romance, but that person is not delivering on these expectations, be honest with yourself about the fact that he or she isn’t really meeting your dating needs and doesn’t fulfill what you really want. It doesn’t mean the person is a write-off, but it does mean that you should temper your enthusiasm about this person and not perceive his failings as a reflection on you.
3. Speak up
Change does not occur automatically. We must initiate it. If you don’t like something, speak up! For instance, after 3 weeks of not hearing from a guy and you receive the message, “Hey, haven’t heard from you in a while, let’s hang out!” Of course, your initial thoughts are “Where have you been?” Respond with, “LOL, you were supposed to send me this message 3 weeks ago!” Throwing a jab at the guy in a playful way expresses your standards and definitely gets the message across that you value yourself and time.
Expressing your standards doesn’t always need to come in an aggressive or passive-aggressive form. It can come in the form of being playful. A little bit of humor can go a long way in these situations, especially in the early stage of a relationship.
Final Thoughts: Standards are about me, and Expectations are about you! Standards are the minimum of what we expect from a person or a situation, but they are not minimum qualities. We are saying: “That person must at least be _________, but if they are not, then I must terminate the relationship.”
Expectations are what we expect from the other person, and obviously, we do not expect that person to violate our standards. Expectations must be realistic. I should not expect to meet Prince Charming but at the same time I should not accept a Hannibel Lecter. When our expectations are not met, it is not because of a defect in us, but only that the person doesn’t fit the bill.
Standards and expectations should not be used to demean or judge others. They guide us to the person who is right for us. We each have individual standards and expectations. A person may meet your standards and expectations but not mine. That does not mean that the person is good or bad.
Admirable standards, detached expectations, and firm boundaries are not obstacles in our lives, but are the pathways to happiness.