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Am I Expecting Too Much From My Partner? – 5 Relationship Experts Reveal Exactly How To Know If You Have Unrealistic Expectations

by Megan Bearce – LMFT, Linda McKenney – Life Coach, Cynthia Pickett – LCSW, LADC, Sally LeBoy – MS, MFT, Denise Coyle – LMFT , CTS, CDAC

Am I Expecting Too Much From My Partner

“It is necessary, and even vital, to set standards for your life and the people you allow in it.”

~ Mandy Hale

Mandy Hale Standards Quote
Megan Bearce

Perfectionism is something people usual associate with job performance, academics or the like but many people also seek perfection in a relationship. 

How do you know if your expectations for love are too high?

1. You find yourself disappointed often.

Take a minute and think about what is “not enough”? 

  • Not enough time together? 
  • Not enough meaningful conversation? 
  • Not enough sex? 
  • Not enough gifts? 
  • Is your partner aware of what you want in a relationship? Is it realistic? Do you know what they want?

2. You think it should be just like the movies. All of the time.

Rom-com’s get their nickname because those relationships are laughable. There is nothing wrong with wanting a sweet, loving partner but hearts and flowers all day, everyday is just not realistic.

3. You find yourself saying “but she/he should have known” a lot.

The most important part of being in a healthy relationship is good communication. Most people are not mind readers and the expectation that your partner should “just know” what you want or are thinking is going to leave you feeling disappointed. 

For example, some people are more romantic than others. 

If you are with someone who isn’t and romantic gestures are important to you, you need to tell them or give them hints. 

You can leave notes or articles from magazines laying around, but some people need it spelled out as in, “I would love us to spend my birthday together in Santa Barbara” instead of waiting for them to plan a surprise getaway.

4. You don’t want to fight. Ever.

Marriage vows contain the phrase “for better or worse” for a reason. Every relationship will have good times and bad. Ups and downs. If you run at the first sign of trouble or unease, your expectations may be too high. 

Sticking around to see if you can and want to work through disappointment and misunderstandings can be uncomfortable but if the only option for you is perfection, sooner or later you will find yet another relationship ending.

Megan Bearce, LMFT – www.meganbearce.com

Linda McKenney

If you move from relationship to relationship trying to find just the right person who meets all of your criteria, you will most likely be disappointed over and over again. 

To be honest, I feel that the phrase “soul mate” is used much too offhandedly. This results in too many people looking for their “soul mate” and missing out on wonderful, meaningful relationships because souls aren’t mating.

If you are looking for the right partner or already in a relationship, it’s really important to be clear on what’s important and non-negotiable and where there is wiggle room. 

When I looked to remarry, I knew that I wanted to be with someone who valued family and would treat my children as if they were his own. And while I would have preferred someone who didn’t watch sports, I could have acquiesced to that (I didn’t need to).

You will be able to find the right person, who shares your really important expectations, but it may take a little time. 

You need to communicate those expectations clearly and be patient, if that means some changes in behavior from the other person.

If you are in the initial dating period, don’t bring a laundry list of all of your expectations and read them on the first date. 

That is when people go to the restroom and do not return. Listen, pay attention and observe and you will begin to see in what ways he or she naturally meets those expectations. 

Then, if the relationship progresses, if there are some important aspects in a relationship that have not yet been addressed – ask for what you need!

Linda McKenney, Personal Life Coach and Motivational Speaker – www.majok.org

Cynthia Pickett

I have found it is never good for us to have expectations of others. 

It puts us on an emotional roller coaster of continuous hope and disappointment. 

How often have you actually had your expectations met? 

When not met, there is disappointment and upset because someone did not do what you thought they should. It is exhausting! It puts us in a position of having a power struggle with others as we are attempting to control their behavior through our expectations.

Instead a more even, less exhausting approach is to take responsibility for your own irritations and judgment, give with an open heart and not expect people to behave in a certain way. 

Does that mean we just accept any kind of bad behavior from others?

No, always look for red flags and deal breakers. 

When working with couples a routine pattern I see is “She knows_____bugs me but she does it anyway” and “I think he should just_____”. 

If you find yourself saying some variation of this, you are expecting people to behave in such a way that your buttons are not being pushed. 

