Unrealistic relationship expectations can easily cause unnecessary suffering in your good relationship. Yet we pick up these expectations left and right and label them as “truths.” Truths that we have every right to hold on to, but when they start interfering with a good relationship you want to be in… they can be worth questioning.
Here are three unrealistic relationship expectations that I encourage you to question.
Now, if you have these expectations and you and your partner “follow” them, no problem. But they are unrealistic for a reason, and that reason is that we are all human beings with a lot of different thoughts, feelings, desires, and wants in life. Yet we hold on to this idea that as soon as we’re in a relationship, all those thoughts, feelings, desires, and wants should be met by one single person…
Let’s leave these unrealistic expectations in 2022…
1. Being each other’s everything
“If my partner needs other relationships in their life, that means I’m not enough.” This is something I hear from my clients quite a lot. If the partner has friends, enjoys spending time with friends, or even has female friends, that’s a sign of my client’s “not enough-ness.”
Of course, you’re not “enough.” So what?
Who gave you the idea that you are enough for all your partner’s relational connections in their entire lives? That is not just unrealistic, but also pretty crazy to think. Instead of trying to convince yourself that “you are enough”, I say accept the fact that you aren’t.
You are enough as in worthy. That is never up for debate. You are enough as a romantic partner if you’re in a monogamous relationship. But you cannot expect to be your partner’s everything and fulfill all their connectional needs in life.
And why this is so important to remember brings us to point number 2.
2. Wanting all the same things
It’s unrealistic to think that you and your partner are going to want all the same things, the same way, at the same time. This is where want matches come in. You have a list of wants and so does your partner. You then get to explore what wants are a match and what wants aren’t.
This is usually what we base our “dealbreakers” on. When a want that we have and prioritize is not matched with the want of a partner. But then there are also a lot of non-dealbreaker wants mismatches where you just need to accept your different desires.
Examples of wants that might not match but don’t have to be a problem:
- Going to bed and waking up at the same time
- The standard of cleanliness in the home
- How much time to spend with families
- How much alone time you want
- At what speed you need to complete certain tasks
- The kind of friends to spend time with
- How to schedule and keep track of appointments
- At what time to arrive at events
- How to save/spend money
- How to chop an onion
If you want something done a certain way you get to do it that way. If you want your partner to do the thing, you are going to have to accept their way of doing it. If you want to arrive on time and your partner wants to be late, you get to decide if you want to arrive late together or on time on your own.
My point here is that you are responsible for making your life what you want it to be. It’s not your partner’s job to change their wants and preferences in order to match yours. Both of your wants are equally right and equally important.
Compromise? Sure. If you have a want to compromise on certain things, do it. If your partner has a want to compromise, they will. Just don’t think that not wanting the same things is necessarily a sign of a bad relationship. You get to decide which wants are dealbreakers and which are not.
Listen to this podcast episode to learn how to navigate the “Am I putting up with too much?” question:
3. Not seeing potential in others
Do you think it’s cheating to acknowledge relationship potential in people outside of the relationship? This is an unrealistic relationship expectation that just encourages lies. Lying to yourself and lying to your partner.
Before you enter a relationship, there are millions of people in the world that you find attractive, funny, charming, and kind. Millions of people you could be in a happy relationship with. But then as soon as you enter a relationship, you’re supposed to switch your brain off of that reality?
A relationship is simply a choice of who to be with.
You just pick one of the people you find attractive, kind, funny, charming, and so on. There is nothing “special” about that one single person you choose to spend your life with. It’s just a choice you make and continue to make every day of your relationship.
That doesn’t mean that there aren’t loads of people around that you could be happy with. Of course, you could. And so could your partner. But you choose each other. Not because there is something magical binding you together, but because you simply want to be with each other.
This belief might sound threatening or like a “weaker” connection than if something magical made you a couple. But I believe that our ability to choose, our free will, is the most powerful connection there is. That means that all other charming, attractive, funny people are allowed to exist in the world and we don’t have to pretend they’re not there. But it doesn’t matter because you have chosen your person.
If you live with the belief that you’re only supposed to see potential in one person and only find one person attractive and funny and nice… then as soon as you acknowledge the existence of another person with potential, that means something. Maybe you’re doubting your relationship, maybe you’re cheating, maybe something else is wrong.
It doesn’t mean anything. It just means you have eyes and a working brain. Period.
Now go choose your partner.
The expectations we hold on to serve a purpose. They are meant to keep us safe, make the relationship “special”, and fulfill some kind of fictional fantasy of what the perfect relationship is. But in reality, these expectations just put a damper on an otherwise good relationship.
With all of this said, if you “want it all” and you want to go after it, do that. If you don’t think your current relationship is what you want, end it. Go find someone else with different want matches or who doesn’t want other relationships in their lives. There might be a person like that out there waiting for you.
I just don’t want you to throw away the best relationship you’ve had that you wish you could be happy in simply because it doesn’t live up to these expectations.
You can be happy with this person. You can be happy with some other person. But all relationships are 50/50 good and not so good. It just depends on what flavor of 50/50 you want and what kind of things you want to manage your mind around in your relationship.
No one is going to be 100% perfect.