Is it healthy to have expectations in a relationship? Are expectations ever acceptable or even agreed upon? Many people believe that setting up expectations is okay when you say you’ll go through with a commitment.
Regardless of how well the plan is put together, the results will almost certainly differ from what was expected. This is due to the fact that reality rarely conforms to our expectations. Therefore, it’s best to assume nothing and assume innocence when these plans are subverted by unexpected changes.
Can High Expectations Damage a Relationship?
To properly understand the subject, we need to identify specific terms. The dictionary defines expectations as the knowledge that something will happen or be realized in the future. People naturally anticipate the future events that they’ll experience in their lives.
Even when changes are unavoidable, they don’t have to be drastic. A minor deviation from your partner’s expected home time can be enough to prompt a shift in the schedule. For example, if your partner typically walks out the door at 4:30 p.m., but takes longer than usual to finish a conversation with a coworker, they might get home at 5:30 p.m. If there’s an alternate cause for the delay — such as heavy traffic or construction on the road — then your partner will most likely arrive home after 6 p.m.
When I texted my husband on Friday afternoon to let him know that I was leaving work to come home, I received a phone call from a client right after sending the message. This delayed my departure by several minutes. Additionally, when I passed by a grocery store on my way home, I decided to stop in and pick up some supplies.
Couples must be able to navigate both the good and difficult times in their relationships. They need to recognize that change is the only constant, while maintaining compassion, respect, and love.
Tips for maintaining healthy expectations in a relationship
Expectations and plans are two different things.
Flexibility is vital to any plans we make. Giving our plans room to breathe helps them remain viable.
We’ve learned that our expectations can constrict us when the pandemic hits. Because stores often run out of stock when customers expect to find what they want, we should let go of our original ideas. I chose different brands of foaming hand soap from Target because the shelves in my favorite store were empty. Purchasing more supplies in this way has been a big problem for many companies, including construction suppliers and big-box stores.
If their shelves are bare and they can’t muster any more patience, they likely don’t have any stock. This indicates they don’t have to give what they don’t have.
Disappointment is avoidable because change is inevitable
How we choose to respond to our partner is entirely up to us!
People’s ideal image of themselves often contradicts the reality they live in. This leads to a lot of stress and pain, because my idealized life is not what I actually have. I didn’t like two of the new brands I purchased over other options— but Method foaming hand soap still remains my favorite.
You need to develop an adaptive mindset in order to continue your fitness regimen. Allow your partner some slack if they’re having trouble achieving their goals due to circumstances beyond their control.
Our relationships require mutual respect. This central pillar of any healthy relationship maintains the paradoxical quality of needing certain expectations in a relationship.
Sometimes enough is enough. Avoid making a bad option worse by accepting a flawed but acceptable one.
A happily married woman with a long-term partner who’s overtly focused on her goals needs to constantly remind herself that she doesn’t need anything extra.
I have a strong preference for order, and enjoy cleaning and organizing. For traveling, I pack my suitcase with a fully-stocked toiletry kit. I also keep a log of what greetings cards I send to who and what Tupperware containers I borrow from my pantry. And I keep a ledger of all the loans and welcomes that I give out. My timekeeping meets the IRS, who don’t even blink an eye when I show them my records. I can locate any piece of information in my office within 6 seconds.
Because I love my job so much, I meticulously maintain my systems. This is because streamlining my methods makes it easier to change course when unexpected obstacles arise. Even more time with the people I care about is achieved through a well-designed system.
At first, my perfectionism caused significant issues in my marriage. My lofty standards prevented me from accepting minor compromises. And I paid for my carelessness with a divorce.
Imagine this scenario: My husband spent an hour cleaning after dinner; he washed dishes and scrubbed the kitchen’s floors. When asked why he never emptied the food scraps in the sink drain, the perfectionist declared himself to be a compulsive overemphasizer.
My husband countered with, “I cleaned the entire kitchen, and that’s all you have to say?!”
His words were spot-on, yet I dismissed him without so much as a thank-you. My lack of gratitude rendered my efforts to be perfect irrelevant and destroyed any hope of appreciation.
According to Dr. John Gottman, couples shouldn’t expect anything more than “good enough.” He states this in his work The Truth About Expectations in Relationships. When a relationship has high expectations, both halves expect to be treated with love, affection, and respect. They also don’t tolerate emotional or physical abuse by their partner. They expect their partner to be loyal, not conflict-free.
Focus on the most important aspects of your project and accept “good enough” for smaller tasks. Work through conflict by seeking to understand rather than assume anything. Embrace gratitude for a clean kitchen by recognizing that a clean drain proves someone cared.
Be aware of changing opportunities by changing your mindset. You can’t control the world around you
My mentor and friend had a specific vision of the ideal romantic relationship. She was unable to accept that her idea wasn’t the best option out there. This led to her developing a more ambitious plan. Communication bridges the gap between expectations and reality. This is what allowed Erin to realize her dream with her partner instead of matching it with his. When she realized they were on the same page, she started to feel disappointed every day.
Couples need to consider their goals and dreams beyond just one individual. This requires creating a WE instead of an ME. Creative solutions don’t mean giving up what we want— they just mean finding a way to yield both success and fulfillment. We find these solutions by embracing our desire and staying focused on creating experiences that work for us both.
A healthy romantic relationship is made up of both love and acceptance of imperfections. With this in mind, you should look for ways to love your partner and meet your needs at the same time. A romantic relationship brings with it many ups and downs. However, it makes sense to live with them and continue to hope for the best outcome. Because of this, we can manage our relationship expectations and still believe in the best outcome.
In the long run, maintaining joy and connection to the present is more valuable than clinging to the imagined past. This is because embracing reality today instead of longing for the past is worth it.