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?
Holding healthy expectations reflects a sense of order and stability. For example, you go to sleep and expect to wake up in the same bed, or 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. If you’re not able to count on your partner in these important ways, it might not be the right relationship for you.
Where the adage “expectations lead to disappointment” holds water is when we consider unrealistic expectations. For example, believing that good relationships are free of conflict or 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 Do’s and Don’ts of Managing Expectations
Just because you know unrealistic expectations can lead to disappointment doesn’t mean you won’t have them. That said, you can learn to manage expectations so that they do not negatively impact your relationship. Here are ten do’s and don’ts for managing expectations in your relationship:
Do: Identify Expectations And Boundaries
Take some time to clarify your relationship boundaries. 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.
Do: Give Your Partner Time
Giving your partner time to consider your expectations and share their own helps establish respect for your individual experiences. Once you have shared your expectations, step back and let them process. Giving your partner time helps to manage expectations in the relationship.
Do: Have An Open Mind
If you and your partner have expectations that don’t line up exactly, it’s okay! It doesn’t mean your relationship is bound to fail. Being open minded and considering your partner’s boundaries and expectations for the relationship can actually lead to growth and greater intimacy. Give yourself time to consider what is really important to you and where you can compromise.
Do: Embrace Change
A major unrealistic expectation is believing that change threatens, rather than enhances, your relationship. That’s simply not the case! 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 thrive.
Do: Respect Conflict
Just like change, conflict is inevitable. Believing that you can have a relationship without any conflict is totally unrealistic! In fact, many psychologists contend that you cannot have growth without conflict.
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
You may feel that you are protecting your partner or your relationship by bottling things up, but it will end up making things worse. 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
Whether we are comparing our relationships to rom-coms or influencers on Instagram, none of those relationships are a full reflection of reality. It is easy to fall into that trap, but it will lead to unrealistic expectations and potential disappointment. Instead, 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 maintain good communication skills.
Don’t: Get Stuck In A Rut
Your relationship may go through a rough patch from time to time — it’s normal! Couples who succeed in managing relationship expectations understand this. 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 each other
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. By keeping these tips in mind, you’ll be able to maintain realistic expectations for your relationship and instead focus on the happiness you feel with your partner.