Before you start a relationship, it is helpful to know what you expect once you’re in one. In fact, many relationships end because one or both individuals in a couple didn’t get their expectations met.
What happens when you have expectations that don’t get met? You get unhappy and think about ending the relationship. In almost twenty years of counseling men and women about relationship issues, I have identified a handful of expectations that screw up relationships time and again.
“I will be happy once I am officially in a relationship.”
If only romantic relationships were enough to make us feel happy and complete! So many men and women fall prey to this unrealistic expectation. If expectations could play villains, this one would be the most evil and powerful. It is totally understandable to want to believe that finding a relationship will provide you with whatever you’ve been missing, but the truth is that a good relationship will add to – but not complete – your life overall.
“My new partner will want to spend all of their time off from work with me.”
Although the idea of living a we-do-everything-together life may sound appealing to some, having this expectation may lead to frustration later. Sure, if you start a relationship with someone who happens to be a little or a lot codependent, that individual may want to spend every available waking moment with you. But remember that your new partner will come to the table with their own family and friends, and they may like to socialize sometimes on their own – without their significant other present. (Note: This kind of independence is often the secret to long-lasting marriages.)
“Once we’re officially a couple, my new partner will only flirt with me.”
You probably accept that your new date will be attracted to others besides you, but what about flirting? Do you expect that to end altogether once the two of you are in a relationship? Here’s the trick with flirting: Set up some rules about flirting so that the issue isn’t something that becomes a problem over time. One example I recommend to couples: Tell your partner that you don’t want them to flirt with anyone in front of you, but also say that you aren’t going to try to control what they do when you’re not there. (The truth? Many men and women will flirt when you’re not there anyhow.)
“I am going to get so much physical affection in the relationship.”
There are two levels of physical affection, including what I call the sexual level and the affection level. In terms of sex, you will only have a very sexual relationship if the person you are with is very sexual, too. However, I have found in my clinical work that most people – male or female – aren’t off-the-charts sexual. If sexual affection is your priority, you need to make sure that this is also a priority for your partner. (For most people, it isn’t!) In terms of physical affection, many men and women aren’t extremely affectionate. Though they could hold hands or do regular kisses and hugs on a day to day basis, it’s not their personality to do so. If these things are a necessity for you, be clear about your expectations from the start!
Unrealistic expectations are poisonous to relationships. When you start dating someone, spend some time thinking about what expectations you have. Specifically, ask yourself this question: How will my day to day life change once I’m in a relationship? What behaviors do I want my new partner to engage in? How will I feel if these needs aren’t met?
Bottom line: Tell your partner from the beginning what you need from the relationship, and be specific!
About the Author:
Dr. Seth is a licensed clinical psychologist, author, Psychology Today blogger, and TV guest expert. He practices in Los Angeles and treats a wide range of issues and disorders and specializes in relationships, parenting, and addiction. He has had extensive training in conducting couples therapy and is the author of Dr. Seth’s Love Prescription: Overcome Relationship Repetition Syndrome and Find the Love You Deserve