Once Women Stop Expecting These 9 Things From Men, Everyone Will Be Happier

Temper your expectations, please. We're only human.

caucasian couple in a red room, looking at a laptop GaudiLab / shutterstock 

Society is changing quickly, and what's expected of men and women in relationships and the family has shifted dramatically in the last fifty years. For people in heterosexual relationships, that means sometimes not knowing what is appropriate to ask and expect from their partners, leading to confusion, resentment and distance.

As a man who has been fortunate enough to be married to my wife for twenty years, as well as having experienced a divorce, I can say that clear communication, personal responsibility and accountability are a huge part of what makes a marriage work. I know because I've failed at some of these things, and I've worked hard to get better at them, too. 


But I also have noticed, among the men I know, some trends that seem to be driving men and women apart, even when they love each other.

Of course, this doesn't mean that men don't have toxic expectations of the women in their lives — we know that is true. In fact, I bet lots of women will relate to these things, below as unfair expectations put on them in relationships. But in this case, I'm going to share my experience after talking with hundreds, if not thousands, of men via my men's groups and weekly men's speakers series, as well as the men I've been friends with for decades.

RELATED: 19 Ridiculous Expectations That Keep Your Relationship Unhealthy


Here are nine expectations women often have about men that can lead to misconceptions

1. That he possesses high self-esteem

While most men love to help a woman feel good about herself (and nobody should be actively beating down someone else's self-esteem), no man can be the source of a woman's self-esteem. For most men, this feels like a battle we will always lose. 

True self-esteem comes from within and is independent of any person or life situation. You can be in prison and have self-esteem. You can be a billionaire and hate yourself (see Thomas H. Lee). Self-esteem is an inside job and any woman who counts on her man for it isn’t acting with maturity or playing fair.

2. That he has unrealistic body image expectations

I love my wife. She is beautiful. I love her body. 

She knows I love her body and think she is beautiful. I tell her all the time and am open about my adoration for her. I hope that all that makes her feel good and loved by me. 


But our society is so damn hard on women’s self-appraisal of themselves physically and that's a problem that needs to be solved. But in a relationship, no amount of attention from a man is going to change something deep like a serious problem with body image. Here, too, it’s an inside job. 

No man can force a woman to ignore all those toxic images and love herself physically — and he shouldn't. She’s got to find her way to that herself.  Guys tell me all the time that their wife or girlfriend is completely hot, but she doesn’t feel that way and gets mad at them for feeling less than others. That is not fair.

RELATED: Why Expectation Is The Root Of All Heartache

3. That he is driven by purpose or meaning

A great relationship or marriage is one where both people find deep meaning and love in the relationship, but also have their feet firmly planted in why they are on this planet, to begin with. It can certainly overlap, but at the end of the day, “meaning” is a personal journey. 


If the other person is your “everything” it isn’t fair or healthy. 

A current example I love is David and Megan Roche. I have become a superfan of their podcast “Some Work, All Play.” They are both self-admitted geeks and freaks.  They met both having never really had a relationship and fell madly in love. They both love life a lot. They are both world-class runners. They both coach a ton of other world-class runners. They do a podcast together twice a week. They coach each other. They just had a baby. They are both obsessed with the science of training and running. So much overlap in meaning and so much time together as a couple. But that's not all they have, and it's not the only thing giving each of their lives meaning. 

Megan is an MD/Ph.D. from Stanford and a doctor by day (yes they are both crazy smart and talk a mile a minute). David went to law school at Duke, where they met, and quit to “run” the family business by blogging on the science of running and keeping the mechanics of their coaching and podcast going while Megan goes to the hospital and does her own research. At the end of the day they each have their own path. David supports Megan even when that means she had to go live in California to finish her Ph.D. (they live in Colorado) but it was Megan who looked inside and found what makes her heart and mind tick.

RELATED: The 5 Things Some Women 'Expect' From Men That (Pretty Much) Guarantee A Broken Heart


4. That he will learn to love what you love

The beauty of a relationship is the commonality of experience of the world but also the stark differences. And so often it is in the differences that love becomes even stronger.  Getting frustrated because your guy doesn’t find pleasure in the same things you do is truly a losing battle. Sometimes my wife opens my eyes to things I never in a million years to considering (this generally comes in some form of being social, meeting new people, going to different events … as a very strong introvert I would tend away from all the above and yet … getting outside my comfort zone is ultimately a rewarding experience and I end up being thankful for the push). 

But sometimes people are just different and that is totally OK and, in fact, crucial to a healthy relationship. Don’t try to force your guy to love what you love or feel disappointed when he doesn’t. Unconditional love is about accepting the other person for who and where they are without judgment.

