If you ask most people what they're looking for, the list will go on— and on and on. It's not just that they want someone funny, smart, kind, and attractive, it's that they want someone who makes them the best version of themselves, someone who lifts them up, maybe even someone to 'save' them — nd that's before we even get into the whole soulmate debacle. The bottom line? We expect a lot from our relationship. In fact, some say we expect too much.
Eli Finkel, of Northwestern University, wrote a book on the subject. In The All-Of-Nothing Marriage: How the Best Marriages Work, he suggests that our expectations of our partners are way too high and that it's doing damage to relationships. And science seems to back that up. A recent study from the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships looked at 296 young adults and found that relationship expectation was a predictor of relationship satisfaction— and that our relationship not matching our expectation was a sign of low relationship satisfaction.
And we need to be careful, because long term relationships are so formative. "Long-term relationships will change you — either for better or for worse," Jianny Adamo, Counselor and Certified Relationship Coach at Fearless Love, tells Bustle. "Love has the power to transform us, so hopefully we have chosen well and picked a partner that can grow with us. [Their] friends and family become our friends and family and vice versa. Their debts or assets will either take or give to our relationship. Their ability to support, listen [to], and cherish us will be wind in our sail, but if they tend to criticize, invalidate and can't hear you, this will take from you."
But if you're expecting them to totally change you— and change your entire life, then, sooner or later, they're probably destined to fail. So how do we manage our expectations?
Remember That Distance Can Make You Stronger
Taking a step back from your partner isn't a bad sign for your relationship— it can be a show of just how strong it is. "It’s very important to have independence in a relationship," relationship etiquette expert Mara Opperman tells Bustle. "Successful, healthy relationships allow for the both people to form a bond which lets them to not only grow together but also to grow independently as people. It’s essential to have your own sense of autonomy while feeling you can depend on each other. Also, if you give up your independence and abandon the things that used to make you happy, it will be reflected in your relationship."
People think it must be really hard that my girlfriend is now spending a few days a week doing a PhD in another city. And it is — but it's also a great time for me to focus on my life.
Focus On Your Own Life
Speaking of— remember that there's a whole word outside of our relationships. "Our culture has become one driven towards romantic relationships," dating coach Monica Parikh tells Bustle. "I suggest making your own life your first priority. Develop hobbies, interests and friendships that help you grow into your best self." A good way to stop putting so much on your partner is to remember all of the amazing things you get from other people in your life. Your friends, your family — there are lots of people you can get support, advice, and much more from. It doesn't all have to be from one person, so cherish those other relationships.
Don't Be Afraid To Ask For What You Need In Your Relationship
Rather than expecting your partner to read your mind, don't be afraid to talk more directly about what you specifically need from them, whether it's them supporting you at a family party you're nervous to attend or cheering you on at your next 10k race.
"Not asking for what you want in a relationship can make you have much less pleasure and joy, and eventually stop thriving in that relationship," Marthe Schneider, co-founder and co-developer of Authentic Tantra, tells Bustle. "From there, resentment, disconnection, and misunderstanding grow." If you're not expecting too much and you're clear about what you do need, then you won't have a problem with resentment brewing.
Even if your partner can feel like your whole world during the honeymoon period, it's not sustainable. Instead, make time to focus on your own life and the other people in it— it will give your relationship a much more healthy balance.