Expectation vs. Reality When it Comes to Relationships

by - May 03, 2022

We live in a society where finding the "perfect" romantic partner is highly valued. From social media to movies to television we are bombarded with messages about what love should look like, what we should expect from our relationships, and what it implies if our relationship does not meet those standards. Reality looks different from those love stories that we see and hear all around us. However, most people still go into a relationship with a preconceived idea about how they’ll be treated. Usually our expectations are positive and hopeful. But social media specifically, can contribute to unhealthy comparison and unrealistic expectations for what a relationship is supposed to be like. Your relationship won't meet your expectations if your expectations are unrealistic.
In most relationships we expect honesty, trust, affection, loyalty, kindness, and respect. These are realistic expectations and the foundation of a healthy relationship. Having standards isn't wrong. Infact, studies have shown that people with low expectations tend to be in relationships where they are treated poorly, while people with high expectations tend to be in relationships where they are treated well. Sometimes however, if we set our standards too high, or if our expectations are over the top, it can cause significant stress and tension in our relationship.

Esther Perel once tweeted, "Expectations are resentments waiting to happen." I would add the word "Unrealistic," to the beginning of that quote. We should all have certain expectations and standards. It is unrealistic expectations that lead to resentment. Some examples of unrealistic expectations are:  
  • Expecting your partner to pay for everything.
  • Expecting a certain amount of sex.
  • Expecting your partner to spend all their time with you.
  • Expecting your partner to not have friends of the opposite sex.
  • Expecting no conflict.
  • Expecting your partner to read your mind.
  • Expecting a fairy tale relationship.
  • Expecting your partner to change who they are for you.
  • Expecting your partner to always be romantic.
  • Expecting to never get hurt by your partner.
  • Expecting your partner not to confide in anyone else.
  • Expecting your partner to stop being friends with someone because you don't like him/her.
Unrealistic expectations will damage your relationship. But damage can be repaired. If your relationship falls short of meeting your expectations, it doesn’t mean it can’t succeed. Identify your expectations and reflect on them. Be honest with yourself. Are your expectations realistic or unrealistic? Are your expectations causing tension in your relationship? If you find that your expectations are unrealistic be open to changing them. Think about what you already have and learn to value your partner for who they are. Discuss your expectations with your partner and remember that the only person you can control is you.

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