Managing expectations

On our first date, as we walked to his car, he said, “I’ll open the door for you, but don’t get used to this.”

I asked why.

“Because I don’t usually open the door for women. In six months, I will have stopped and you’ll think something is wrong. Nothing’s wrong. It’s just not my habit to open the door for a woman. And I’m too old to develop new habits.”

“I know from our conversations that you are a man who strives for personal continuous improvement. So if you were really into a woman and your opening the door for her was important to her, I bet you’d work to make that a habit.”

“That’s true” he admitted. “But I’ve learned not to over promise on things that just aren’t in my nature to keep up over time. It creates expectations that I’m not likely to meet. And that creates disappointment.”

“That makes sense. You don’t want to pretend to be someone you’re not.”

“Exactly. For example, I’ve learned to give only a 10-minute massage. I used to give an hour, but then the woman would expect an hour’s massage each time. I can do 10 minutes frequently, but I can’t do an hour.”

I appreciated his candor, even though I also appreciate chivalry. It made me wonder about what each of us does early on in a relationship that is for show — to ingratiate ourselves to the other. I looked back on my own behaviors to see how I can be different in the early stages of a relationship than after we’ve been together a while.

In all honesty, I think I’ve been nicer in the early stages, not saying when something bothered me. I don’t know if it was insecurity that the guy might not like me, or just feeling that it wasn’t polite to say something. Now I’m more confident and more assertive. I don’t put up with the BS I used to.

What have you observed yourself doing — or not doing — that you changed as you got to know someone? Have you purposefully learned to not try to be someone you’re not when you know you’ll revert to your true self in short order? Have you experienced someone who put on behaviors at first, but then dropped them as you got to know each other?


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19 responses to “Managing expectations”

  1. Julie Avatar

    Maybe he’s testing you… my b.f. continues to open the door for me after 2 years, now. My sister’s husband is still doing it after 7 years.
    I wouldn’t get in to a debate about what’s important to you with this guy… but I would tell him that there are a few things that matter a lot to you. Maybe you dont even need him to massage you! If he knows right away what’s important to you, maybe he can let go of his anxiety.

    I just looked up Steve Harvey because I remember him talking about opening car doors recently.. here is paste from his book found on internet —

    “Knowing that you have that kind of power, there are a lot of things you can get from a man. Chivalry is not dead. It is just not required anymore. Don’t be a chirp girl. I call them chirp girls. You go out on a date with a guy. He has that clicker on his keychain. [chirp chirp] He unlocks the door and you get in. Don’t be a chirp girl. A man is supposed to open your car door and then get in the car himself. That is what we are supposed to do.

    We know that. It is just that nobody requires it anymore. I teach my sons that they cannot get in the car until their mothers and sisters are in the car. I teach my sons that if I turn around and you are in that car and your mother and sisters are not in that car, I am crushing you because suppose something happens — a dog attack or something — and we are in the car and the girls are not, how can we protect them? So that can’t happen.

    Do you know that your boyfriend or your man is supposed to walk closest to the curb? That is a requirement. He is supposed to pull your chair out at the restaurant; he is supposed to open the door for you at the mall. Just set those standards and requirements as a lady. And that is the title of the book: Act Like a Lady Think Like a Man. I am not saying don’t be independent. Do so by all means. Get your grind on. Get your hustle on. Climb that corporate ladder. Make your money, but just act like a lady. Make a man be a man. Require that of him and you will get more out of your relationship from a guy.”

  2. Julie Avatar

    Here’s another good one from his book!

    A reader of Steve’s book asks him about a quote from his book. First is the quote, and then she simply asks him what he means:

    “Whatever the case, we men are no longer connecting with that special part of you that makes you a woman.” What do you mean by that?
    Steve’s answer:
    When a man does not understand your value, we disconnect from you. That’s why I implore women, keep your standards and your requirements high. My wife never lets her standards down. When we’re heading to the car, she stands by her door because she knows, and she expects and she requires, that it’s my job to open her door for her.

    I think DG’s date is confused about what a woman’s value is to him. He has decided to set up the standard as far as what he will and won’t do. He is misguided in my humble opinion. 🙂

  3. Mark Avatar

    I think the car stuff is outdated. My current girlfriend drives most of the time when we’re together. She gets her own door. I do tend to get other doors for her, but sometimes it’s awkward and simply easier for her to open the door rather than stand and wait for me to get it.

