We all have expectations for romantic relationships. In fact, having expectations is a good thing. The real skill is learning what good expectations and bad expectations for our romantic relationships are. Having realistic and healthy hopes can change our love starts into love stories, and help us avoid confusion, hurt, and pain.  

Whether we realise it or not, we all have questions prepared that we can ask new people we meet to get the conversation going and avoid the awkward silence. ‘What is your job?’ ‘Where do you live?’ ‘Do you have any interesting hobbies?’ We’re ready to pull them out when needed.

When we meet a new couple though, while all the above questions apply,  there is that extra one we get to ask. This is often said with a bit more intrigue and interest, ‘Where did you two meet?’and/or ‘How did he pop the question?’

Why is hearing about the love starts more appealing than hearing about building a love story? 

This is the exciting Hollywood ‘getting together’ moment, which we like to hear about and dissect. The couple look at each other and decide who is going to share it this time. And we listen intently and say ‘aww’ at the right points.

Love Starts vs Love Stories

However, I’ve noticed that people rarely ask something along the line of ‘What’s your relationship like now that you’ve been together for X amount of years?’ ‘What have you learnt about each other now the “honeymoon” period is over?’

Just hearing about love starts can form unhealthy expectations that weaken relationships

You may think that’s an instant mood killer. But why? Why is hearing about the love starts more appealing than hearing about building a love story in the everyday life?

Just hearing about love starts can form unhealthy expectations that weaken relationships. But gaining great and healthy relationships begins with learning to spot and avoid unhealthy expectations. Then we can replace them with healthy ones. Ones that build love stories. (Read What I Wish I Had Been Taught About Love)

(The following extract is taken from page 98-100 of The Dating Dilemma book, read the introduction for free.)

Unrealistic Expectations For A Dating Relationship

  • We will meet all of each other’s needs.
  • They will know what I’m thinking or feeling without me having to say (and vice versa).
  • They will never want to discuss feelings or talk about the future.
  • We will spend all our time together.
  • We will agree on everything.
  • They will earn a certain amount of money or have a certain status.
  • I will not budge from my ideals of how they should look.
  • They will never challenge me.
  • They will always make me feel happy.
  • We will immediately know that we belong together, so we will definitely get married.
  • They will fit into my life.
  • They will always do what I say.
  • I will not have to change, but they will change for me.
  • They will be stronger in their faith, so they will always know what to do.
  • I will only date the person I know God has told me to marry.
  • It will be easy.

Having expectations is not a bad thing. Having no expectations at all would be disastrous. Rather, consider how you could adopt these good expectations:

Realistic Expectations Of A Dating Relationship

  • We will have fun together.
  • We will be open with each other and grow in trust and commitment.
  • I will remain true to myself as I seek to change for the better.
  • We will work through disagreements.
  • We will have a similar view of relationships.
  • Sometimes we will need some space, but we will always try to communicate well.
  • We will share core beliefs and values, and enjoy debating areas where we differ.
  • We will seek to bring out the best in each other.
  • We will consider each other’s needs.
  • We will spend time apart.
  • We will encourage each other.
  • We will not gossip about each other to our friends.
  • I will still nurture my own relationship with Jesus.
  • We will share a connection that we will want to nurture into something more.
  • We will be open to God speaking to us, together and individually, about our relationship.

(Read What makes relationships work? What makes them weak?)

The thing about our expectations is that they can be hugely influential in governing how we act around someone. Choosing healthy expectations will make your relationship stronger because it will focus your attention on all the right things and also help you set the right goals. The danger is that, in setting unrealistic expectations, the relationship can often be doomed to fail from the start.

In the past, I thought that, once I started dating a girl, she would want to do what I wanted! When I wanted to rest, she would sit there and relax; when I wanted to go out, she would be ready and waiting. I thought it would be easy. But I soon realized that things aren’t that simple, that I needed to do things I didn’t want to do.

We need to be active and challenge our own unrealistic expectations

Like having a chat because she wants to communicate when I’m feeling tired, or going out to something I don’t enjoy. I had to change my mindset and approach the relationship with realistic expectations, and learn to support, encourage and communicate – even when I was tired and grumpy.

We need to be active and challenge our own unrealistic expectations. This helps us to shift from a position of weakness to one of strength. So what expectations are making you weak? What could you replace them with?

(Read the introduction of The Dating Dilemma book for free now, or buy the book here.)

Imagine If…

Imagine if we took the time to think about what our healthy and unhealthy expectations are for our romantic relationships. Past or present. And strive towards making at least one of the above changes today, so our relationships can get stronger.

What other healthy or unhealthy expectations can you think of?

Originally posted 23/11/2016