Most of us long for a sense of love and acceptance, a desire to be in an enduring committed partnership with someone we love.
The majority of the thoughts, feelings, and ideas we have about family and relationships have been guided by what we have seen in movies, read in books, or heard about through generational tales of soulmates and fated love. Fairly early in our lives we develop expectations regarding what our relationships should consist of, what they shouldn’t, and what role we expect our partner to play.
Although, there is nothing wrong with having expectations in a relationship, having unrealistic expectations can put stress on, and ruin, any relationship. Just like people, no relationship is ever perfect. All relationships will consist of both good and bad times, joys and pains, harmony and conflict. No one is perfect in our world so don’t expect a perfect relationship that can meet your high hopes.
It is not uncommon for many of us to carry over “expectation illusions” from childhood. Children expect their parents to nurture, support, protect and affirm them. Unfortunately, some adults are unable to properly fulfill the needs of their child. Therefore, some children in an effort to obtain, secure, and get their needs met by parents will make endless attempts to please. Too often, this insatiable need to please one’s parents stems from an intense desire to fulfill our own emotional needs. When a parent’s behavior does not change in response to the child’s needs, children can become disappointed, feel abandoned, and internalize feelings of being unlovable.
What we didn’t receive from our parents in terms of affection, support, and direction, we project onto others. We expect our friends and romantic partners to provide what was missing during our childhood. When our romantic partners don’t deliver, we may become disenchanted, and may give up on the relationship without giving it the opportunity to build and flourish. We believe (as we often did in childhood), that if we try harder, and perform for approval, others will take notice, be impressed with both our attempts and behaviors, and will fill the void in our lives. However, when unrealistic expectations exist, the void remains and the expectation illusion continues.
Invariably, unrealistic expectations are positively correlated to issues of power, manipulation and control. Unfortunately, we might jump to the erroneous conclusion that people must speak and behave in the manner that we desire or we have no real use or purpose for them. A lot of romantic relationship begin between partners who are unaware of each other’s weaknesses or insecurities. Having realistic expectations in our relationships involves accepting that no one is perfect, accepting ourselves and our partners for who we are and what we can contribute to the relationship. Instead of looking to others to meet our needs, we must take responsibility for our own life and make necessary changes that are in our best interest.
5 Key Signs You May Be Harboring Unrealistic Expectations
- You expect your partner to know what you are feeling and understand those feelings. In an intimate relationship, couples often expect that their partner will know and understand all their needs and expectations without communicating. So when our partner fails to live up to our unrealistic expectation, disappointment and unhappiness starts to creep into the relationship. It is not realistic to expect your partner to be able to read your mind and always act according to your wishes. It is not possible to fully understand the auspice of someone else’s mind; communicating consistently and honestly is essential to building and sustaining a healthy relationship.
- Good relationships are void of conflict. Conflict will arise in every type of relationship we have so it is not realistic to expect a romantic relationship to be free of conflict. Conflict can serve both negative and positive purposes. Conflict allows partners to discuss issues in the relationship, i.e., what each partner likes or dislikes, what he or she is missing, would like to add to the relationship, what the partners expect from each other, etc. Conflicts, like most things in life are inevitable, as it is quite normal to have conflicts and arguments every now and then in a relationship. One of the most unrealistic expectations partners have is that conflicts won’t occur in a good relationship. Some partners erroneously believe that in order for a relationship to work, they should avoid conflict at any cost.
- In order for a relationship to survive it must remain the same. All relationships must grow and adjust over time in order to be both sustainable and healthy. As we age and mature, so should our romantic relationships. By holding onto the belief that our relationships must remain the same without adapting to time, sickness, financial issues, partner changes, and other demands, we run the risk of relationship extinction.
- In order for a relationship to survive we must spend most of our time together. It is very important for couples to spend time together in an effort to build and maintain strong bonds. However, expecting your partner to be with you all the time is another unrealistic expectation that can ruin a relationship. As an individual, you and your partner should give each other adequate space to practice individual hobbies. Partners need to spend time with friends and family members to maintain their own individual identity, an identity that is separate from their romantic mate.
- Good relationships do not need work. One of the most common mistakes and unrealistic expectations that partners have in romantic relationships is that the relationship should be easy like in a movie or a romantic novel. No relationship is easy all the time. Every relationship needs proper time, effort, love, affection, patience and dedication to grow and remain strong. Ups and downs are a normal and natural part of every relationship. If your relationship is going through hard times, it doesn’t mean that your love for each other is gone. It simply means that your relationship requires more effort, patience, love and commitment to deal with problems and conflicts.
One of the greatest relationship destroyers is that of unrealistic expectations. Expecting something out of the relationship that the other is either ignorant of, unwilling to provide, or simply unable to provide, can be emotionally damaging for both partners involved and unhealthy for the relationship. Mounting frustration and anger can result from harboring unrealistic expectations of one’s partner and the relationship.
Try to communicate your needs and desires as consistently and honestly as you possibly can. Do not keep your likes and dislikes, dreams and fears, achievements and mistakes, or anything else to yourself. If it is important to you, share it with your partner for the sake of your relationship.