How to Manage Your Expectations in a Relationship

Got burned by a partner’s poor understanding of your relationship expectations before? Here’s how to avoid the same problem in the future.

One of the main reasons that relationships so often break down – whether a business, personal or romantic relationship – is that expectations on both sides of the fence can be mismatched. So often the relationship battle cry of, “you’ve changed, you’re not the person I fell in love with!” is executed at the break-up stage.

The truth is, though, that no one has changed at all. During the honeymoon period, everyone tries to be the ideal man or woman, in order to keep their intended another half interested, and what actually happens is that those accused of changing are, in fact, just reverting back to their old selves.

Which expectations?

Expectations within a relationship are many and varied. The term doesn’t just refer to what time to expect your dinner on the table, or what time your significant other is expected back from work, although these are aspects of relevant expectation umbrellas.

There are so many subtle variations when it comes to relationship expectations that often, we don’t think of them that way at all. First of all, though, your expectations reflect what you want out of a relationship and how they relate to your partner.

The whole truth, and nothing but the truth

This is the key to any management of expectations in any arena. Everyone is tempted to be a little bit whiter than white, the first time they meet up with someone whom they are attracted to. And there’s nothing wrong with wanting to make a positive impression.

However, what you don’t want to happen is for the object of your desires to fall in love with someone else – i.e. the person you are desperately trying to be, but actually aren’t. All you do in that case is invite them to fall OUT of love with you at a later date.

The most common relationship expectation blunders

So where do these relationship expectation blunders most commonly occur, and when are they at their most hindering? Just read on for the most common blunder areas to be avoided.

#1 Speech. Some people are tempted to completely change their speech patterns and behaviors when dating someone for the first time. They will often pretend to be a different social category, using upper-class pronunciation and phraseology.

However, there’s bound to be a point in the relationship when your other half will identify this particular fraud, making you look a bit silly, and not a little bit untrustworthy.

#2 Appearance. Of course, you should look your best, but don’t try to be something you’re not through the clothes you choose when you’re courting the object of your desires. You can be just as smart in casual clothes as you can in formal if you make an effort, and it’s better to let them see you as you normally are.

Plus, with guys and gals both, it’s usually pretty obvious when they’re squeezing into something different from what they usually wear, running the risk of looking like a walrus squeezed into a penguin costume.

#3 Romance. Again, nothing wrong with a few romantic gestures in the early stages of a relationship, but it’s important not to set yourself up for a fall. What’s the use of attending the first few dates complete with a dozen red roses, conveyed upon a horse and trap, when six months down the line, the most your other half can expect is Chinese takeout and a pat on the backside? This is not a surefire route to future relationship success.

#4 Sex. It’s a confident person who can easily boast at the beginning of being a master or mistress of the bedroom arts. That’s a big reputation to live up to. If you start well, but eventually peter off to your usual sex drive level, leaving your significant other hanging in the bedroom, while you watch the latest edition of your favorite TV program, things will not progress smoothly.

Be honest about these things, or don’t mention them at all. It’s better to be pleasantly surprised than frustratingly disappointed.

#5 Career. Avoid boasting about your career and inflating your position at all costs. There are three reasons for this. Firstly, if you commit to that particular fib, then you’re going to have to live a lifestyle that reflects it. Spending big all the time is likely to break your bank balance before you can break your romantic interest.

Secondly, it’s bound to catch up with you. You will, at some point, bump into friends or colleagues, and the truth will come out, making you look dishonest and a bit pathetic.

Thirdly, if you go around telling tall stories about your job, you’re likely to attract the attentions of gold diggers – and they will NOT hang around once they know the truth.

#6 Sociability. Not everyone is a gregarious animal, and some people prefer to stay at home with their loved one’s company, a glass of something expensive, and a good movie. The other person may be happy with this, even if they aren’t inclined that way. Just make sure that you let them decide for themselves and don’t try to manipulate them into thinking you’re someone you’re not.

#7 Role. Gender roles are an important part of society, and each society’s approach to gender depends upon its own particular culture, with things such as religion, tradition, a level of progressiveness, etc. playing a big part in how this is perceived.

What is certain, though, is that each person in a relationship should have a matching idea of what that role should be, and neither of you should ever attempt to portray yourselves as anything else if that relationship is to survive in a healthy fashion.

#8 Money. Money is very important to some people, and others less so. What’s important, though, is that you each respect the boundaries concerning it. Don’t throw it around during the initial stages of the relationship, and make a big song and dance number about paying for everything or paying your own way, and then let the same thing become a source of resentment further down the line. It should be fairly obvious who is willing to pay for what. Cultural sensibilities also dictate much of this.

#9 Hygiene. We’ll keep this simple: if you turn up for a first date freshly scrubbed and washed, then extend this courtesy to the other person EVERY time. In fact, please extend that courtesy to the rest of us. Bad hygiene is NEVER acceptable.

#10 Space. Not the kind that Captain Kirk is interested in, but the kind that reflects how much time you wish or are willing to spend with someone else. Failing to manage this particular expectation is one of the most common reasons for relationship failure later down the line, especially as it is impossible to detect how much space someone requires during the dating stages.

Drop the topic into the conversation, and have a frank discussion about it. If one of you is a very needy person, but the other is far more reserved, then you need to identify this and agree on a way of dealing with it before progressing the relationship any further.

It may be uncomfortable ground, approaching relationship expectations with the latest object of your desires, but if you want it to last, then you’ve got to make sure that you’re being true to the real you.

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