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Can Having High Expectations Hurt a Relationship?

by C. Giles

It is normal to have expectations for a relationship. These may range from the mundane (that your partner will have dinner on the table when you get home from work) to the fanciful (that he will propose marriage on a tropical island with fireworks and a diamond the size of a a dime). But when expectations are unreasonably high, your relationship is at risk, warns the National Healthy Marriage Resource Center.

Aim High

High expectations can be healthy. In modern relationships, couples look for more than companionship and financial security. If you expect your partner to make your life more interesting, introduce you to new experiences and help you improve yourself, you may have a happier, more satisfying relationship. The more knowledge and experience you gain, the more likely you are to be satisfied in your relationship, writes Tara Parker-Pope in the article "The Happy Marriage Is the ‘Me’ Marriage" for The New York Times.

Put Each Other First

Your relationship may suffer if your expectations are unmet. For example, you may have been raised in a wealthy family and budgeting was never an issue. If your partner was brought up under difficult financial circumstances, he may be wary of overspending. Perhaps you interpret this as stinginess and it causes tension in your relationship. Put your partner before your expectations and remember that his beliefs and values form an integral part of him that you cannot -- and should not want to -- change.

Avoid Unrealistic Expectations

If you expect a perfect sex life and a relationship free from conflict, you will likely be disappointed. For example, a couple may go into marriage with certain unrealistic expectations, says writer Jason Boyett in the article "5 Expectations Marriage Doesn't Meet" for Relevant magazine. Don't expect marriage to complete you, to curb your boredom or to always be a smooth ride. As Boyett writes, if you were lonely, miserable or unhappy when you were single, you are likely to be lonely, miserable or unhappy when you are married.

Make Expectations Achievable

Having high expectations for a relationship can be beneficial if they are realistic, writes Dr. Luisa Dillner in the article "Relationships: Think Positive in Love" for The Guardian. For example, if you expect your partner to show love and work with you to resolve conflict, you may be satisfied. When expectations are achievable, both parties are more likely to do the work required to realize them, resulting in a happy, healthy relationship.

About the Author

C. Giles is a writer with an MA (Hons) in English literature and a post-graduate diploma in law. Her work has been published in several publications, both online and offline, including "The Herald," "The Big Issue" and "Daily Record."

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