How to Set Realistic Expectations in Your Relationship

There are many ways that pop culture fails us. When it comes to relationships, the damage is widespread. The couples we see in movies, on TV, and featured in books have a strong tendency to create unrealistic expectations. Now, let’s be clear; everyone should work to be satisfied, happy, and fulfilled in romance. However, this never means that everything will go your way.

Each person has unique needs. These needs shape their expectations. This is all well and good, but there are other steps. Firstly, recognize that your partner has unique needs that shape their expectations. Working from that foundation, you can begin the process of finding the healthiest balance.

Expectations and Relationships

Pop culture also teaches us about “love at first sight,” “soul mates,” and “happily ever after.” Such fantasy guidelines can cause one to neglect the crucial work of fully understanding what one wants. Healthy partnerships don’t happen like magic. They are essentially an ongoing process that requires constant tweaking.

No matter how in synch you are with your partner, you will not always see things the same way. This is a wonderful gift in that it keeps this going and growing. For someone with unrealistic expectations, it won’t feel like a gift. In fact, it feels threatening. Hence, the root issue is not any one specific expectation. Rather, the goal must be to create the kind of healthy communication that facilitates a productive resolution when expectations clash.

How to Set Realistic Expectations in Your Relationship

Guess what? This is not going to be a list of specific desires like having breakfast in bed, how many vacations you take, or perfectly matched libidos. Topics like that can be important and should be openly discussed. But it’s the foundational expectations that make such communication possible. You see, when you are open-minded and trustworthy, a conversation about your sex life becomes exciting rather than unnerving.

So, here are a few expectations to establish:

  • Compassion
  • Respect
  • Trust
  • Honesty
  • Vulnerability
  • Open-mindedness and willingness to evolve/adapt
  • Gratitude and appreciation
  • Affection and attention
  • Empathy
  • Willingness to compromise and sacrifice
  • Generosity
  • Consideration
  • Commitment

Getting a little more specific:

  • Make plans together and look toward the future with excitement and hope
  • Focus on the positive as often as you can
  • Be willing to learn and grow as a team
  • Don’t compare your partnership with others (especially your past relationships)
  • Be direct, and don’t expect anyone to read your mind
  • Commit to self-care and self-love
  • Create independent lives even as you develop your bond
  • Accept the inevitability that you will sometimes disagree and sometimes annoy each other

When Expectations Don’t Align

This scenario will require patience and discernment. As stated above, let go of any expectation that is unrealistic. Instead, if you notice a pattern of unaligned expectations, ask yourself if these are situations where you can agree to disagree. Don’t default into crisis mode. Set aside time to talk and see where that leads you.

However, if you sense that at least one of your personal dealbreakers is being challenged, this could require some guidance. Committing to couples therapy is a proven path for addressing issues like this. An unbiased guide can assess your dynamic without the emotional baggage that exists within your partnership.

Your weekly sessions are a safe space to explore and contemplate. For example, you might be more compatible than you think, but there are some missing components in your everyday communication to work on. Simply put, we need more than fairy tales to guide our expectations. Sometimes, the ideal guide is a couples therapist. If this post resonates with you or your partner, let’s talk soon!

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