The Trap of High Relationship Expectations

December 24, 2018

Having romantic relationships is really important. But why do a lot of people suffer when they’re in one? The answer to this question may be that a lot of people have high relationship expectations that aren’t met.

We all have an idea in our minds regarding our perfect love story. We dream of someone ideal, someone who’s exactly what we want in a partner. Unfortunately, the real world is almost never as perfect as our fantasies.

Thus, when we start dating someone, we tend to compare that person to our fantasies and get disappointed. In this article, we’ll explain how to avoid the issues that come with having high relationship expectations.

A couple talking about their problems.

Why do high expectations cause problems?

The human mind is rational and that’s something that can cause a lot of suffering. Albert Ellis, the father of rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT), said that what causes pain isn’t what happens to us, but instead our thoughts about what happens to us.

Even before we start a new relationship, we have an idea of how it should be. When our new partner deviates a little bit from what we expected, we find ourselves feeling lost and disappointed. The first things that come to mind when that happens are thoughts such as “I can’t stand them!” or “This is not what I wanted!”

“Expectation is the root of all heartache.”

-William Shakespeare-

This is why having high relationship expectations is harmful. In addition, the problem eventually aggravates because we don’t tell the other person what we want them to do. Unfortunately, what tends to happen is that we date someone and expect them to guess how we want them to act when they’re with us.

Thus, when the other person inevitably breaks some of our non-explicit rules, we get angry and frustrated. However, do we really need to feel that way?

How to avoid the negative consequences brought on by having high relationship expectations

Here are some tips to help you prevent your expectations from sabotaging your relationships:

1. Be a little bit more flexible

On occasions, we make a checklist before we start looking for a partner. We have a series of requirements that the other person must meet. The problem is that human beings are rarely perfect so it’s almost impossible for someone to fully meet the expectations of what we consider an ‘ideal’ partner.

That being said, stop trying to find someone that’s 100% perfect. Instead, try to live in the moment. Having expectations is one thing, but taking them to the extreme is another. Remember that having high relationship expectations can do you more harm than good.

Man and woman having a conversation.

2. Explain what isn’t negotiable

Now, does this mean that we shouldn’t expect anything from our new partner? Not at all. You need to discover your own limits and the things that aren’t negotiable for you. Once you’ve done this, it’ll be easier for you to express them to the other person.

That way, your partner will know what’s really bothering you. This will help them avoid doing certain things that you dislike since they’re now aware of them. Being completely honest with your partner is really important.

3. Discover your partner’s limits

Being clear about what isn’t negotiable for you is great. However, for the relationship to be functional, you also have to discover your partner’s limits. The easiest way to do this is by asking them.

Unfortunately, not everyone knows what’s really important for their well-being. That’s why, if you see that your partner has a hard time telling you what bothers them, help them discover those things.

“Never idealize others. They will never live up to your expectations. Don’t over-analyze your relationships.”

-Leo Buscaglia-