Setting Expectations Before a Date with Sabrina Zohar

Expectations: the silent architects of our dating lives. Each person enters the dating arena armed with their own set of hopes, dreams, and desires, all of which play a pivotal role in shaping the trajectory of romantic rendezvous. However, understanding the significance, peaks, and pitfalls of expectations before a date is essential for cultivating fulfilling experiences and relationships. Recently, I had the absolute pleasure of chatting with none other than Sabrina Zohar, the insightful and brilliant mind behind the Do The Work Podcast. Together, we explored the importance of setting expectations with oneself before stepping into the dating arena, delved into the influence of preconceptions on our dating experiences, uncovered the telltale signs of unrealistic expectations, and so much more. Grab a glass of wine, and let’s dive in…

H : In your opinion, how important is it for people to establish clear expectations with themselves before going on a date, and why?

S : I think at the end of the day, the expectations we have are important, but what’s equally important when you have expectations for yourself is to be able to handle it when those expectations aren’t met. There’s also a difference between having healthy expectations of yourself, like “Okay, I want to show up in a certain way” or “This is how I want to act on the date,” versus unrealistic expectations like “I have to be perfect” and “I have to act like this and do this; otherwise, I’m not going to get them.” Healthy expectations for yourself are more about addressing what your non-negotiable boundaries and needs are. That’s really important. I’d try to release as many expectations as possible, but if you do have them, it’s less about having strict ones and more about having the flexibility and understanding that if your expectations aren’t met, that doesn’t reflect negatively on you or them. It just might mean that perhaps we weren’t communicating them effectively.

H : What role do expectations play in shaping our dating experiences, and what’s the best way to address them ?

S : Personally, I think expectations are harming dating. People come in with “They have to be this” and “They have to do this.” It’s the immediate expectation of the other person. We need to realize that other people aren’t obligated to live up to our expectations, and the disappointment that follows when they aren’t met is ultimately on you for having them. I also think when we enter into dating, we don’t actually see people for who they are; we don’t allow them to be humans. We’re not allowing people to just be themselves, and then we decide if that works for us. Instead, it’s “Well, I expect you to do this” and “I want this,” and we end up being really bummed because shit doesn’t go the way we “expected” it to. That will only ever lead to disappointment. Versus the mindset of “I go in hoping for the best, and if it doesn’t work, no worries because I’m good at the end of the day.”

H : What role do past experiences play in shaping preconceptions about dating?

S : Our past experiences shape our future. Our reality is always based on the way we perceive things. So if you have preconceived notions and past experiences coming into dating, then what happens is you’re projecting your issues onto everybody else. What happened to you in the past becomes the next person’s problem if you do not do the work to heal through that. Past experiences can be an incredible lesson; they can be a beautiful teacher if, and only if, they are utilized correctly. They can also impact your relationships and ruin whatever is to come if you allow them to be projected onto your future partners. And if it doesn’t work, no worries because I’m good at the end of the day. 

H : Are there any red flags or warning signs that indicate someone’s expectations may be unrealistic ?

S : Absolutely. How do they communicate those expectations with you? If somebody gets mad at you because you didn’t text them, but they never talked about their preferred communication styles, that’s unrealistic. If someone isn’t communicating what their expectations are but then holds you accountable for something you weren’t even aware of, to me, that is the biggest red flag. For instance, if someone expects me to text them every single day after a first date and we never discussed that, it’s wildly unrealistic and going to be a big NO from me. People aren’t meant to be mind readers; they’re meant to date you and be communicative. It’s also important to keep in mind that even if they are communicating those expectations, we also have every right to say that we don’t want to do that.

H : How can people manage their nerves and anxiety before a date to ensure they approach it with the right mindset and expectations?

S : I think being honest with yourself about what works for you and what you hope to achieve is crucial. Regulate your nervous system before you go on the date; take a quick walk around the block and give yourself a little pep talk: “Alright, whatever happens here, I’m going to be okay. I’m just going in to see if I’m even interested in this person.” A first date is just to see if you want to have a second date. After your date, journal about it. Have somebody you can talk to, a friend you can call to say, “Hey, can you bring me back down to earth? I just want to make sure I’m being realistic.” At the end of the day, you don’t know who these people are.

H : What advice do you have for someone who may have high expectations for a date but wants to avoid disappointment if things don’t go as planned?

S : I would say it’s time to talk to somebody. It’s time to talk to a therapist and really start to look at where these expectations are stemming from. Where is this disappointment coming from? What did you think was going to happen, and how can we reshape it? Neuroscience shows us that we have neuroplasticity. We can rewire our brains. So if there are high expectations, that person is going to need to talk to a therapist or a coach who can help them work through where they stem from, what they mean to them, and how to at least communicate them to a date or partner. However, if you’re putting your worth and value in how someone else acts towards you, that’s why you will always be disappointed.

H : Can you provide my readers some practical tips or exercises that they can use to align their expectations with reality before going on a date?

S : I would literally list those expectations out. Ask yourself, what are my expectations here? Then, I would list how they’ve actually worked out for me. Next, I would consider if I genuinely believe that these are realistic. I really like to look at, “Okay, if none of these were met, would I still be able to date this person?” Then, I would start to reframe and say, “What are my boundaries and non-negotiables?” Boundaries and non-negotiables are how you want to be treated and what you’re willing to accept from a partner. If your expectations are really high, what does that say about you? And how have those worked in your past relationships? Ask yourself: is there an area of opportunity for me to even mildly adjust my expectations so I can go and try something different?.

It’s safe to say that my conversation with Sabrina Zohar has been a real eye-opener, shedding light on the importance of setting healthy expectations and the impact that preconceptions have on our relationships. And, how understanding and managing those expectations is absolutely crucial in creating fulfilling and meaningful connections. Remember, dating is about finding someone who aligns with your values and makes you feel safe and comfortable, rather than someone who simply meets a checklist. The journey is as much about discovering yourself as it is about finding the right partner. So, embrace the process, be kind to yourself, and keep an open mind. Until next time x

HJF for First Round’s On Me


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Hannah Glasby

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