Expectations in a Relationship: What is Healthy?

by | Apr 15, 2019 | Finding & Qualifying Dates | 0 comments

Expectations in a Relationship: Am I Demanding Too Much of My Shidduch Date

I’ve been blessed to grow up in a very warm, loving, and healthy home. My parents are unique and special people. They provided the paradigm of marriage that I aspire to emulate. My image of the woman I’m looking to marry incorporates many traits I’ve seen in my mother. I respect her intellectual curiosity and deep emotional intuition. Her humility and quiet confidence. She’s a multi-tasker who seems to be able to “do it all” with grace, warmth, and calm. Beyond her full time work, running a home, and raising us children, she’s always made her relationship with G-d and contributions to the community a central part of her life.

Dating has been disappointing. I continue to be set up with what I am told is the “cream of the crop”. On paper they all sound wonderful, yet when I meet with them I’m not impressed. They seem to be lacking in maturity and sensitivity. I rarely date a girl that has both intellectual curiosity and a warm nurturing nature. Am I asking for too much? Are my expectations unrealistic? I know it exists. After all, I grew up in a home with a woman just like that as my Mother.


Realistic Expectations

This is classic “Perfect Parent Syndrome”. The subconscious search in dating for the qualities of a parent we deeply respect and wish to emulate.  The thinking is, “If these characteristics worked for me in my childhood, shouldn’t they work for me in a spouse?” While some singles may believe they’ve found those qualities, many find themselves frustrated and disappointed wondering if they will ever find the combination they’re looking for.


While there’s nothing wrong with admiring unique qualities you’ve seen in your parents or other role models, it’s a mistake to hope that these qualities will present themselves fully formed in a dating partner.

Marriage will create profound change and encourages focus, maturity, and the expansion of self to make room for another. It stretches giving muscles beyond what was assumed possible, and demands levels of love and devotion never before experienced. Then, the bearing and raising of children pushes all those limits exponentially. Such practice for 30,40 or 50 years can create a human being unrecognizable in selflessness, humility, giving, love, devotion, maturity, sensitivity, wisdom, and development.

On several occasions I’ve asked a room of singles to close their eyes, and theoretically think of somebody that’s similar to the type of person they want to marry.  I tell them that the person they envision can be married or single, a family member or friend, young or old, it doesn’t matter. After giving a few minutes for thought I say, “Let me guess, the person you’re thinking of is married”. The room always breaks out into laughter, because in fact everyone has chosen someone married. Not surprising.


While there’s nothing wrong with admiring unique qualities you’ve seen in your parents or other role models, it’s a mistake to hope that these qualities will present themselves fully formed in a dating partner.

5 Tips for Setting Healthy Expecations 

  • 1. Look for potential: Try not to look for a finished product, but a person who has the core traits your respect and can see yourself growing with. The person you marry is a young and unrefined version of themselves and will develop many traits with time as they build a home with you.
  • 2. Judge everyone on their own merits: Just because your date is not similar to someone you look up to, does not mean they do not have many redeeming qualities that can be compatible and respectable for you. It’s unfair to compare a young man or woman to a person with decades of life experience. It’s usually not helpful to compare the date across the table from you with your friends’ or siblings’ spouses. Every person is a bundle that can’t be unbundled. We either take it or leave it. Selectively comparing bundle parts is both unrealistic and self-defeating.
  • 3. Settle down: I would never recommend that we “settle” when getting married and definitely not “down”. That’s insulting to yourself and your date. However, when being realistic, we must realize that although we are all flawed, our date should be “worth it” in order to embrace the package they come with. Just as he will hopefully do for you
  • 4. Look in the mirror: If we were to submit ourselves to the same sort of scrutiny that we hold our dates up to, what would we find? We all expect somebody to take us for the qualities we have and for the potential we can actualize in a relationship of mutual growth and support. We should extend the same courtesy to those we date.
  • 5. Be open to surprises: Locking yourself into a particular “type” – personality, look, or background, will not allow you to be pleasantly surprised. Why limit yourself?

Pesach is a time of freedom, redemption and moving away from our bonds of the past. May this Pesach we say Dayanu and choose to distance ourselves from expectations of our past, in order to embrace the miracles possible in our future. By allowing the One Above to guide us through this unique journey, to recognize that we may already have in front of us the shortest distance to our longest relationship.

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