The perfect couples know everything about each other completely. They can read each other’s minds. They always agree with each other. They want exactly the same things in life. They want to do the same thing, all the time. And they never fight. This is the perfect couple who is always happy.
But that’s just a fantasy.
Expecting this to be your relationship is unrealistic. Even if you have held this idea in your mind for years, maybe you’ve already suspected that something is wrong with this image. Life is full of changes and challenges. Somehow, many couples – young and old – fall into the trap that there’s a “perfect relationship” out there.
The Downside of a Relationship Is Always Hidden
Why does everyone believe this? People tend to set unrealistic expectations for what their partners should be like. These magical ideas start when they are little kids.
In fairy tales and animated Disney films, the prince saves the princess. They are soulmates, who know each other immediately and thoroughly. Their love stories are perfectly idealized. No fights and no challenges arise along the way. Romantic comedies are the same way. The couple always gets together at the peak of happiness, and then they live together happily ever after. Roll credits. You don’t get to see the aftermath: when the couple still loves each other, but they have to deal with disagreements and live through big challenges.
Parents also set perceptions of what makes a good partner. We have strongly ingrained cultural expectations of what a “boyfriend,” “girlfriend,” “husband,” or “wife” should be like. That’s hard to shake! For example, your mother may have told you that “boys will be boys” – husbands tend to be cold and distant and therefore you should expect and accept that in your relationships. While that might save you trouble at the beginning, down the road, this complacent attitude can only build resentment and unhappiness.
People also compare their relationships to those of others all the time. That’s easier than ever to do with Facebook and Instagram. Your friends probably talk a lot about the “perfect” things that their partners do for them. People want to share the good in their lives, not the bad. But relationships on social media are filtered. All you see are the special date nights, the engagements, and the vacation photos. Nobody posts photos of their fights and loneliness. It’s important to remember that everyone has different relationship experiences. Comparison on this front is simply meaningless.
People Make Unrealistic Expectations to Create the Perfect Love
As a result of all these learned expectations, people want to mold their partners into their ideal version. But based on unrealistic expectations, they will make demands that just don’t work. And then, when the partner can’t meet their expectations, they demand more and more, thinking that it’s supposed to be “love” that makes their dreams come true.
One common mistake that women and men make is that their partners can “read their minds” and meet their needs without saying anything. But this is not just uncommon, it’s impossible. Without realizing that this is an unrealistic expectation, they will constantly feel disappointed by their partners and conclude that they should keep seeking for the one that can best fit in a relationship.
It’s easy to think that “love” will solve all the problems. People attribute disappointment to “lack of love” or “we’re not really meant to be together.” These couples who think this way will then break up and move on to another relationship. And they’ll take the same behaviors with them.
They hope to find someone who can fit their mold. But what they don’t realize is that their expectations are just unrealistic. They will end up getting stuck in the same loop of relationships.
Make Your Relationship Down to Earth
A down-to-earth relationship doesn’t mean it’s not special. Everyone’s love story is unique because of both the upside and downside the couple experiences together. A realistic relationship can be healthy even though it’s not perfect. Try the following steps to make your love life happier.
1. List out all of your expectations.
Write down each of your expectations, starting each sentence with “I expect him/her to…” You don’t need to justify any of your expectations. The point here is to be honest with yourself.
Examples: “I expect him to know that I’m sad even when I don’t tell him how I feel.” Or “I expect her to adjust to my schedule changes without ever getting upset.” Anything that’s honest and true should go on this list.
2. Review your list.
Now is the time to bring judgment back into the equation. Read through your list and cross out anything that you haven’t fulfilled yourself. For example, ask yourself: Is it actually realistic to ask your partner to hang out with you for hours every day, when he/she has a demanding job? Do you always hang out with him/her when you’re busy with work or school?
3. Switch the position with your partner and look at the list again.
Go through the list another time. Now, instead of asking if you can fulfill the expectations, think more carefully about whether he/she can. Just because you can live up to some expectations doesn’t mean your partner can, too. Maybe you’re an obsessive cleaner, but your partner only cleans once a week or so. Is it realistic to ask him/her to clean every day, or as often as you do?
This will pare down your list even more, leaving only the truly reasonable expectations behind.
4. Spell out your expectations to your partner.
The best you can do is to explicitly state your expectations to your partner. Talk about challenges in meeting each other’s expectations. Then compromise and refine those expectations so that both of you can be happy.
Remember that fantasy of the perfect couple? It was never real and never will be. A realistic relationship is full of challenges and it takes compromises. Stop chasing for the perfect relationship. Unrealistic expectations on your partner sabotage not only your partner, but yourself and your relationship.
Featured photo credit: Photo by Eric Alves on Unsplash via unsplash.com