Unrealistic Expectations in Relationships: Real Life Examples + What to Do
Unrealistic expectations in relationships and fairy tales go hand in hand. In fairy tales we make up impossible pictures of something that we can’t sustain in human relationships – not in the everyday moments of real everyday life. True human relationships have messy imperfect moments. They have unconscious moments that we wish we could take back and do over again.
If we tell the truth about human love and relationships, we’re unskilled and untrained. In truth, long term relationships face challenges and hardships. Every person in relationships has their unconscious moments and we are all reactive at times. It’s also true that we all do things we wish we hadn’t or don’t do things we wish we had.
It’s our beliefs that none of this should happen that forms many of our unrealistic expectations in relationships. Another way we unconsciously create those unhealthy expectations is by believing that we know better than our partner does or that our comfort is more important than theirs. And, we also build unrealistic expectations in relationships to protect us from our own insecurities.
Examples of unrealistic expectations in relationships
Since our unrealistic expectations in relationships have so many different roots and causes, they also show up in many different forms throughout all aspects of our relating.
Because of that diversity we’ll break our examples down into four different categories.
We’ll start first with the expectations you hold about you and your way, or your point of view in the world. Then we’ll actually look at one of the most argued about sets of unrealistic expectations in relationships – those about sex and affections. Next, we’ll look at expectations about conflict and connection, and then finally we’ll explore our unrealistic expectations about love and relationships themselves.
About you and your way
- Your partner should know what you want / like / desire. This unrealistic expectation is also known as expecting them to read your mind. Yes, it’s reasonable to imagine they might over time remember your favorites and major dislikes, yet you still need to speak truthfully and share what you need, want and desire.
- Your needs/wants/desires are the most important. While most of us would say, “My partner’s needs are at least as important as my own, if not more important than mine,” our actions often speak differently. This unhealthy expectation can sound like, “if you loved me you would / wouldn’t _______”.
- Your partner should do things your way. Too often we believe we know best and that our way is the best way. This by definition makes our partner’s way wrong and invalidates their perspective.
- Your partner should not push your buttons. This expectation demands that your partner remember all your sensitive spots and always behave in ways that never trigger you. While the one you love will likely remember your tender places over time, this expectation can make them feel as if they constantly walk on eggshells
- Your partner should always think (and tell you) that you look good. The truth is none of us look our best all the time and our partner’s won’t always like everything we choose to wear. Unless you want your partner to feel like it’s best to not be honest with you, don’t expect them to always tell you that you look good.
About sex and affection
- Your partner will provide all the sex / affection you want. Partners rarely have the same rhythms and desires over the long term, when it comes to sex and affection. That’s normal. Yet many expect that our partners will want what we want as much as we want it.
- You’ll have regular consistent sex. Slightly different from the previous one, this unrealistic expectation starts to create a schedule for our intimate physical loving. For many, especially those who are predominantly feminine, this kind of schedule turns lovemaking into a chore. Rarely is “to do” list sex good.
- Sex is always good if the relationship is good. Even when our sex life isn’t on a schedule and doesn’t feel like a chore, it still won’t always be great. This doesn’t mean anything is wrong in the relationship. Sex drive naturally ebbs and flows with hormonal cycles, stress, and activity levels in life and with that the quality of our lovemaking will also vary, and that’s ok.
- That orgasm should always happen. Both masculine and feminine beings put too much focus on expectation on orgasm. Orgasms can be elusive for more feminine beings and that’s again normal. Just because a woman doesn’t orgasm doesn’t mean the sex wasn’t good or her partner wasn’t a good lover. Additionally, many masculine partners, who tend to have easier access to their orgasm, often always expect to have one. This can mean that their feminine partners have to stay in the lovemaking longer than they might otherwise desire. None of this leads to better love or lovemaking.
About upsets, hurts, and disagreements.
