5 Ways Couples Can Set Realistic Expectations for a Healthier and Happier Relationship

how to set realistic expectations for your relationship

Written by: Sandy Funches

If we were to believe everything we saw in movies and read in books, our ideal man or woman would be far from reality. Remember when the world was introduced to Edward Cullen (dreamboat vampire from Twilight)? It wreaked havoc on many marriages because Edward, a fictional character had set the benchmark for what an ideal partner should be i.e. romantic, good looking, self-sacrificing, brave, mysterious…etc. 

But, real life is not always sweet. We often end up setting the bar so high that when we finally do find “the one,” our expectations and insecurities don’t let us give our partners (and ourselves) the love that they deserve.

While it’s normal to wish for someone who can binge watch ‘Stranger Things’ with you or likes pineapple on their pizza as much as you do, having realistic expectations in a relationship is more important for achieving the “happily ever after.” This means accepting that all of us are beautifully flawed human beings and it is love that is important, not perfection.

Here are five ways in which you and your partner can set realistic expectations from your relationship:

Only You Can Fix Yourself

Regardless of how persistently Joey Lawrence tries to convince you that “there’s nothing my love can’t fix,” you have to understand that love can’t fix you. If there’s anything that can fix you – it’s YOU! Love is no magic and your partner is no wizard. Though it can be tempting to think that once you find the right person, your life will fall in place, but the harsh and bleak reality is that if you expect others to make you feel “complete,” you will end up feeling intensely disappointed. Everybody wants love and deserves true love, but make sure that in the process of finding love and your “ideal” mate, you don’t lose yourself.

Communication Is Key

Who doesn’t want a partner that understands your every need without you having to spell it out! That sounds sweet in theory, but can be toxic in real life. For a healthy relationship, you and your partner should give each other the right amount of space so that both of you can figure out what you want before communicating it to each other.

This is better than a clueless person rushing to meet your demands only for you to realize later that this was not what you wanted. Your partner won’t know what you are thinking all the time unless they are psychic. So get real and make communication the foundation of your relationship before it is too late.

Tell Them When They Are Wrong

A couple with realistic expectations from each other knows that their partner cannot be perfect all the time, but that doesn’t open the door for them to behave like a jerk. Both of you will be annoying, cranky and mean to each other on occasions. What you and your partner need to do is master the art of telling each other when they are wrong without making a big deal about it.

Researcher John Gottman studied behavior in some couples and found that the following four behaviors are detrimental to any relationship. He calls them the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – criticism, defensiveness, contempt and stonewalling.

Criticism: Your partner should know what’s wrong in the relationship, but don’t let this turn into criticism.

Defensiveness: When your partner says that you have done something wrong, take responsibility rather than defending yourself, apologize and ask what you can do to fix it.

Contempt: When you have an argument with your partner and you feel contempt for them, take a breath and think of all the ways in which your partner adds meaning to your life.

Stonewalling: This refers to the times when you choose to stop responding to your partner during an argument because you feel overwhelmed by their negativity. However, rather than giving no response to your partner, tell them that you need some time to calm down and you will get back to the conversation soon.

Love Them for Who They Are

When you feel that your partner is not living up to your expectations, it is time to sit back and think of all the things that make your partner the amazing person that they are. Everybody in this world is flawed in some way or the other. Love is when you choose to look beyond the flaws and accept the person as he/she is. Stop obsessing over what they aren’t and focus on what they are, and you will start falling in love with them all over again.

You’re Not Supposed to Do Everything They Want

You are a nice person, but that doesn’t mean you are supposed to do everything your partner tells you every single time. Your partner should also understand what you want to do.

Counselor Hayden Lindsey told the Insider, “Adults do not tell other adults what to do.” Well, yes, unless they are your boss or your employer. We are all guilty of throwing the “You have to do…” line sometimes and that’s okay. But that doesn’t give you the right to hurt someone with your behavior.

Modern relationships are complicated. We try hard to make sense of them and in doing so, we set tons of expectations from them. But when we come out of the fantasy world created by books and movies and start living in the reality, we will realize it is not that bad after all. Instead of expecting a love that lasts forever, live and love in the moment and your “happily ever after” will come true.



Iona is a Wellness Coach specialising in relationships and dating. She works with single women to write their own love stories.