Conscious Dating: how to free ourselves from expectations and demands

Anita Cassidy

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To begin this discussion about expectations, it’s important to clarify that there is a very real difference between hopes/preferences and demands/expectations. We have all been taught, based on our family circumstances, history and dynamics as well as our gender, race, current society and culture, many things about what we ”deserve” and what we are, or are not, entitled to.

Consider, for a moment what you are EXPECTING life to deliver to you or to look like. For me, I expected to get married and be, despite some ups and downs, married for forever. I expected to be happy raising children. I expected to be content with both of these roles. For others I know, mostly men, they expect work that offers opportunities to grow and brings meaning as well rewarding them financially. They also often expect (again, often subconsciously) partners who will put their needs, as well as those of any children, first. In short: womxn who will eat the burnt pork chop.

It can be useful and helpful to spend some time considering what the expectations are that you have when it comes to life and relationships. Perhaps by asking yourself some questions like these:

What do you think relationships are for?

What are other people for?

Who and what are YOU for?

What do you think the biggest challenges are within the life goals you currently have?

How much have you reflected upon why you want what you want?

How much do you expect things to look a particular way – what do you tend to identify as “good” and “bad” and have you reflected upon why?

A big part of the current surge in violence against women, people of colour as well as queer, non-binary and trans people is due to the expectations that some people have about what other people are for, how they are meant to look and act, and also what they are “entitled” to. It is OKAY to want a meaningful, intimate adult relationship. It is not OKAY to demand one. It is not A RIGHT. Other people and their bodies do not exist to serve your needs, are not here for your pleasure.

These issues are at the forefront of our interpersonal relationships and nowhere more so than when it comes to dating or meeting new people.

Our expectations about ourselves, and others, define how we relate and shape the patterns of our behaviour.

Most people who crave connection are not ranting in chat rooms, leaving toxic comments or perpetrating acts of horrendous violence. Too many of us are, instead, harming ourselves and those  around us, through addiction and lack of self care, through thinking that we alone are to blame for the lacks and challenges in our lives and not our patriarchal, capitalist, ableist, racist, sexist and colonialist society.

One of the most toxic things about dating is the lack of respect and care that happens online, and in public, when we meet people we think we might be interested in. It’s okay, for example, to get excited about the idea of sex in the early stages of dating – it is not okay to message about your expectations of having sex on a first date with someone you have never met. It is okay to want to get married and have family – it is not okay to treat everyone you date like an item you are cross-referencing against a checklist. It is okay to feel disappointed that someone has not messaged you back or does not want to meet again – it is not okay to be abusive, insistent or unpleasant.

Conscious dating is about acting from a place that puts values at the core of what we DO

Conscious dating foregrounds what should be the basics of respect and kindness as well as the allowing of time to create and develop connection based on this mutual respect, kindness and trust rather than assumptions. This doesn’t mean you can’t pounce on each other and rip each others clothes off on a first date – it just means that this is done with some awareness which would, in my opinion and experience, only serve to make the experience even hotter.

There are often so many of our old issues and difficult feelings tied up with the sphere of romantic and sexual relationships. We are all capable of causing harm. Unfortunately, some people tend to cause more harm than others and a lot of this is down to expectations as well as unquestioned and unchallenged assumptions about the other as well as the process of dating.

We are not in control of the desires, needs and feelings of others but we are ALWAYS able to take control of how we act in response

We can choose to REACT unconsciously based on old patterns and fears or we can choose to pause and act in a more deliberate, careful and intentional way. It is down to each of us to take responsibility to reflect upon how we act. I know that this is hard. I find it hard too. But I do the work anyway.

I think nature can teach us a lot here, especially when it comes to disappointment, loss, pain and change. So much of what is important to understand is hard to hear and even harder to really sit and connect with. The fact that so many of our experiences hurt and disappoint. That that pain can take a long time to heal. That death is part of life. So much of our culture tells us that we should never feel uncomfortable, even our own bodies can demand comfort, can run from the very pain that is actually trying to tell us something that we need to hear.

Conscious dating is about taking the time to understand and challenge, where necessary, the assumptions we make without even realising, to change patterns that are no longer serving us and to make important steps towards creating a world where everyone feels safe and respected as they navigate getting to know new people. It is about acting based on the values of kindness and respect. It is about understanding and trusting the self and those around us. It is, like nature as it grows trees and supports new life, a long and slow process but it is also a vital one.


Read more on conscious dating here:-

New relationship energy

The three date myth




The one thing you need to do to improve your sex life


Is shame necessary? – a news article

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