- I’ll never have hurt feelings. No matter how good and conscious your partner is, they can never be so good that you will never feel hurt. In our Soul Love programs, one of the ways we debunk unrealistic expectations in relationships, is to have couples promise each other that they will feel hurt in their relationship. This acts to defuse all the fear of future hurt.
- I’ll never be disappointed. Similar to hurt feelings, if we spend a lot of time, a lifetime, with someone, we will absolutely feel disappointed at times. Everything won’t go our way all the time. That’s ok.
- Your partner should never be disappointed. We can’t expect that our partner will never feel disappointed about one of our choices. If we choose authentically, they may feel sad or disappointed about our choice. Let them. It doesn’t mean you did anything wrong. Masculine beings, this one is especially for you.
- Your partner’s feelings or perspectives will always make sense to you. Every human being is different and, on top of that, the masculine and feminine dynamics so common in romantic relationships amplify our differences even more. With that, you will not always make sense to each other. So stop expecting to always be understood, or to always understand.
- Your partner will always be rational / logical. This flavor of unrealistic expectations in relationships again points to the difference between masculine and feminine energy in love. Masculine partners too often expect their feminine partners to be rational and logical, thereby invalidating their emotions.
- Your partner will always be sensitive and emotional. Similarly, feminine partners expect their masculine lovers to be as emotional, sensitive and empathetic as they are. At the same time feminine beings can make the logic of their masculine partners wrong. These expectations and judgements again set up both partners for disappointment and unnecessary hurt.
- Your partner will always be kind and nice. Your partner will not always be nice. (Yet, if they aren’t nice the vast majority of the time, you may not want them as your partner.) The truth is we all have our “moments”. We all go unconscious. We all make mistakes. None of us are perfect. Are you always kind and nice? Love invites us to drop the expectation and forgive.
- We’ll never fight, disagree or argue. This is one of the most damaging unrealistic expectations in relationships. We will all mess up. We will have misunderstandings. Hurts will happen. We won’t always agree. On top of that, soul connections by definition mean you will trigger each other which is a good thing. When we embrace conflict, it becomes communion. It draws us closer together. On the other hand, avoiding conflict breeds self-abandonment and codependency, both of which destroy relationships.
- We’ll always resolve an upset before bed. You’ve probably heard “don’t go to bed mad.” While that’s good advice, it doesn’t mean we’ll always be able to fully resolve an upset before we sleep and trying to stay up late to clear the energy often makes things worse. You can, however, choose to acknowledge your love before you go to bed, despite the upset. (This practice is especially good for the feminine.)
- They’ll forget about the thing that hurt. If there’s been an upset that you haven’t resolved and you expect your partner to “just forget about it” your relationship will suffer. That old hurt will keep blowing up in your face. It will breed resentment. I can put you in the friend zone.
- Your partner should never repeat inconsiderate / unconscious behavior. None of us change old patterns in a heartbeat. We all have our wounds, triggers, and coping patterns that we act from. When our partners act from their pain and wounds, while it can definitely be painful for us, it’s unrealistic to expect that they’ll never do that again. How often have you done something again (and again and again) that you didn’t want to do again? Your partner will too. In these cases we have to lean on the power of forgiveness over and over again.
About love and relationships
- Love is enough. Especially when we feel we are in love with our soulmate, we can expect that everything will work effortlessly and that we’ll have those fairytale rainbows and unicorns. The truth is that sustained love and relationships take attention, effort, and care. Period. To expect otherwise will create pain in your heart.
- Your partner will make you happy / a relationship will make you happy. Too many people seek relationships believing that will finally bring them happiness. This never happens. A partner can never make us happy. As a matter of fact, when we expect them to make us happy, they will more likely make us feel miserable. We must bring our own happiness to a relationship.
- Your partner will make you feel loved. Even when a partner loves us dearly, it doesn’t mean we will feel loved. Our capacity to feel love depends wholly on our own relationship with ourselves and our own self worth. We must remove our internal blocks to love before we can receive love from another. Otherwise we will chase love and in turn our partner can feel as if there’s an endless hole they can never successfully fill.
