It is a common human trait to set expectations, but how much of expectations is allowed, and when do expectations reach an unhealthy and unrealistic level? In relationships, one expects from their partner to meet their needs on every area of existence from intellectual growth, financial stability, and living habits, to emotional and sexual compatability. The problems usually arise when our needs are not met in accordance with the metric of our expectations. In other words, when our partners attempts to meet our needs their way and within their capabilities while we have set higher expectations in their course of actions, we start to feel disappointed.
Many argue that in relationships, the lower the expectations, the less the arguments and conflicts. Truth is. every relationship should be built on solid pillars; hence, partners seeking affection, kindness, respect, trust, communication, time, and consideration in one another are in fact not setting high expectations, but rather seeking the fundamentals.
When it comes to expectations, it is a set of perceptions and demands that if not met the way we want, we begin to perceive our partners as not investing enough in the relationship, while in fact they may be trying to meet our needs, their own way. The problem with expectation lies less on what we seek and more on whether our partners meet these expectations according to our judgement, and at this point expectations can be harmful to the relationship.
So, how can we identify unrealistic expectactions?
Expecting More Dependency on one another
One of the inherited misconceptions about relationships is that a happy couple should be doing every activity together and meet at every area of interest. As many may think that happy couples are those who do everything together, it is on the contrary. The most stable couples are those who are able to manage one another’s differences and understand that independence doesn’t threaten the relationship’s stability. Expecting your partner to spend all their free time with you isn’t only unrealistic, but can also have a negative impact on the relationship. The pitfall many get into is misinterpreting any independent move as a sign of lack of love for one another.
As much as it is important for couples to share the same lifestyle, it is healthy that each has their own separate interests and activities to do on their own free time. Spending time with friends or travelling separately on vacations is beneficial for both sides. So yes, there should be some strong areas where we meet each other’s needs, but at the same time there should be several other areas where it is ok to pursue on our own. Moreover, maintaining a certain level of independence in a relationship creates a healthy amount of distance and eventually results in a desire for closeness and appreciating your quality time together.
Expecting your partner to change
Accepting differences is crucial, so long as these differences don’t cause conflict in the core values of one another. Truth is, it is highly unlikely that two people can totally match on all areas of interest. When you try to force change on your partner in terms of their interests, habits, preferences, and the type of activities you engage in together, even if they try, the change is going to be temporary. One of the biggest mistakes we do when choosing a partner is that we rush into things turning a blind eye to some of their habitual traits thinking that later we can change them. The question is, do we really accept our partners with all their flaws as we claim? Or do we expect them to be the person we picture in mind and set our expectations accordingly? Bitterness and relationship gaps begin to grow bigger when we start blaming our partners for not being someone they never were before.
Expecting your partner to be your savior
Compassion, kindness, and empathy are essential in any relationship. That being said, partners are expected to be there for one another through turbulent and tough times. However, expecting your partner to be your savior or the healer of your past traumas is not fair. Most of us carry heavy baggage from the past, whether childhood issues that had stemmed from a flawed upbringing, relationship traumas, fear of loss, and a lot more. Projecting issues from the past on your partner and expecting them to be the savior will lead them to feel emotionally drained positioning themselves as inadequate partners. Healing is a journey that you alone can take the lead of. Your partner, on the other hand can be your supporter, to make the road easier for you, but they shouldn’t be handled the responsibility of the process.
It is in setting the right expectations, and communicating openly and with utmost transperency about one another’s needs that both of you will pave the way for a healthier and a happier relationship.
By: Rana Hamdy