It does not work because we can’t control people. Also, people are put in our lives to push our buttons so we can see and heal them. It gives us an opportunity to take responsibility for our emotions rather than blaming and to then heal our baggage.

Another pattern I notice is “I did _____&______ and all I got back was _____”. 

When we give anything, time, faithfulness, gifts, love, care, it should be with no expectations. 

These things should be given with an open and free heart. Expectations are the basis for conditional love and the other is unconditional.

We all have to know what behavior we will accept and what we won’t. These are not expectations but boundaries. 

  • What behavior will we accept, and not attempt to change, in our partner? 
  • Can you live with someone being messy without nagging them to clean up? 
  • Can you live with them being late all the time? 
  • Can you love your mate with faults and flaws without trying to change them? 

Then there is the bigger stuff. 

  • Can you live with cheating, lying, excessive gambling or drinking, putting friends or work ahead of family, etc… ?

Deciding yes or no to these and other issues are examples of personal boundaries.

A boundary that is good for everyone is not accepting any form of abuse. 

Does your partner yell at you, call you names, intimidate you, “if you do this I am going to get mad”, hit or threaten to hit, control your life? If so please leave as soon as safely possible. We all have the right to be treated humanely.

Cynthia Pickett, LCSW, LADC – www.cynthiapickett.com

Sally LeBoy

There is no way to know if you are expecting too much out of your relationship, because there is no valid scale that defines what are normal expectations. 

People who tell you that you expect too much are really saying, “You expect more than I want to give. We are different”. This is good to know early on because it suggests a probable lack of compatibility.

You want what you want. 

That’s actually not as selfish as it sounds. Expressing expectations provides clarity between prospective partners. We all have expectations. 

We should have expectations. 

  • You might expect that your partner will be faithful, that he or she won’t engage in behaviors that could damage family members (smoking, excessive drinking, gambling, etc.) 
  • You might expect that dating will lead to marriage and that marriage will lead to children. 
  • You expect that your partner will be respectful and loving, that conflict won’t include meanness, violence or abandonment.

You don’t generate your expectations as a result of finding a partner. Your expectations are a product of your upbringing and your values that you bring to the relationship. 

The fact of a partner is what motivates you to examine your expectations and hopefully share them. Please share them!

It’s a mistake to assume that your partner will share all of your expectations. 

I remember one couple that I worked with who divorced. She assumed they would have children and he didn’t want children. 

A difficult situation to find a compromise to! Sharing expectations early on could have prevented much heartache. 

You can’t just assume that your partner is on the same page as you. You really need to talk, maybe not on the first date, but as soon as you think that your partner is relationship material.

Of course all of your expectations won’t be met. 

That would make relationships and marriage easy, which they aren’t. But finding someone who shares your basic expectations is a key component to finding the right partner and creating a fulfilling partnership.

Sally Leboy, MS, MFT – www.sallyleboymft.com

Denise Coyle

Expectations, we all have them but how many of them are realistic? 

Every person needs to understand what they need in a relationship, what things that are essential to their happiness. Once they have identified the essentials of their own happiness they can begin to determine the expectations of a relationship. 

Some things are simply not as important, and if we wish to be happy we need to determine what things we can, in honesty, do with out and what things we can not.

To begin with do not expect your relationship to be some sort of romance novel or romantic movie. 

Too couples expect their partner and their relationship to be like in the movies. They become disappointed that their partner doesn’t do what the movie characters would, and yes that is both men and women. The same can be said for their sex lives, they expect that if the person is “the one” their sexual encounters will be movie-esque.

Be honest with yourself about this, life is not the movies. 

Your partner can not read your mind nor does he have a script. Understand your expectations and how realistic they are. Then seek compromise, no relationship is perfect, it shouldn’t be. There will be things that simply will not meet your expectations, ask yourself how important are those things in the broad scheme of things. 

See if there is room to compromise. 

Know your essentials- some things to never compromise on are respect, honesty, No violence, No abuse and there are more but you should determine those things for yourself.

If the person meets your expectations on those things that are not up for compromise then why not give them a chance? You never know what you might miss out on.

Denise M Coyle, LMFT , CTS, CDAC – www.truehearthealing.com

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