High Expectations of Men

On Saturday night the women had a big discussion about how the workshop was going for us and what we wanted from the men. Something that became clearer to me was the difference between expectation and criticism.

Often when I hold out expectations to men, no matter how loving and kind I am when I say things—about their not acting on their sexism, and things being different in our relationship—they quickly dismiss what I’m saying or get defensive and want to talk about what I’m doing wrong.

I’m pretty1 good at expecting the men around me to stay close, trust my mind, and, as much as we can figure out, not have sexism drive how the relationship works. But before the workshop, even though I acted with high expectations, I often felt confused and bad about having them. I felt like women would lose men if they wanted too much. I remember my father actually saying to me that I was never going to find a husband if I didn’t stop being so demanding. The confusion is not all discharged, but I do have a pack of women and men behind me in my mind in a different way now.

Since the workshop, I’ve come up with2 a policy for myself and the men in my life:

  • First, there is a difference between expectation and criticism, and I will hold that out to be true.
  • Next, I will ask that we stay on topic in the conversation. If they have something else they would like to bring up3 with me, they can do that in another conversation.
  • I will also ask them to not be defensive and to stay in the conversation with me and not go victim (which has happened almost every time I’ve expected anything of a man that was outside of where he felt comfortable).

I now have a different and solid picture in my mind—of this gang of men and women fighting hard to get this one right.

Jenny Sazama
Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, USA

1 “Pretty” means quite.
2 “Come up with” means thought of.
3 “Bring up” means discuss.

Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00