5. That he'll give up his guy friends

You want your partner to be strong, fulfilled, and happy and bring all that to how much he can love you. There is no zero-sum game between you and his friends. It is the reverse. The stronger his network of REAL friends, the more he will be able to love you.

If you haven’t been paying attention, there is a true man crisis right now that impacts what kind of husband and father your guy can be. You have a huge, vested interest in his mental health. Men in this country are suffering from all kinds of problems caused by loneliness (as measured by how many people you have in your life who you could call in the middle of the night no questions asked). Men die by suicide at four times the rate of women, and 70 percent of addiction deaths are by men. 


There is an epidemic of men who are struggling. The solution is for men to connect with men. Please, please don’t make this about you and stand in the way. Support, even encourage, your guy to maintain, make, and foster close male friendships. It might save his life and will certainly make your relationship so much better.

RELATED: The 12 'Commandments' Of Successful, Lasting, Happy Relationships

6. That his worth is tied to his wealth

So very many men are on a treadmill to nowhere. At some point, they realize they have been sold a bill of goods. And smack into a brick wall. Our society too often looks at men in two dimensions. Yes, we are objectified too. What guy has the most money? Period. It is a vicious measuring stick that always leads to emptiness. For sure money does matter. And providing for a family, and being generous as a man, are all things that are positive male attributes. 

Many, many men work their asses off to make ends meet. But ladies please, please don’t reduce us to that.  


While they're not the same or equivalent, men's ability to earn money is often the way we are objectified. Similar to how the "male gaze" causes some men never to take the time to treat women in three dimensions, some women only see value in a man who has money or "potential." And it is massively destructive to all involved. 

We as men are so much more than that. We have interests, we have loves, we have feelings. Don’t reduce your guy to a bank account. It will get in the way of true intimacy.

RELATED: The Key Ingredient At The Center Of Every Epic Life-Long Relationship

7. That he can read your mind in bed

Good sex is about good communication. It takes courage but you gotta tell your guy exactly what you like and don’t like. Every guy who loves you wants to give you pleasure.  Wants to give you deep satisfaction in your physical relationship. "Faking it" only harms your potential pleasure as an individual and as a couple. I recognize that it's not easy to have the courage to be vulnerable enough to tell a guy what is really going on for you physically, but it is important and a guy who cares about you wants to hear it.


The biggest turn-on for any guy is to feel achingly wanted by you. But he can’t read your mind. Most guys have no clue what makes a woman’s body tick and of course, every woman is different, so even if they did — they could be wrong when it comes to you. But they so want to. So, you have to show him. Talk to him. Guide him. Teach him.  

Try not to get frustrated because it didn’t go well at first if he's trying. He will sense that and beat himself up. Remember that sex, like everything else, is an infinite game. You get an unlimited number of chances to get it right with your partner. But you have to practice and communicate honestly.

RELATED: 5 Ways To Tell If You & Your Partner’s Differences Are Good For Your Relationship


8. That he will act as a woman would act

This sounds silly but it is not. The more time goes on the more I realize that I have no idea what it is like to be a woman, particularly in a world where sexism still dominates all our lives. I try as hard as I can to just listen to women’s experiences to learn as much as I can.  

The more I listen the more I realize that, in general, we are so different. I have a lot more listening to do. Sometimes it feels like these differences get swept under the rug, which is very destructive in relationships. Celebrate your guy for being a guy. Don’t get frustrated because he doesn’t understand what it is like to be a woman or, worse yet, expect him to intuitively know what your experience of being a woman is like. That is unrealistic and unfair. Tell him. Ask him to listen. Don’t ask him to be a Vulcan mind reader. You will get pissed. And so will he.

9. That he's perfect

We are all human. Don’t idolize your guy and then get crushingly depressed when he doesn’t live up to your expectations. News flash: We guys make tons of mistakes even when we are 100 percent all-in on the relationship and trying our best. In healthy relationships, when mistakes happen there is a big margin for error. It doesn’t become a felony case instantaneously. There is room for mistakes, apologies, and changes in behavior.

Unrealistic expectations followed by anger over failing to live up to those expectations are a recipe for disaster. Unconditional love in both directions involves acceptance and in fact love of the imperfections, the weaknesses, and the ways in which your partner struggles. Love, don't hate, the places in which your guy fails you and himself. Assume the best about him always.


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Tom Matlack is on a mission to help men. His weekly speakers series and writing on Substack help men connect with one another and their own emotional well-being. He adores his wife of 20 years and his three children.