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Relationships: Will Lowering my Expectations lead to Less Disappointments?

Nope. You will only end up getting what you ask for.

Expectations are resentments waiting to happen.

If you've ever been in a relationship, you know this to be true. Our presumptions about what the other person should do, say, or think often leads to our own disappointment.

For example, we might "expect" our partner to take the initiative to do something nice for us, throw us a surprise on our birthday, or even change aspects of him or herself to fit us better.

In other cases, we might expect them to take our sides when we feel "attacked" by others.

Sometimes we communicate these expectations well, at other times we don't. Our expectations get in the way of being satisfied and feeling happy, and often times, it also leads to pointless arguing.

"You should've known...why didn't you know? "

If our expectations are the problem, then shouldn't we just lower them? That's very much what your friends might tell you or perhaps something you read from some random online junk site:

"Expect less. If you lower your expectations, you won't be disappointed by your partner.

This advice is rubbish.

If you lower your expectations, you will get exactly what you wish for - a low relationship standard.

Donald Baucom is a psychology professor at University of North Carolina. His research focus for the last decade has been on marital expectations.

He found that people with low expectations tend to end up in relationships where they are treated poorly, unjustly, and are often unhappy.

Basically, aim low and you will get exactly that.

On the other hand, people with higher expectations tend to be in relationships where they are treated well.

This means, you are much more likely to achieve the kind of relationship you want by having higher standards, than by letting them slide.

Yet, here's the conundrum - if high expectations are good for us, then why are they what's causing problems in our relationships right now?

Well, perhaps it's time to rethink what "high expectations" mean.

The "Good Enough" Relationship.

Any self-respecting couple therapist would have heard of John Gottman. He's the guru of all couple therapy and has spent years of research in this area.

Gottman suggests that couples should aim for the "good enough" relationship. It might sound like you're settling for less than best, and also sounds contradictory to what's been shared above.

Yet, here's the thing. The good enough relationship is not about letting go of your expectations, but about setting high expectations in the right places.

In the good enough relationship, people maintain their high expectations on how they are treated. This means, they expect to:

  • Be treated with kindness, love, affection.

  • Be respected.

  • Not tolerate emotional or physical abuse.

  • Be in a loyal relationship.

That's the basis of what's important in a relationship.

If that's the case, then when do our high expectations go overboard?

One sentence - When we expect our relationship to be free of conflict.

No such relationship exists. Ask the happiest married couple you know, even they will admit they argue. The fact is, conflict can also be a very healthy thing.

It leads to greater understanding between couples.

Expectations go wrong when you hold your relationship standard to be entirely smooth-sailing, devoid of arguments, and expect that your partner knows exactly what you want and will do just that - all the time.

That's not about having high expectations anymore. That's about expecting your relationship to be "perfect".

If that's what you're expecting, then ask yourself:

"Is anybody on this world perfect?"

Then how can we expect a relationship between two imperfect people to be perfect?

Further, relationships are deep bonds between two people. It puts you in a vulnerable position, often reopening deep or unhealed wounds.

When these wounds reopen, we expect our partner to "fill the gap". That's like expecting them to be our own therapist. It's really an impossible expectation right?

Instead, how about trying this out - have those healthy conflicts. And here's four little points to help you on your way:

  1. Communicate your needs to your partner clearly. Share with them your feelings instead of expecting them to "guess".

  2. Come from a place of "I" rather than "You" statements. "You" statements often come across as blame.

  3. Tell them exactly what aspects you're unhappy about, then work on "recalibrating" your expectations together. E.g. "I felt attacked and wanted you to defend me in that conversation. Could you do that next time"?

  4. Always remember that important word - "together". Remember that your partner is only human too.

Expectations, when shared openly and transparently, can turn into something wonderful. It's becomes a sense of shared meaning, beliefs, and goals with a person you truly love.

It becomes that little safe zone where you and your partner can really talk about anything. Even arguments become safe.

So, don't drop your expectations and settle for being treated poorly. Instead, keep your expectations high but share them openly with your partner.

While doing so, embrace healthy conflicts.

You'll begin to work better "together".

(Originally posted on

Thanks for reading Kaya Toast for the Soul. Be happier, stay connected and keep on healing.


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