Reasonable and Unreasonable Expectations in Romantic Relationships
Expectations exist in every human relationship. Expectations are intense beliefs that people hold about the way they think other people should act or how things should occur. To avoid dissatisfaction and misunderstandings in relationships, it’s helpful to learn how to understand, communicate about, and fulfill expectations.
In romantic relationships, partners have an implied social contract—a set of expectations, boundaries, and rules that characterize the relationship. Problems arise when expectations aren’t communicated and only exist as concepts in partners’ heads. It’s simply not possible to live up to expectations that you aren’t aware of.
In addition, many people believe that simply expecting or anticipating that something will happen somehow causes it to happen. This unreasonable line of thinking includes the assumption that people will act a specific way simply because you think they should. This can only lead to resentment and disappointment.
Five Unreasonable Expectations
Unspoken expectations are difficult to meet. Unrealistic expectations are equally as difficult. The following are five common unrealistic expectations women have in relationships.
- You expect your partner to be more expressive with his feelings.
Many women expect their boyfriend to basically become like their best girlfriend, with similar vulnerabilities, emotions, and levels of empathy. But this is highly unlikely because men and women are certainly not the same!
Men don’t act like women, no matter how earnestly women wish they would. Therefore, expecting your partner to relate to you in the same way your female friends do is unrealistic. And arguing, nagging him, or criticizing him about his way of dealing with feelings will not change him. Instead, revise your approach. Figure out the way he deals with feelings and emotions, and interact with him in a way that harmonizes with that approach.
- You expect your partner to be perfect.
Everyone knows that nobody’s perfect. Therefore, we say things like, “He’s not perfect, but he’s perfect for me!” This train of thought is fraught with danger.
Saying he’s perfect for you implies that he must meet every standard you hold for a significant other, with no room for deviation. It implies that every time he does something you consider to be short of perfect, he’s failed. This will quickly turn him off and express to him that he actually isn’t good enough for you.
So, instead of expecting your partner to perfectly reach all of your standards, figure out what characteristics you genuinely require in a romantic relationship, and then just let him be himself.
- You expect him to make you happy.
Your relationship certainly should be a positive aspect of your life and not detract from your happiness. But your partner is not accountable for your happiness.
Perceiving your partner as the origin of your happiness means that you rely on his presence, behavior, and actions to make you happy. This puts him up on a pedestal. Unfortunately, the only way from there is down.
Only you can control your emotions. Ultimately, your happiness is your responsibility and must come from inside of you. Do the personal work it will take to bring about joy on your own.
- You expect that he will convey love the way you do.
Women often assume that as the more expressive, nurturing, and emotional gender, we set the criterion for how to give and receive love.
In relationships, this expectation often translates into the assumption that your way of expressing love is the proper way, so he therefore must conform to it.
However, nobody expresses love exactly the same way as somebody else. This is certainly true of two people of opposite genders. A partner who’s open to learning the best way to love you will fulfill your expectations more closely than one who isn’t.
- You expect that he has the same goals in life as you have.
Regardless of your environment, age, or phase of life, your views on life and your ambitions for the future will change, and so will your partner’s. You therefore can’t expect that you’ll always be in agreement with your partner. You’ll both need to learn how to compromise to make the relationship survive and thrive.
Five Reasonable Expectations
Contrasting with those widely held unreasonable, unrealistic expectations in romantic relationships, there are also reasonable, realistic expectations. It’s perfectly reasonable to expect these five characteristics in your relationship.
Relating to each other respectfully, even when you disagree, is essential for a healthy relationship. Before you enter a relationship, you and your potential partner need to discuss what respect means to you, and behaviors you will and won’t tolerate.
People express affectionate feelings to each other in a wide variety of ways. Some people are uncomfortable with abundant physical expression, and would rather communicate affection with actions or words. But it’s important to experience romantic touch as a couple. Discuss what types and levels are important to you for creating and maintaining a deep bond.
A partner who doesn’t make time for you is communicating that you are not one of his priorities. This can cause you a great deal of pain. Reaching an agreement regarding the amount of time you’ll spend together or communicate with each other is an effective way to express your expectations about time and help lead to a mutually satisfying relationship.
Every relationship includes disagreements, even the healthiest one. They’re unavoidable. But disagreements lead to growth. The optimal way to be prepared for the pain and stress that necessarily accompanies disagreements is to anticipate them. You and your partner will certainly disagree from time to time. But that doesn’t mean he’s not “the one” for you.
Disagreements necessarily lead to growth, but vulnerability, love, and shared experiences do, too. As you and your partner spend time together and forge deeper emotional connections, your challenges, affection, and communication will all change. Some will improve, while others will become more demanding.
Embracing the journey and anticipating these changes let you focus on the eventual outcome, which is a clearer understanding of each other, your compatibility, and ultimately, your growth.