    To me it’s not so much about getting doors or walking on the outside of the sidewalk as it is about being respectful. I take time to listen to her. I am interested in what is going on in her life and make that interest known. I enjoy being tender towards her and cuddling with her and stroking her hair. I even watched The English Patient with her, and if that’s not being chivalrous then I don’t know what is.

    And I carry the groceries in and mow her lawn and clean her gutters. I think that means more than getting a door.

  4. Julie Avatar

    Well i dont mean to sound like a steve harvey robot. however i like the door thing because i asked him to do it, and he still does it. that’s the part that appeals to me – he listened/listens and didnt have a list of stuff he wouldnt do. u sound nice, too.

  5. Ann Harrison Avatar

    Mmm… I’ve thought about this – setting up false expectations – a lot. For example, when my ex was ‘wooing’ me, I would regularly receive deliveries of huge, beautiful bouquets of flowers, accompanied by boxes of expensive chocolates. Once we were together, I didn’t receive a single bloom and the only boxes of chocolates I received from him were given as birthday gifts!

    I’m also aware that, in the past, I’ve gone to quite considerable effort to cook dinner for a new man when, in reality, I have no interest in cooking and much prefer to be with a man who enjoys cooking and is more than willing to take on the job!

    Are we setting new partners up for disappointment down the line when we engage in behaviors that are intended to make us appear more attractive to a date, but which we are unlikely to continue with once a relationship has become more established? I suspect we are! I’ve decided that, in future, if I know that I can’t/won’t sustain a particular behavior, I’m not going to do it at all and I’m going to make the same request of any future potential partners.

  6. Brenda Avatar

    I love Steve Harvey’s book and his thought about male/female relationships and what men are supposed to do for us as protectors, providers, etc.

    I have to say that I probably would not go out with the “don’t get used to this door-opening thing” guy again……….I suspect his “issues” go much deeper and to me this is a bit of a red flag.

    Do tell us, DG, what happened to this poor soul!


  7. Brenda Avatar

    PS Mark is a gem – I am looking for someone like you!

  8. Dating Goddess Avatar

    Brenda: Yes, Mark is a gem, as are all our regular male commenters! They are special, we know, because they read and comment here!

    Thanks for bringing this back to the topic at hand — managing expectations.

    To answer your question, this was a one-date-only encounter. The conversation described was when I was on a week-long trip to his area. We both knew it would be hard to establish a long-distance relationship, so we began our conversations months ago by deciding we would look at it as starting a friendship.

    When we met, he made enough comments to express he was attracted to me and would like to spend some time together during my trip. I invited him to a party the night after we met, and he said he would try to rearrange a previous commitment, but then called and said he was unable to do so. He called and texted a few other times, but never asked when I was available for us to get together again. I decided I wasn’t going to make this move, as he had to be interested enough to ask, knowing I was only in his town a week.

    So even though he said numerous times how valuable he found our conversations before we met, and how he could see my becoming an adviser to him, he did nothing to nourish the relationship. Oh, well. Now my interest in helping him in any way has diminished as he didn’t do anything to initiate further contact to further our friendship.

  9. Mark Avatar

    “Are we setting new partners up for disappointment down the line when we engage in behaviors that are intended to make us appear more attractive to a date, but which we are unlikely to continue with once a relationship has become more established? I suspect we are!”

    Yeah, it’s a tricky business, isn’t it? We want to make a good impression but if do more than we normally would, we probably are setting up false expectations. It’s far too easy to get caught up in the daily routine once we are approaching partner status with someone.

    If you normally wouldn’t get a car door, or bring flowers on a regular basis, it’s probably better to not engage in that kind of behavior when first getting to know someone unless you sincerely desire to change your behavior. I don’t get the car door for my GF because she’s usually driving and she unlocks it remotely as we walk up to it. It seems weird to get the door for the driver. Maybe it’s just me.

    It’s also not always easy to get other doors. Sometimes we’re in a narrow space where it’s easier to go single file, and so she reaches the door before me. She would rather get it herself than stand and wait for me to get it.

    Here is one behavior that I bet anyone hardly experiences anymore: Men standing up from a table when a woman excuses herself and leaves the table. That used to be standard, but I never see that happening anymore. I think that illustrates that these are just customs and customs change.

