Are High Expectations Getting in the Way of your Relationship?

Posted by on Nov 15, 2014 in Couples Counseling, Couples Counseling For One | Comments Off on Are High Expectations Getting in the Way of your Relationship?

Are High Expectations Getting in the Way of your Relationship?

Everyone has expectations for their relationship. We know how we would like it to look or how we hope our partner will behave. Expectations are perfectly normal.

Problems arise when expectations are unrealistic. This can create barriers that make it difficult to connect or cause other problems in your relationship.

What should you be able to count on?

The following expectations are basic, realistic, and reasonable:

  • Safety is a basic and fundamental expectation.
  • Respect is a realistic expectation.
  • Fidelity is a reasonable expectation.

Beyond those types of basic relationship standards, it is important that our other expectations don’t go too far.

Are your relationship expectations too high?

For example, you may be putting too much pressure on yourself or your partner if you expect the following:

  • That a healthy relationship means you and your partner get along all the time.
  • That you and your partner are always on the same page when it comes to intimacy, sexual timing, and desire.

Consider the source of your relationship expectations. Are your ideas based on real conversations you’ve had with your partner, or does something else influence them?

Perhaps your background or family of origin shapes your perceptions? Maybe media, movies, books, or your friends affect your expectations or beliefs? If this is the case, you may run into problems.

Are you imposing unrealistic expectations on your partner?

It is not unusual for partners to try and change each other’s behavior. How often do we find ourselves thinking, “Everything would be fine, if my partner would only…”?

Yet, in most cases, what we are really saying is: “Everything would be fine, if my partner would just be like me, respond like me, or think like me!”

We tend to look at our partners as extensions of ourselves. We want them to feel the way we do, and act the way we think they should act. When they don’t, we often react strongly and invest a lot of effort pressuring our partners into seeing our point of view and doing things our way.

For example, consider the couple that has differences in time orientation:

He is chronically late. She is chronically early. Mismatched feelings about time can create ongoing tension in a relationship. When one partner imposes his or her time expectation on the other, simply because he or she expects the other to do things the “right” way, there is bound to be resistance.

Expectations become problematic when they become demands.

While it’s normal to express irritation, it’s unrealistic to think that your partner will always adhere to your wishes.

Though your concerns may be valid, your requests for change should be about helpful correction– not demands for your idea of relationship “perfection.” This is not a matter of you or your partner giving in. Coming down on your partner to change probably won’t get you the relationship you want.

How you respond to differences can make a big difference in your connection.

Give yourself the freedom to mentally adjust your expectations.

The guiding principle here is that expecting your partner to be like you often leads to disappointment.

Sometimes, overly high expectations just make us miserable and create more problems. Truthfully, there is often a difference between what you want and what your partner is willing to do. All you can really do is control your own response. You needn’t consider it a failure when your high expectations aren’t met.

It’s okay to make room for both ways of thinking and behavioral styles in your relationship. Compromise is good. This way, when your expectations are not met, you’ll be able to cope and roll with changes along the way.


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