One of the most difficult obstacles to overcome in a relationship is having unrealistic expectations of what it should look like.
Sure, we all have preferences and “deal breakers,” and nobody should be made to feel they need to settle for less. But if you are unwilling to meet your partner halfway and understand where they are coming from, it will make it difficult for the relationship to last.
So, how do you overcome expectations in your relationship so you and your partner can thrive?
What are relationship expectations?
Relationship expectations occur when you expect your partner to behave a certain way in your relationship that doesn’t align with who they are as a person.
For example, you might expect your partner to bring you flowers every week because that is romantic to you, but your partner disagrees that this is necessary.
However, relationship expectations shouldn’t be confused with standards. It is perfectly acceptable to hold your partner to certain basic standards. These include things like treating you with respect, not causing you harm, making you feel confident, and making you feel secure in your relationship.
How can relationship expectations cause problems?
When two people have opposing expectations of their relationship, it can cause friction and arguments to occur. That’s because neither of you are on the “same page” when it comes to the way you co-exist.
And for many people in a relationship, they spend a lot of time together. So having different expectations of what the relationship should be can cause distrust, distress, and doubts.
If relationship expectations are left unchecked, the relationship can quickly sour and leave you vulnerable to splitting up. Not because you no longer love each other, but because there is a lack of communication and understanding regarding what your relationship is and what you want it to be.
What causes unrealistic relationship expectations?
Unrealistic relationship expectations don’t just appear out of thin air. Usually there are a number of factors that cause one or both people in the relationship to place unrealistic expectations on it. These are some of the most common culprits:
Our previous experiences heavily influence how we view the future. If you have had a bad experience in a previous relationship, you’ll want to do everything you can to avoid it again. Which could mean, in an effort to overcorrect, you expect far too much from your current relationship.
Alternatively, you may have been in a relationship you loved before and want this relationship to be similar. But you are with a new partner so you cannot expect them to act the same as an old one.
Media portrayals of love
Films and TV are littered with beautiful depictions of romantic love, where the protagonist gets gifts every day and their partner does everything for them.
But film isn’t reality. It’s a fantasy. And expecting your own relationship to mirror Cinderella is not healthy for a successful relationship.
There is no such thing as the perfect relationship. Relationships take work, and they have their fair share of ups and downs. But even when things aren’t perfect, it doesn’t mean they are bad. Expecting everything to be perfect puts too much pressure on the relationship, putting a strain on your bond and potentially causing negative repercussions.
Not taking the time to understand the relationship through the other person’s eyes
If you don’t make the effort to talk to your partner about your relationship, it’s difficult to know how they feel about it. It also makes it difficult to know what you can expect from them throughout your partnership. Which is why communication is crucial for a healthy relationship.
Six steps to overcoming unrealistic relationship expectations
Now that we know the main reasons we develop unrealistic expectations in our relationships, what can we do to overcome them?
Learn your partner’s love language
We all have our own way we show love to each other. Some people talk, some like to get physical, some give gifts… And it is vital to remember that the way you show love might not be how your partner does.
Rather than assuming they don’t love you and expecting them to only show you love the way you want it, get to know how they show their love and communicate what you want. And equally, you should learn how they want to be shown love so you can meet halfway and give each other the support you crave.
It can take some time to become fluent in each other’s love language, but taking the time and effort to do so will help you overcome any unrealistic expectations of what showing love “should” look like.
Stop trying to control your partner
Yes, in a relationship you are a unit. But that doesn’t mean you stop being two individuals either. And while compromise is needed to make the relationship work, the goal should never be to control your partner to fit your expectations of your relationship.
Not only will your partner start to move away from you emotionally, but you also run the risk of destroying the relationship altogether.
Nobody wants to be controlled and made to feel like someone else’s property. Learn to compromise fairly and use communication to understand where your partner is coming from and find a middle ground.
Dedicate time to your relationship
Unrealistic expectations are a clear indication you aren’t fully investing yourself in your relationship. That’s because rather than getting to know what relationship you actually have by living in it, you try to control it and manipulate it, as if moulding a statue of your partnership from clay.
By dedicating time to being with your partner and allowing yourself to live in the moment, you’ll be reminded of all the incredible things your partnership has to offer and why you fell in love with them in the first place.
And once you learn to dedicate time to your partner and appreciate what you have, your unrealistic relationship expectations will start to fade away.
Build a base of respect and trust
If there is no respect and trust at the heart of your relationship, it’s very hard to build a life together where you are both happy.
And when you let expectations override your reality, you run the risk of strongly disrespecting your partner.
Respect and trust is difficult to create but very easily broken, so it’s important to make building it a priority.
This means, making healthy communication a foundational habit of your relationship. It also means giving your partner the space they need to know that you trust and respect them, and that you don’t need to try and manipulate them to be the person you want.
Don’t make your partner feel insecure about the relationship
We all say things in the heat of the moment during an argument. But something you should never do is to use your relationship as a threat or bargaining chip.
When you have unrealistic expectations, there may be a thought in your mind that you could get what you want elsewhere, and if they don’t bow down to your way of doing things, then you don’t want to be with them.
And if you do decide you don’t want to be with them, that’s fine. The problem occurs when you force your partner to adhere to your expectations by threatening to leave them if they don’t do what you say.
If this is a card you use regularly, it shows an extreme lack of respect and trust of your partner and will only go to create further cracks in your relationship. Eventually, your partner will feel broken and may choose to end the relationship themselves.
This is yet another reason why communication is so crucial to a healthy relationship.
Stop comparing your relationship to others
Comparison is the express motorway to misery. Not just in relationships, but with most things in life.
Your relationship will never be like anyone else’s because there is no one else like you or your partner. And that is perfectly ok. Your relationship is yours and yours alone. Something unique to be cherished.
If you are comparing your relationship to someone else’s, you’re setting yourself up for failure. You don’t live the same lives or have the same resources or personalities as other relationships, so there is no reason for your relationship to be the same.
And even if you’re jealous because you think someone has something your relationship doesn’t have, just remember others might look at your relationship and think you are #couplegoals yourself. You just have to be willing to open your mind and appreciate what you have.
Embrace your love for what it is
Unrealistic expectations can damage a relationship. But by learning to understand and communicate with your partner, you’ll find a middle ground where you are able to appreciate what your partner brings to your relationship and find happiness together.
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