- They’ll always be there for you. While most of the time our partner will absolutely be there when we need them, expecting them to always show up is impossible. Additionally, if we make their absence or unavailability mean they don’t love us, or that we don’t matter, it harms both people.
- We’ll always want the same things. Being in love does not mean being the same. Every single person has different joys, different dreams. Surely in a long term romantic relationship some of these will align, but not all will. Authenticity allows us to trust love and if you both people remain authentic it’s impossible to always want the same thing.
- The two of you should do everything together all the time. On the contrary, we all need space and alone time. Depending on our constitution, some need more than others. Yet every healthy relationship thrives on space. When we want to be together all the time, or feel insecure when we’re apart, it can indicate signs of codependence or enmeshment.
- Splitting chores, finances, responsibilities equally will make you happy. This unrealistic expectation in relationships stems from the misunderstanding that we should balance masculine and feminine energy. This striving for balance over the magnetism of polarity will kill passion and leads many couples into the friend zone.
- They should say “I love you” when you do. This simply isn’t true for many reasons. Saying “I love you” and not hearing it back doesn’t always mean what you think it does. As a matter of fact, not saying it at the same time can indicate a healthy relationship.
- They’ll never leave. This expectation causes pain in two very distinct ways. First, if we expect that they’ll never leave we can get complacent and take the relationship for granted. When we take a relationship for granted, we can practically assume one person will leave. Second, and even more importantly, those who know true ecstatic love know it because they embrace the vulnerability of loving fully. Being honest about the fact that at some point, in some way, every relationship will come to an end allows us to love more deeply in the here and now. Embracing the fragility of love only serves to deepen it.
How to fix unrealistic expectations in relationships
If we want to know what to do about unrealistic expectations in relationships, we want to first consider more deeply what an expectation really is. In a nutshell, expectations are a fancy way of saying “should”. In other words, our expectations are the demands that we put on ourselves and the others in our lives.
Yes, some expectations can be considered healthy or realistic. We can expect our partners to communicate with us. We can expect them to tell the truth. We might expect them to come home when they say they are going to. And, ask yourself, do you do all of these things all the time? Or, as much as you’d like to do these things, do you sometimes fall short? As humans, we all tend to fail to live up to the impossible and unrealistic expectations we set. So why have them in the first place?
If we want to fix unrealistic expectations in relationships we have to drop the energy of should. We need to stop demanding things from our partners and we must stop obligating them to behave the way we want them to. We have to give them permission to be themselves.
The best way to do this is to turn our expectations into desires. In reality, our desires and values lie at the heart of our expectations. Unfortunately we typically focus our attention on the fear that we won’t get what we want rather than trusting that we will. That fear turns our desires into demands.
Two things allow us to drop that fear.
First, we have to be willing to be vulnerable. It’s more vulnerable to say we desire something than it is to say we expect something. Therefore, we have to find a way to increase our trust in order to let go of our unrealistic expectations in relationships and allow them to turn into desires.
Second, we must trust ourselves to remove ourselves from a situation that doesn’t align with our soul or with our values and dreams. If we don’t commit to honoring ourselves we put all the expectations on another to honor us, which never works. That undue pressure pushes the one we love away. If we don’t have our own back, the resulting self-abandonment harms the relationship over and over again.
As an enlightened master in India once said, all expectations are a direct ticket to suffering. Expectations and their inherent demands cannot coexist with genuine love. Soul love allows each person to be their authentic self. Soulful connections thrive in an environment of trust, forgiveness, and honesty. Your commitment to honor yourself frees your partner to be themselves. In that freedom and trust expectations become useless. You can both choose each other over and over again, deepening in the most exquisite love every time.
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*At Ecstatic Intimacy, an all-inclusive website for singles and couples, we welcome all sexual orientation(s), gender(s) and relationship expressions. In this article we utilize the pronouns he/she/him/her.