So much advice given to straight women about relationships is, at its root, about lowering our standards for men. Or not having any standards at all, lest we scare them away by seeming "difficult," or "demanding," or "high maintenance," or, you know, "bitchy."

I'm not one to offer relationship advice, especially unsolicited, but this is one piece of advice I will give: Have standards, and communicate them.

If you scare someone off with your standards: Good. That means they were never going to meet them.

Iain and I have always had high standards for one another. Sometimes, to be frank, it's just because of our own idiosyncrasies and foibles, which create a high threshold of tolerance. It isn't just anyone who can put up with either of us, heh. But it's also because each of us wants to be with someone who loves us hard and knows us well; who is loyal and reliable; who is willing to be fucking in it with us, no matter what.

That's what we each want to give, and that's what we each want in return.

Neither of us has standards based on ephemeral criteria. He was broke as hell when we met, and I couldn't have cared less. I made my own money; I had a good job and owned my own place. I had a major health crisis soon after we met, and he didn't freak out. He knows that health is precarious, and, in any case, if you want to grow old with someone, you'd better be ready for their bodies to change in significant ways. Now or later.

We never tested each other, but we asked for things we needed. When I wanted some reassurance about to whom I was speaking, long before mobile phones and laptops came standard with cameras, he found a way. There was a shitty webcam broadcasting from the construction site of the Scottish Parliament Building, which was being built at the time. Iain would give me a time to watch, and I would tune into the live stream, to see him running and waving, a tiny little figure in the distance, appearing in a series of still images.

image of Iain in the distance near the Parliament building while under construction
(That's him in the lower right corner.)

Something about that, everything about that, has always hung with me. I needed something that wasn't easy for him to deliver, but he understood why, and he found a solution. It was a solution that took some effort and creativity. But I'm worth some effort and creativity. So is he.

Insert here all the obvious caveats about how we sometimes fuck up and let each other down. But generally speaking, when one of us says we have an expectation and/or a need for something we need to feel safe and secure and loved, the other meets it. And happily so.

And thing about being partnered with someone who has standards is that it challenges you to meet them. We make each other better people, simply by asking.

The thing is, there are all kinds of cultural disincentives for women, especially women partnered with men, to not have high standards. The warnings that you'll end up alone. The grim head-shaking about how you'll be seen as high-maintenance. The pushback you get when you express them, by lots of men.

Sometimes it's hard to give ourselves permission to have standards, particularly if we have transgressive bodies or politics or any of the other number of things that invite "well-meaning" people to admonish us to settle.

But we must grab the permission to have standards with both hands, and hold onto it firmly. It's okay to expect that our partners actually give us what we need. Standards are boundaries. They are self-protection. They are the path to both safety and joy.

It's more than okay to have them, and to communicate them. It's crucial.

Expect more. In all things.

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