How Your Unreasonable Expectations In Relationships Are Holding You Back

Having certain expectations in relationships is not only reasonable but necessary for our overall health, happiness, and even safety. For example, expecting your partner to be honest with you, respect you, show you kindness, and support you are all completely fair. However, you could be guilty of holding your partners to impossibly high standards, which could have some pretty nasty side effects.

What to keep in mind when setting relationship expectations

Your partner is their own person. No matter how similar you are and how much you have in common, your partner won’t think or feel exactly like you all the time and you can’t expect them to. “You have to remember that they are also a separate person with separate strengths and separate weaknesses,” says Dr. Chloe Carmichael, Ph.D., psychologist, and author of Dr. Chloe’s 10 Commandments of Dating. “And just as you want to be loved and accepted for your whole self, so, too, do they.”

Someone failing to meet your expectations doesn’t mean they’re in the wrong. You might assume that there’s something fundamentally wrong with them if they don’t meet your standards, but that’s not always the case. As Dr. Shawntres Parks, Ph.D., a licensed marriage and family therapist and relationship coach, told Women’s Health: “If your partner isn’t meeting your expectations, it doesn’t mean they’re a flawed partner or that the relationship can’t succeed. There’s always room for growth in healthy relationships.”

Having unrealistic expectations ruins relationships. If you and your partner refuse to budge on your ridiculous requirements, you won’t be together much longer. “A healthy relationship cannot thrive if one or both partners have unrealistic relationship expectations,” therapist and relationship expert Sarah E. Clark, LMFT, LMHC, CVRT tells Bustle. “It strains the relationship because your partner and the partnership are never quite good enough to meet those expectations. Both partners [might] end up frustrated, disappointed, insecure, and resentful. Those emotions are too painful to endure long-term, so this can lead to people looking outside the relationship to find what they’re not getting.”

Examples of ridiculous expectations no one should be held to

Expecting your partner to fulfill all your needs No one can fulfill every one of your needs and they shouldn’t have to try. You should get your needs met by your friends, your family members, your partner, and even yourself. It’s not all on your partner.

Expecting everything to go your way all the time If relationships are always your way or the highway, you’re going to find yourself single pretty quickly. Ever heard of compromise? Without it, you’ll never survive.

Expecting your partner never to show interest in anyone and anything else but you It’s ridiculous to think that your partner should only ever care about you and what’s going on in your life. They have their own friends, family, hobbies, and interests. Just as they should! It’s vital that even though you’re together, you still maintain your own lives.

Expecting your partner to never hurt you, even accidentally These things happen. There will be times when your partner does or says something you don’t agree with but that’s true to them. While they should always try to avoid doing things that would upset or hurt you, it won’t be possible all the time.

Expecting your partner to look or act a certain way for the entirety of your relationship If you met them when they had a certain hairstyle or worked in a certain career field, expecting that will stay the same for the entirety of your time together is ridiculous. People grow and evolve, and you should encourage that rather than trying to stunt their growth.

Expecting your partner to put in all the effort It’s a two-way street. Don’t make it all their responsibility to keep your relationship afloat.

Expecting your partner to pay for everything Unless you have an explicit agreement in which they’re handling things financially because you’re taking care of another aspect of your relationship and everyone is comfortable with that arrangement, you need to contribute financially.

Expecting your partner to always take your side Sometimes they’re going to disagree with you and while putting on a united front is generally a good idea, there will be occasions in which they just can’t back you up, and that’s okay. It doesn’t make them a bad partner. Respect that.

How unreasonable relationship expectations hold you back

You Can’t Enjoy the Positives. Often, when we place expectations on our partners in relationships, we tend to only focus on whether or not they meet them. The problem is that in doing so, we can’t enjoy the positives that this person also brings to the relationship. So, for example, if your partner doesn’t get you a large bouquet every day and that’s your focus, you can’t appreciate all the times they did other nice things for you.

It Adds Unnecessary Pressure and Friction. One of the worst things you can do in a relationship is set high expectations for your partner, especially if you don’t communicate those expectations – and communication is key! This can cause a lot of unnecessary pressure and friction in any relationship, leading to arguments and fighting. No relationship can survive or should survive this kind of hostility.

You Might Miss Out On Great Opportunities. If you’re too busy getting in your head because your partner didn’t meet another one of your expectations, you’re not present enough to see an opportunity when it arises. While brooding on the fact your partner didn’t do what you expected of them, you might be too emotionally and mentally occupied to jump at the chance to have fun with your friends, have lunch with co-workers, or focus on your work. And it could have been that time out with friends became an epic night, that lunch with co-workers inspired a fantastic project you could have been a part of, or that day at work, your boss was deciding who to promote. So don’t miss out on life because of your unreasonable expectations.

You Could Miss Out On Someone Amazing. Believe it or not, there are great people out in the world who could be great for you if only you gave them a real chance. No one is perfect, and neither are relationships; both consist of good and bad. This is not to say that you should accept someone cruel, abusive, lazy, or whatever else, but to say that you could be letting your unrealistic expectations get in the way of truly getting to know someone and learning to love and accept them and vice versa.

You Can’t Grow As A Person. Unrealistic expectations can come from several different sources. One of the biggest is that we are looking for another person to fill our needs and wants. The problem with this is that by doing so, we never take the time to learn how to make ourselves happy or to be independent and content. By releasing your unreasonable expectations in relationships, you open yourself up to grow as a person.

You Lose Out On Valuable Lessons in Relationships. All relationships take work, and no relationship is void of conflict. When problems come up in your relationship, it’s up to you and your partner to work together to solve them through communication, understanding, and compromise. If you hold tight to your expectations and villainize your partner for not meeting them, you miss out on learning how to do this. And in each subsequent relationship, you’ll have the same problems.

You Undermine Your Happiness. When someone doesn’t meet your expectation, the usual reaction is to become upset, angry, or sad. So, naturally, the more expectations you have, the more opportunities to become upset, angry, or sad. When your partner inevitably fails to meet your unreasonable expectations, you will spend a lot of time being unhappy. Release those expectations, and you’ll finally stop undermining your happiness.

You’re Setting Yourself Up For Failure. If your expectations are unreasonable, you’re undoubtedly setting yourself, your partner, and the relationship up for failure. For example, you hold the unrealistic expectation that your partner will never disagree with you. Yet, disagreements come up all the time in life, and it’s impossible to avoid. So, when your partner disagrees with you on something, you’ll conclude that they’re failing you, and therefore, the relationship is failing. The truth is, you set yourself up for failure. Sorry for the tough love, but sometimes it’s necessary.

You Deny Yourself Adventure and Spontaneity. Have you ever gone on vacation with an itinerary in mind, but then you learned something more exciting was happening, so you changed your plans? For some people, it’s impossible to stray from their plans or their expectations of how something should be, which can also be true in relationships. Maybe you tell your partner exactly how you expect them to propose to you, or something simpler like what you envision for your birthday. By setting these expectations and holding your partner to them, you deny yourself adventure and spontaneity.

You Can’t live in the Moment. You can’t enjoy the moment if you’re too focused on how you expect things to be or how someone should behave. You have to let go of those expectations and live your life in the present.

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