The Importance of Setting Healthy Expectations

January 7th, 2016 by Nick Notas 6 Comments

I want MOAR

When I met my girlfriend, we hit it off immediately. We had a few great dates and really started to connect. Then one day she suddenly began acting kind of distant.

My expectation for a good relationship included healthy and steady communication. So the next time we met up, I said something like…

“Not sure why you’ve been playing hard to get. I value my time and while I like spending time with you, I want to invest my energy in people who want to connect with me, too.”

I started setting the expectations of what I was looking for.

She immediately apologized. She admitted that she had started to develop feelings for me and was nervous to mess things up. So she listened to some friends who told her to “play it cool”.

Imagine if I hadn’t spoken up and just acted distant back to her. That would’ve resulted in frustrating miscommunication where neither of us were happy.

But that’s exactly how so many guys react in similar situations. And I’m tired of seeing them struggle with uncertainty and missed opportunities.

How men set the wrong expectations

When a lot of guys start connecting with a girl they like, their primary thought is…

“Don’t fuck this up.”

In their mind, the safest route is the path of least resistance. They will do anything to keep her happy.

They play it safe and don’t enforce ANY expectations.

So if a girl repeatedly cancels on plans, they just accept it and keep trying to get her to come out. When a girl tests them about something important, they apologize, feel shameful, or drop the subject altogether.

If a girl doesn’t offer to split a bill on later dates, they just pay for everything (even if they can barely afford to do so). And if a girl doesn’t flirt first with them, they don’t express their sexual intentions because they’re worried she might be “creeped out”.

These guys avoid any actions that may create tension. They act like whatever happens is cool by them. They just follow the girl’s lead every step of the way.

It’s counter-intuitive. You would think that by doing this everything would go smoothly. But when you don’t set any expectations, a girl knows you’ll do anything to have her. This approval-seeking behavior (neediness) is a massive turnoff.

And often when people sense this, they’ll test how far they can push you. The more I see guys do whatever a girl wants, the more mistreatment and misery occurs.

On the other hand, knowing who you are and what you want commands respect. And self-respect is sexy.

A woman has to sense that you will walk away from someone who doesn’t meet YOUR needs in order to find a girl who does. That you’re not going to settle until you get what you want in life. If they know you won’t take shit, they will work harder for you.

 That starts with figuring out your expectations with her and then setting them the right way.

Why you need to figure out your expectations right away

Ask yourself…

“What kind of relationship do I want? How do I want to be treated? What will make me happy?”

Do you want to be a sugar daddy ATM forever? Do you want to have a relationship where you chase a girl for weeks for her to even consider seeing you? Do you want a tame, passionless dynamic with a girl who doesn’t want to flirt with you?

I fucking hope not. So you’ve got to know what you’re looking for and start conveying those expectations. Because whatever expectations you put out there, that’s the dynamic you will create.

Most importantly, you have to set your expectations from the beginning.

Some guys try to be so accommodating until a relationship becomes more substantial. But by that time, you’ve already begun setting the terms. It becomes infinitely harder to change those expectations later on.

For example, say you spend every single day with a girl and ditch your friends for months. Suddenly, you want to be more independent and have a guy’s night or two. This suggestion comes out of nowhere and probably takes her by surprise.

And that’s where real conflict happens. She’s used to you always being around and that’s what she thought this relationship would be. She feels like you’re not as interested in her because you’ve never wanted that before. She may even feel threatened or deceived.

And because you waited so long to speak up, she subconsciously feels like she has more power to keep things just where they are. You didn’t set healthy expectations in the first place and therefore didn’t build the necessary respect and willingness to compromise your relationship needs.

How to compromise without being a doormat

Now of course, you can’t just go setting wildly unrealistic expectations, either. This is where things get a bit tricky. Expectations are all relative and what’s fair to some, may be out of the question for others.

For example, I knew a guy who wanted to have sex three times a day with any girl he dated. While sex multiples times in a day definitely happens, most women can’t or don’t want that level of sexual commitment every single day.

