Before you ever got into your first relationship, you probably had an idea of what that would look like. You probably thought of who your partner would be, what they would look like, and maybe even where you would meet. Thanks to romantic comedies and now social media, it's so easy to set high expectations for what you think your love life should look like. But according to experts, your idea of love can have a way of sabotaging your relationship if you're not aware of it.
"Initial attraction creates a wave of sensations and then expectations inevitably follow," neuropsychologist Dr. Amy Serin, founder of The Serin Center, tells Bustle. "The stronger the attraction, the more likely we are to try to be with that person and cling to hope that the initial attraction will turn into something more." Or that your relationship with them will turn out to be the picture-perfect fantasy that you've always wanted. But when your expectations are way too high, it can ruin your chance of finding and keeping the right person for you.
To be fair, having high expectations in your relationship isn't always a bad thing. "Unrealistic expectations like wanting your partner to fulfill your every need can certainly leave people disappointed," Dr. Serin says. "But couples who have high expectations for a supportive friendship, satisfying intimacy, trust, commitment, and the ability to resolve conflict with their partner are on the right track."
So there is a difference between healthy expectations and unhealthy ones. Here are some signs that your idea of romance may be sabotaging your love life, according to experts.
1. Your Prioritize Keeping Your Relationship Hot Over Anything Else
As Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby, clinical director of Growing Self Counseling & Coaching, tells Bustle, many people looking for love will easily list out qualities about what they want in their future partner. More often than not, basics like honesty, reliability, and shared values get put on that list. However, those tend to get overlooked once you find someone you have great "chemistry" with. According to her, that can unfortunate. "Chemistry, which is a combination of sexual interest plus anxiety, has nothing to do with whether or not someone is compatible with you, of good character, or is going to be a good choice long-term partner," she says. "Over-prioritizing this can lead you to make relationship mistakes in many ways." While chemistry is important and you do need that to keep your relationship going long-term, it's not the most important thing. Once you realize that, you can open yourself up to have a more deeper and meaningful relationship with your partner.
2. You Always Compare Your Relationship To Other Couples
"In our image-driven age, it's very easy to scroll through Instagram and see posts about the peak moments that other couples are having," Dr. Bobby says. Very rarely do you see people posting selfies of themselves locked in the bathroom crying after a big fight, or Instagram stories of themselves yelling at their partner for not doing the dishes when they said they would. "If you combine that with what we're led to believe good relationships should be through movies and shows, it distorts one's sense of what the reality of a normal relationship is," she says. The reality is, relationships are full of ups and downs. Nobody's relationship is perfect. So don't look to other people's relationships and hope yours will be just as good as theirs. As Dr. Bobby says, a much better strategy is to turn your attention to all that is right in your relationship. "Be generous with your praise, and actively appreciative all the ways that your partner makes you happy," she says. "Both you and they will feel the truth of all the good things you do have much more deeply than you do if you're comparing your relationship to some imagined ideal."
3. You Get Even More Upset If Your Partner Doesn't Read Your Emotions
If you believe your partner should be so in sync with you that they know what you're thinking, you expect too much from them. "People are not mind readers," Jeannie Assimos, eharmony's Chief of Advice tells Bustle. "Don’t expect them to just know what to say or do for you." Communication is important for a reason. So be sure to always tell your partner what you need and how you feel.
4. You're Waiting For The Day Your Partner Will Change
"A healthy relationship consists of two people who accept one another and have common goals," dating coach, Anna Morgenstern, tells Bustle. Expecting your partner to change their mind about marriage and kids because you believe they're your soulmate is unrealistic. As Morgenstern says, "You need to be honest about the kind of life you want to lead and have an honest conversation with your partner to make sure your goals align." This includes having similar ideas about where to live, whether to have children, among other things.
5. You Expect Love And Romance To Happen Right Away
If you've been with someone for a while and you've taken the time to get to know each other, you should be able to see the love between you grow. But you shouldn't expect it to happen in an instant. Just because someone wants to go out with you, it doesn't necessarily mean they're going to fall in love and stay in love with you after two or three dates. As Assimos says, love and romance don't just happen without time, effort, and communication. "You have to put in the effort to connect with your partner in order to enjoy the love and romance," she says. "Make the effort to connect emotionally first."
6. You Start Questioning Your Entire Relationship When Your Partner Starts Getting On Your Nerves
When you spend a majority of your free time with someone, it's pretty much a given that you will find something about them that you don't like. "That loving feeling won't always be there. There will be some days where you might find your partner annoying," Assimos says. "That's OK. It's part of being in a real relationship."
7. You Actively Avoid Fights Because You Believe Happy Couples Don't Fight
Happy couples are happy for a reason, right? Well, if you want to be in a healthy and happy relationship, you should expect to have arguments and fights every now and then. If you think "perfect" couples don't fight, you're sadly mistaken. "It's a common misunderstanding that love is easy," Assimos says. "But you definitely need to work at it." If you hold yourself back from talking out issues in your relationship, it can cause unnecessary stress or resentment.
So, if these expectations are unrealistic, which relationship goals are? "There are so many achievable goals that couples can and probably should strive for," Assimos says. These are just some of the most important ones: Couples should try to have open and honest conversation, consistent connection, quality time, fun together and shared life experiences on a regular basis. If you have that, your relationship is going to be as "perfect" as it can be.