  10. Anna Avatar

    I agree that we do tend to put on our best behavior when we meet someone first, even behavior that isn’t necessarily our normal custom. We all probably try too hard. And then we set ourselves up for a fall when we slip back to our old, normal ways. That doesn’t necessarily have to be inappropriate behavior, just our true selves. Isn’t that why couples should live together before getting married? To see the real person and not the person they are merely dating? But I do think its harmless enough in that mature adults know that that level of initial courtship, initial romancing does fade off eventually. Not saying I never want flowers or romance, but I am realistic to know that the initial wooing won’t last. But as for DG’s ex-friend, if he is like that to start off with………..well it would only be down hill from there. We all want that extra special treatment at first, and then settle into a loving long term relationship where you might occasionally have to remind your guy about your anniversary well in advance 🙂

  11. Julie Avatar

    (When I drive us, I never wait for him to open the door, it hasn’t crossed my mind!)

  12. Mark Avatar

    If a woman wants a man to do things like open doors, get her chair, walk on the outside of the sidewalk, etc., doesn’t it also mean that the man has an expectation that the woman will behave in a certain way? For example, if a woman wants me to get the door for her, I think I probably don’t want to hear her swear. If she wants to be treated like a lady, I then expect her to act like a lady, and the danger of this might be what my definition of lady might be. It might be very constraining.

    What we really want is to be respected. I want to be respected not because I have good muscles but because I am a decent person. I want to respect a woman not because she knows how to flirt and make herself pretty but because she is a good person.

    A real relationship is one where you are both in the backyard digging to plant tomatoes or put in a pond or a fence or something else and you’re both sweaty and wearing clothes ready for Good Will and you can look at each other and smile and share a quick kiss and then get back to work. It’s being together while the real things are happening instead of being together on a date.

  13. Anna Avatar

    I vote that if governments ever decide to get into human cloning, we clone Mark first 🙂

  14. Julie Avatar

    Hi Mark,

    It’s both for me. A real realationship is just what you’ve described…
    It took an awfully long time for my boyfriend to even want to do real relationship type of stuff, rather than just going out on dates.

    My thinking in this thread has been focused on only the car door thing. But to me that’s just a nice thing he does for me as part of the whole relationship when we go out somewhere. As you pointed out, the real relationship consists of the digging and sloppy clothes stuff, which is, if I had to rate the whole thing… far above the car door opening. I also think Steve Harvey is talking to the men who are missing that basic respect thing.

    >>>A real relationship is one where you are both in the backyard digging to plant tomatoes or put in a pond or a fence or something else and you’re both sweaty and wearing clothes ready for Good Will and you can look at each other and smile and share a quick kiss and then get back to work. It’s being together while the real things are happening instead of being together on a date.<<<

  15. Karen Avatar

    Mark–you nailed it! & I also agree with whoever said they’d take Mr “don’t expect it” and red-flag him into oblivion: Like,why would I need to bother to get to know such a guy?

    My current awesome BF is kind of old-fashioned & does the car door thing–& I’m learning to enjoy it (really something for this modern feminist). But when we first started going out, he didn’t open the car door for me back then. & then somewhere along the line he started doing it–apparently it was a change in how he thought of “us”. He also likes carrying heavy groceries and stuff for me, even though of course I could carry them myself.

    It’s gotten to be a bit of a game: it’s one way he shows how much he’s “into” me, and I let him pretend that I’m helpless for the same reason. A bit of a dance, you know? Not dissimiler to playing together in the bedroom, actually. If a guy can’t unbend enough to enjoy courtship rituals, he’s going to be a problem in other departments too.

  16. Sly Avatar

    If he doesn’t want her to “get used to it”, he shouldn’t do it in the first place.

  17. Julie Avatar

    I still say the guy shouldn’t announce what he will and won’t do. He might as well say ‘i’m too wounded or lazy or whatever it is…. and am not open to anyone.”

  18. Mark Avatar

    “I still say the guy shouldn’t announce what he will and won’t do. He might as well say ‘i’m too wounded or lazy or whatever it is…. and am not open to anyone.’”

    I agree. It really sounds bad. “I’m going to do this now because I want to make a good impression, but I want you to know this isn’t how I really like to behave.”

    It would be better just to let the woman get her own door and draw her own conclusions. If it bothers her enough, she won’t see the guy again. I don’t think there’s fault on either side. It’s better to be honest than put on a false act.

  19. miss bunny Avatar
    miss bunny

    internet dating worked very well for me.i met a wonderful man after two years of of beginning my journey and i hope others find what we have…good ,honest,love…good luck…miss bunny