This is where compromise comes in. It doesn’t mean having no expectations or just dropping something that’s important to you. It means evaluating how much you’re willing to give or take for the happiness of the other person and mutual benefit of the relationship. And then communicating that boundary or having a healthy discussion about it.

A good starting point is to ask yourself…

  • Would I still be satisfied if I compromised on this expectation?
  • If I am willing to compromise, how much?
  • If she wants me to drop this expectation completely, could I still be happy and not feel unfulfilled or resentful?
  • If I’m not willing to compromise, can I discuss my needs and see if she is willing to budge on this issue?

Going back to the example above…

You could decide that while you occasionally want nights of crazy multiple sexcapades, you mostly just want to maintain a healthy sexual connection at least a few times a week.

Or maybe you realized…you absolutely do need sex multiple times a day. She tells you she can’t agree to that and it’s just not possible for her. You’re not willing to compromise and neither is she.

In that case, you may have to find yourself a nymphomaniac instead.

Examples of how to set good vs bad expectations

You don’t need to become a dick or act controlling to set your expectations. It’s not about giving ultimatums. It’s about assertively expressing your needs without shame.

You don’t always have to explicitly state them, either. It’s often more powerful to show, not tell. You simply act or speak up in ways that are congruent with your expectations.

Let’s go over some example of the right vs wrong ways to set expectations.

You send a flirtatious text to a girl and she brushes it off or ignores it. Maybe she even tests you about flirting with her.

What you really want: An intimate (not platonic) connection.

Setting bad expectations: You don’t try again because you’re worried she may not want you to flirt with her. You apologize or back off. You then end up creating a less playful, less sexual connection. She may then only start to see and treat you as a friend.

Setting good expectations: You continue to pepper in flirting throughout your communication. When she says, “Are you trying to flirt with me?” You reply, “Always.”

You playfully acknowledge she can’t dodge your flirting. For example, you joke about a New Year’s Eve kiss and she sends you back a platonic messaging wishing you health and happiness. You respond, “Thanks for the kind wishes gram gram but I’d much rather prefer that kiss :)”

She wants to text constantly or talk on the phone every day.

What you really want: To talk with her but still have independent time to yourself.

Setting bad expectations: You just keep rolling with it. You talk and text endlessly, putting your goals, hobbies, or “me” time on hold. You feel unfulfilled in other areas of your life and burdened by this commitment.

Setting good expectations: You let her know that you love talking to her but you value your alone time. You need time to recharge — not just from her, but from everyone.

You invite a girl to a first or second date and she wants to bring her friends.

What you really want: To spend time alone with her in a setting where you can get more personal and flirtatious.

Setting bad expectations: “Sure, I guess that’s fine.” Then you end up in situations where you have to entertain her friends. She is less focused on you. And flirting becomes much more difficult for you and awkward for her in front of her friends.

Setting good expectations: I’m excited to meet your friends, but I want to get to know you better one-on-one first.”

She acts offended when you ask a reasonable sexual question or when you make an off-color joke that’s not overly vulgar.

What you really want: To be able to talk about sex and sexuality openly with your partners. To indulge in your dark humor on occasion. 

Setting bad expectations: You apologize, “I’m so sorry — I shouldn’t have said that.” You stop bringing up sexual topics or asking intimate questions. You don’t swear or express your true sense of humor around her.

Setting good expectations: “Oh c’mon, sex is beautiful and it’s a lot of fun to talk about.”  “I’ve got a dirty mind, what can I say?” “You’re gonna have to get used to it because I’ve got a dark sense of humor.” 

She doesn’t want you to spend as much time with your friends, to an unrealistic extent.

What you really want: To keep chilling with your bros, duh.

Setting bad expectations: You start cancelling plans on friends to make her happy. You lose good friendships. You create a co-dependent atmosphere.

Setting good expectations: Encourage her to have some “me” time as well. Or to go see her friends and have a fun night out. Tell her your friends are your family and those relationships are important to you.

She wants you to become a Christian and give god a chance.

What you really want: To not practice religion. You are an Atheist and have come to terms with not believing in god.

Setting bad expectations: To start going to church with her weekly when you don’t want to. Never admitting that you don’t believe in god.

