1. Wanting him to pay for things, but still be a financial equal.
This one is really tricky for two reasons. One, women don’t like admitting that the guy footing the bill, or at least offering to, is an important thing. And two, we don’t want to acknowledge how fundamentally unequal it is. Even the most staunchly feminist women I know will tell stories about a guy who didn’t even offer to pay for her at dinner (the horror!), or who was “really cheap when it came to going out.” In my marriage, I was all about wanting to be “treated to things,” and wanting him to “surprise me,” often with things that cost some kind of money, but I was also really invested in the idea of “having my financial independence.” I never stopped to think about how much a bunch of dinners out could cost, or how much more expensive women’s gifts can be than men’s. Today, I’m much less demanding about what a guy should pay for, and I know that if I want the nicer things, I am going to have to contribute the full 50 percent (and it’s more expensive than I thought it would be).
2. Wanting him to want to do things.
It’s a very feminine phenomenon: not being satisfied with the idea of someone completing a task, but wanting to feel, on some level, that they enjoyed doing it. When it came to tasks that were important to me — whether it was emptying the dishwasher, or going out with a group of my friends to an event I knew he wasn’t that interested in — it would drive me crazy to think that I dragged him through it. Even if he didn’t complain, and was perfectly reasonable, I needed to go the extra mile and make him pretend to have really wanted to do it. And I can’t really name a woman who doesn’t do this, about one issue or another. My ex husband never once insisted that I want to watch the game at the sports bar with his friends, or see his guilty pleasure action movies, or DVR the documentaries he liked. I just did it, and that was enough. It’s unreasonable to expect fake desire.
3. Expecting him to be interested in a lot of the minutia going on in your life.
He’ll just never be that interested in listening to you talk about minor dramas going on at work or in your circles of friends. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t care about you, that doesn’t mean you aren’t close, and it’s not personal in the least. It’s just two different styles of communication, and the fact that he prefers to talk about the bigger picture, while your girlfriend likes to chat for hours about what’s going on with people from your hometown, doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with either person. It’s just the way people listen and talk, and imposing tons of tedious details on someone is not going to make them any more interested. That doesn’t mean you can’t have thrilling conversation — it just means that personal drama is not his favorite subject. Period.
4. Expecting him not to look at other women.
Everyone looks at other people — even us. And looking, honestly, is perfectly fine. Whether it’s some porn, or a pretty girl who walked into the bar, looking is a totally normal human response. And making it into something to get jealous over is totally ridiculous. If it goes to something more than looking (or light flirting, in my opinion), it’s a problem. But there is no reason to have an expectation of being the only person who can catch his eye. We’re all living, breathing humans, and if I could take back every time I nagged at my husband about him checking out the cute waitress for a split second, I would. It just wasn’t worth it, and it didn’t make either of us feel better about anything.
5. Wanting to build a financial future, but also have a pricey wedding.
Engagement rings are expensive. Engagement parties are expensive. Weddings are expensive. Catering is expensive. Bridal showers are expensive. Bachelor and bachelorette parties are expensive. And even if you’re dividing everything 50/50, there are two big problems with this: One, most of the expenses end up going to the woman (the ring, the dress, the showers). And two, the brutal truth is that most men would have a really small ceremony at that if the woman wasn’t there with a lot of expectations about what it should look like when you’re a blushing bride. I pushed my wedding, engagement, and honeymoon — all told — into costing nearly 30k, and that was by far not the highest number floating around the people who were getting married in our social circles. People can put first home prices into a one-day celebration and some jewelry. Wanting a serious financial future and the dream wedding is just ridiculous, when you could take most of those costs and put them right into the down payment of some good property. If we really want to be the fairy princess, fine, but we should be honest about it.
6. Basing relationship expectations off of people around you.
It doesn’t matter if all our friends are getting married. It doesn’t matter if everyone at the office is having a baby. It doesn’t matter if your engagement ring is bigger or smaller. It doesn’t matter how many likes you get on a Facebook wedding announcement. All that matter is that you’re happy, and doing things “at the right time” — or pushing a man to join you in that — is not going to make anything better in your personal life. And I wish that I knew it when I was getting close to 30, and thought I only had a few months left to get everything done. Because in the end, it didn’t matter what most of my friends thought. It mattered that I was making the right choice.