how to manage relationship expectations

10 Do's and Don'ts of Managing Relationship Expectations

You may have heard the phrase “expectation leads to disappointment,” but what does that really mean? How do you manage relationship expectations to ensure satisfaction - not disappointment?

Realistic Expectations

Holding healthy expectations reflects a sense of order and stability. You go to sleep and expect to wake up in the same bed. You do your job and expect to be compensated.

It’s also reasonable to have expectations in relationships. Respect and honesty from your partner are realistic expectations and the foundation of a healthy relationship. In fact, if you can count on your partner in key ways, it may not be the right partnership.

Unrealistic Expectations

Where the adage “expectations lead to disappointment” holds water is when we consider unrealistic expectations. Believing, for example, that good relationships are free of conflict or that relationships must stay the same in order to survive are impractical expectations. Change and disagreements are totally normal, but if you think they aren’t, you’ll fear for the relationship when they inevitably occur.

10 Dos and Don’t of Managing Expectations

Just because you know unrealistic expectations can lead to disappointment doesn’t mean you won’t have them. But you can learn to manage expectations so that they do not negatively impact your relationship. Shifting your energy from unrealistic to realistic expectations will help you cultivate a sense of stability and peace.

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Do: Identify Expectations And Boundaries

Take some time to clarify your relationship expectations. Do you expect prompt responses to texts? Do you want to be exclusive with your partner or see other people? Is PDA a nonstarter for you?

Being able to articulate your expectations to yourself gives you a chance to determine if they are realistic and what conditions are deal breakers for you. Make a list if it helps. Once you have established your boundaries and expectations, you can share them with your partner.

Do: Give Your Partner Time

Sharing your expectations can be intimidating, but it is important to be upfront about what you want and to ask the same of your significant other. If the possibility of marriage is essential for you but your partner doesn’t see that in their future, it’s best to get that out in the open sooner rather than later.

Giving your partner time to consider your expectations and share their own, establishes respect for your individual experiences. Once you have shared your expectations, step back and let them process. Some people take more time to process information and emotions. If you’re a fast processor, resist the urge to rush your partner. Giving them time helps to manage expectations in the relationship.

Do: Have An Open Mind

If you and your partner find that your relationship expectations don’t line up exactly, this does not mean your partnership is doomed. Being open minded and considering your partner’s boundaries and their expectations for the relationship can actually lead to growth and greater intimacy. Give yourself time to consider what it really important to you and where you can compromise.

Do: Embrace Change

A major unrealistic expectation is believing that change threatens, rather than enhances, partnerships. It is unrealistic to think that a relationship won’t change over time. Any long-term relationships will need to respond to changes with flexibility in order to survive.

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Do: Respect Conflict

Just like change, conflict is inevitable. Believing that you can have a relationship without any conflict is an unrealistic expectation for sure. Many psychologists contend that you cannot have growth without conflict and a relationship that is not growing and evolving will eventually wither.

Conflict can be painful and especially difficult if you grew up in a household that avoided conflict or in which conflict was explosively expressed. Practicing empathetic listening and using “I” statements when communicating can de-escalate conflict. Understanding that conflict will occur in your relationship is a healthy expectation that will quell some anxiety.

Don’t: Bottle Up Your Feelings

As with conflict, don’t deny or ignore your feelings. You may feel that you are protecting your partner or your relationship by bottling things up, but feelings want to be felt and they’ll always find a way. If you fear what will happen if you share your feelings with your partner, take some time for self-reflection. Journal about your feelings or speak to a trusted friend. Approach your partner when you feel calm and can speak to each other without distractions.

Don’t: Compare Your Relationship To Others

There is a whole genre of movies dedicated to making us feel disappointed in our relationships. But whether we are comparing our partnerships to rom-coms or influencers on Instagram, none of those relationships are a full reflection of reality. They are scripted or curated.

It is easy to fall into that trap, but it will lead to unrealistic expectations and potential disappointment. If you find yourself comparing your relationship to others: stop. The urge to compare might be an indication that it is time to refocus and reinvest in your relationship. Reflect on your own healthy expectations and communicate your desires to your partner.

Don’t: Expect Your Partner To Read Your Mind

A major unrealistic expectation is believing your partner knows how you feel without you telling them. No matter how close you are or how long you have been together, your partner cannot read your mind. The only way to guarantee that your partner knows how you feel is to talk to them. Building good communication skills is one of the best ways to ensure relationship longevity.

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Don’t: Get Stuck In A Rut

Even if you aren’t resisting change or clinging to the status quo your relationship may stagnant from time to time. Couples who succeed in managing relationship expectations know that ruts happen. They pull themselves out by communicating, being honest about their feelings, and taking action to improve things, like..

  • Trying a new hobby together
  • Spending more phone-free time together
  • Having more date nights
  • Scheduling intimacy
  • Seeing a relationship counselor
  • Working out together
  • Making a list about everything you like about eachother.

Don’t: Sweat the Small Stuff

Fretting over minor problems can harm a relationship. It is unrealistic to expect a relationship to be free of annoyances, but it is important to keep them in perspective. If your partner folds the towels “wrong” and leaves their shoes in the hallway, but always listens to your stories and sends your mom a birthday card, maybe you can let the towel thing go.

Expectations are human. We all have wishes and hopes and sometimes they can lead to unrealistic expectations for our relationships.

Managing expectations in a relationship means grounding our hopes in reality and respect for ourselves and our partners.Join the Relish community today and stop sweating the small stuff! Get started for free.

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