Setting good expectations: Telling her you are completely fine with her practicing (only if you actually are) but that it’s not for you. Reinforcing that you respect her beliefs even if you don’t believe.

You’re paying for her all the dates and more while she hasn’t offered to contribute.

What you really want: To pay for the whole date when you can. To buy her something nice when the time is right. Not for it to be expected of you or for you to be primarily seen as a money provider.

Setting bad expectations: Buy all her drinks every time you go out. Wait until some day when she offers to split a check. Buy her gifts, clothes, or jewelry whenever she asks.

Setting good expectations: Tell her you’ll get this round but she gets the next. Say that next time she has to wine and dine you for a date. Say, “we can just split this one.”

Speak up about not buying lavish gifts, “Don’t worry, I’ll get you something nice when it’s the right occasion :)” or “I’d rather take that money and do a fun adventure with you.” Joke, “Nice try, maybe you’ll have better luck over there instead :)” or “The crystal ball says….not likely.” (playful and sarcastic)

She went from dressing up and wanting to go out all the time to staying in her PJs on Netflix.

What you really want: To still go out together and try new things. To have date nights.

Setting bad expectations: Keep watching Netflix. Just say “whatever you want” whenever she asks what to do when hanging out.

Setting good expectations: Come up with a fun date idea and tell her to get ready for tonight. Show her a class or event that seems exciting to both of you. Express how you want to see her done up and stare at her beautiful body on the dance floor. Say that you’re pumped to get out and do something fresh together.

Don’t change all your behaviors based on what you think a woman may or may not want from you. Stop hiding your personality, interests, or the type of relationship you’re looking looking for. If you’re interested in her romantically, don’t tiptoe around flirting and hang out as only friends.

You shouldn’t be trying to convince just any attractive woman to like you. Find women who are already excited about connecting with you in ways that are fulfilling. Seek out relationships that meet your expectations as well as theirs.

  1. Melvin on January 7, 2016

    I made the mistake of not putting my foot down even with my friends. I thought it would make me seem more chill and laid back but they used to walk all over me and I would always take it. When I tried setting my boundaries after years of not doing it, they kept busting my balls and not taking me seriously.

    It was only after I kept pushing back and nearly ended my friendships did they start changing their attitude. It was tough and I realized that I should have been setting my expectations for years.

    I still don't do it enough with women I'm interested in. The examples here really helped though so thanks. I have a date coming up Saturday and I'm going to try to set my expectations as best as possible. Wish me luck!

    • Nick Notas on January 7, 2016

      Good for you man — I went through the same thing. The only difference is that it actually ended up costing me some friendships. They weren’t willing to treat me the way I had to be treated even after I gave them multiple chances.

      Yeah, it’s common for guys to struggle with setting expectations most with women they like. But just keep some of the ideas in your mind for the date and even try to set one or two expectations if you feel challenged.

  2. Jan on January 8, 2016

    The introduction probably explains most of my past dating failures…
    A girl is great, fun, nice to me. Then turns more and more mean and demanding..and I don’t say anything. At the end, just can’t wait to get out of the relationship.

    There was a girl who after two months of relationship came up with the idea we have to do a long trip every weekend..and I felt I had to do it as a good boyfriend, although I considered it a waste of time. I survived it a few times but when I wanted to stop, it was difficult as she already took these trips for granted.
    Don’t let me share other examples…
    Anyway, I promise you & myself I’ll always set the expectations both at the beginning and at any time in the relationship when necessary.

    Thank you so much for this enlightening article and all the work you’re doing!!

    • Nick Notas on January 11, 2016

      Hey Jan,

      Thanks for being so vulnerable and sharing that with us.

      Developing self-awareness of where to improve in your relationships is a huge asset. You’re on the right track and I’m pumped that you’re excited about changing things.

      You’re very welcome and good luck on setting your expectations!

  3. Ashley on January 8, 2016

    These are good, healthy expectations and good ideas for solutions. I wish I would have had this knowledge for a couple of guys from the past.

    • Nick Notas on January 11, 2016

      Thanks Ashley. Well now you can apply for this for the future 🙂