A recent discussion while on a date highlighted that both men and women struggle with the way our roles have changed and the expectations put on us by society and by potential partners.
Whereas men used to be expected to provide financial security and strength for their partner and/or family, and women were expected to look after the house and the children, that is rarely the case in the world we currently live and date in. And while I’m certainly not saying that I would like to go back to the way things were – I value that I live in a time when women have the option and choice of doing pretty much anything we want – it was a time when things were simpler and gender roles were clearly defined.
The conversation I had was with an intelligent, successful, attractive, confident man in his 40s with varied interests, lots of friends and a full life. But even he said that it is difficult to know what women want or expect from men. “If we are too masculine we are considered to be a jerk, too sensitive and you are considered to be gay.”
And he’s right – we do tend to want it all. A friend once told me she wanted a guy who could wear grease-covered overalls and repair her car, but also put on a pair of boardshorts and be a cool surfer, then dress trendy to go to gigs, and of course also wear a suit for work every day and own their own black and white tie for special occasions. The outfits tend to define the roles she is looking for a potential partner to play. Perhaps there is someone out there like that just for her, but generally it is too much to expect from one person. Strong, sensitive, sophisticated, style guru, protector, provider, best friend… with the UK premiere of Man of Steel this week, it seems some women are looking for both Clark Kent and Superman.
But it’s not just men that are expected to be everything – the Superwoman complex is also a reality. As a woman it can sometimes feel that we are not desirable enough unless we have a highly successful career, are financially secure, are slim and beautiful and perfectly groomed at all times, have exciting and varied interests, can cook like Nigella, be strong and independent yet still be feminine, soft and sweet… I could go on.
Dating can be a minefield – expect the guy to pay for dinner and you can be viewed as someone just looking for someone with money, but insist on paying your own way/evening things up and you run the risk of emasculating them. Contact someone too often and you are needy and desperate, don’t contact them enough and you are not keen enough. Be too available and you are thought to not have your own life, but be busy with your own things and you are considered to be too independent/not have enough room in your life for someone and their needs/wants. Be physical too soon and you can be viewed as easy, wait too long and you are a prude. Want to get married and have children and you are viewed as just a ‘husband hunter’, not want to or not be sure and you are pigeonholed as cold and selfish…
While I realise that sometimes these are expectations we put on ourselves, but they do come from somewhere – from society, past relationships, even our family and friends. We grow up being told that we can be anything and everything we want, which can lead to us feeling that we have to be everything, all at once and all the time.
There is also a tendency for people to expect or want to find everything in one person – lover, best friend, father/mother figure, etc. But there is a reason we have other people in our lives – our family, our friends, and the activities we do and conversations we have with them are vital to providing what we need to be happy and balanced. Just because we find someone we want to be with as a partner, does not mean that they will or should take the place of these other relationships, activities and conversations. It is wonderful to have things in common with someone and want to spend time with them, but it is unrealistic and puts too much pressure on the person and the relationship if you expect them to provide you with all of your emotional and social needs.
It is very easy in this modern life full of choice and abundance to be always wanting and looking for more, better, and be expecting more from ourselves. But instead of trying to be everything to everyone, and expect everything from one person, perhaps we should spend more time just being ourselves and valuing what other people do have to offer, and hopefully finding someone who values just what we are as well.
Everything to everyone also happens to be a great song by Everclear: ‘…You do what you do, you say what you say, you always try to be everything to everyone.
You know all the right people, you play all the right games, you always try to be everything to everyone…’
This post was written by Beau Hunter Bree.