Dating a little, or dating a lot, makes you aware of how you want to be treated in a relationship. In the past, my boyfriends have had differing ideas about what it means to be the man in a heterosexual relationship. But because I’ve been out of a relationship for a few years, the dating scene has changed almost unrecognizably.
And so have I.
So when I meet and go out with potential partners or even just for casual fun, I’m so aware of all the stereotypes, expectations, and baggage that everyone necessarily comes packaged with. Some men have preconceived notions of what it means to be the man, and therefore, what the woman’s “role” is. Some men think all women think and act the same, and want the same things.
So I’ve thought about all the things I want in a relationship, but more important, these are the things I don’t expect a partner to do, provide, or be.
1. Pay for everything
The business of paying for your date is just riddled with potholes and politics. Some women think the man should always pay on a first date, and some men will agree. I don’t necessarily care either way; if you paid for drinks, I’ll definitely try to pay for our dinner, or movie tickets (does anyone actually go on dinner-and-a-movie dates anymore?) and I’m not just pretending to reach for the check for the sake of politness: if I reach for the check, I have every intention of paying.
So, first dates are a little tricky, because you have to gauge the other person’s motives and interest. But past the first date, I don’t expect or want you to pay for me anymore. Past the first date, we’ve established that there’s some mutual interest here, and that I wouldn’t be here, on a date with this person, if I didn’t want to be. So it’s kind of my responsibility to split the cost.
It’s also means as much to me to treat my date as it does for my date to treat me. I like when you pick up the tab; it shows affection and generosity. I would also like to return the favor. Not only does it bother me when my boyfriend tries to pay for everything, because I feel like I’m being constantly undermined, but it gives me pleasure to pick up the tab just as much as he does.
2. Open doors
Again, it’s a nice gesture. But past the first couple times you do it, it becomes utterly unnecessary. Putting aside the contemporary “benevolent sexism” argument, opening the door for me constantly is just a stale reminder of how women were treated in the past. It’s also totally useless. I can open the door and close it just fine, and your doing so for me doesn’t make you a “gentleman,” whatever that means.
If you like to hold doors open for your partner, that’s wonderful for you. But I don’t expect it and I don’t put much value in it.
3. Fix everything
Traditionally, a man’s job in the home is 1. take out the trash and 2. be the handyman. Oh wait, there’s a third: kill bugs.
However these actions are appreciated, typical gender roles in a relationship are total crap to me. I don’t expect you to come running to fix things all the time, or to gently take the spider outside. I can do all of that myself. But I do expect an even division of housework and basic chores. And just because I’m a woman doesn’t mean I automatically am “assigned” the cooking and cleaning. I hate that stuff just as much as a boyfriend or husband might.
4. Work more than I do
So you know those gender roles that are crap? Yeah, they also apply here. If I get married anytime in the future, I don’t expect my husband to make more money than I do, or to work longer hours because the traditional wisdom says the man is supposed to support the family. Where I live, women are typically the primary breadwinners of the family, and that’s a trend that’s only becoming more common.
So I don’t expect you to “take care” of me. Only to be an equal contributor in the building of our life together.
5. Stay home with me all the time
If you want to go out with your friends, please feel free. All couples need time apart, whether it’s alone or with friends, and we’re not doing our relationship any favors by forcing time together when sometimes, we need a night out, or to ourselves. It’s when we choose to spend our time together that intimacy becomes real, not manufactured.
6. Like the same things I like, and hate the things I hate
I will never apologize for some of the stupid things I love, like shopping and the Kardashians. I don’t expect you to sit through marathons of the show though, just like I won’t think it’s stupid if you’re watching football all day on a Sunday. Don’t expect me to always watch along with you, though. We’re not going to like the same things, and that’s okay with me.
7. Have the same political opinions
There are some things that are important, like my feminism, that I expect my boyfriend to accept and support, even if he doesn’t wholeheartedly understand. But apart from those things that are super personal, we don’t have to have the same political opinions, and in fact, I’d like it better if we didn’t.
Learning to grow with someone means making allowances for the things about them you don’t love. And loving someone who disagrees with you, but supports and defends your right to an opinion, teaches you to grow that much more. We shouldn’t have the same likes, interests, and opinions. We should be able to love each other totally for our differences and our contradictions.