I study emotional responses in relationships and write about them to help others improve their well-being and self-awareness.
Do you have good experiences with your partner? Is your rapport with your partner comfortable? Here is how to establish the right expectations.
Focus on Growth Potential
The future can be pleasant and rewarding, but you need to be sure that your relationship is going in the right direction. If it’s stagnant with no plans for a lifetime together, something is wrong. In most cases, it’s due to miscommunication—or lack of communication altogether.
Putting the disappointments aside, can you say that you have had good experiences with your partner? Can you agree with any of the following statements about your relationship?
- It could result in a lifetime of happiness.
- It could become a rewarding experience.
- Your relationship with your partner usually does meet your needs.
- Your rapport with your partner is generally warm and comfortable.
If you agree with these four statements, then your relationship has strong potential. Good relationships with a pleasant partner are hard to come by as it is. It may be possible to look beyond the feelings of disappointment by focusing on the positive. Consider the future together. Think it through in your mind. Do you see growth potential?
A healthy relationship that continues to grow requires emotional intimacy to be successful. You’ll want to achieve a closeness that allows insightful communication, an understanding of expectations, appreciation for different preferences and priorities, and a willingness to find common ground. Let’s examine each of these ideas in more detail.
Are You Looking for Perfection?
If you're not sure if your relationship has potential, you might be a perfection hunter.
Perfection hunters will never find a perfect mate. So it would help to soul-search and determine the facts. Does your partner have imperfections that you can't accept? Or are you looking for more than you'll ever find?
You can avoid relationship setbacks by learning how to recognize the lifelong potential for happiness. Read on to know how to do that.
Communicate Effectively With Your Partner
If something is bothering you, don’t hold it in. Discuss it with your partner. He or she may not have been aware that they are doing something that you find troubling.
You only run into trouble if your partner does not wish to listen or discuss the issue. If you find yourself in an argument, try to determine if you are not explaining yourself well.
If your partner is a non-listener, an effective method to overcome that is to give examples of how they might feel if it were the other way around.
Make productive statements, not condescending remarks. Focus on solving a problem rather than trying to win an argument. Sometimes you may have to compromise.
You both need to be on equal ground. Discuss things with fairness and a good understanding of where the other is coming from with their feelings. Remember that you are in this together as a team.
Read More From Pairedlife
Establish the Right Expectations
When we have too many expectations, we might envision way too much more than our partner can offer. We might become disappointed if things don’t turn out the way we had hoped.
Start by thinking about what you want from the relationship. Was it based on things you already saw possible? If not, was it based on dreams you’ve had all your life—of a future you wanted to have?
The next step is to come to terms with reality. Try to adjust your thinking to the way things are and not about the way you thought it ought to be.
That might be difficult to do. You might even be saying I’m asking for too much from you, but this is the reality of the life we have. Go with the flow. You may never have it so good again.
Once you have your mind focused on what you have, rather than what you want, you may find yourself appreciating it more.
Be Mindful of Your Partner’s Needs
You have your own needs, and it’s okay to expect your partner to appreciate what they are. However, never forget that your partner has needs too. For example, your partner may prefer doing things together a lot while you feel the need for “alone time” more often.
You can’t always have it your way. When you detect that there are different preferences with needs not being met, work on an acceptable compromise.1
Go back to the section on communicating effectively with your partner. Put it to good use. I know from my own experience with failed relationships that the culprit was always a failure to communicate.
Find Some Common Ground
I think that everything that happens in a relationship is valuable for growth. Even though differences can sometimes cause problems in a relationship, it can enhance it too. Those differences can be the ingredients for growth since one’s partner can introduce new viewpoints to consider.
Each of you may have different priorities and values. For that reason, you need to talk about it and find some common ground.
It’s vital to pay attention to your partner’s reaction while having this discussion. That will help isolate problem areas that need more consideration. You both need to do that, to find a mutual understanding.
Body language is useful in this case since smiles or frowns can indicate more than words will ever say.2
- Discuss differences.
- Examine conflicting opinions.
- Share your fears.
That can be the most meaningful communication you may ever have with your partner.
Be Aware of Your Relationship's Identity
Your relationship develops its own identity. Besides each partner's personality, a relationship has its own character. It's based on the combination of both of you.
That means two things:
- Learning from one another and teaching each other new ideas can be gratifying and even pleasurable.
- Sharing different ways of looking at things and considering one another’s views of life can enhance awareness.
Work on a Common Goal
Joining forces to build a relationship with excellent communication and fairness can reinforce trust and mutual respect. These are elements of a healthy relationship.3
When partners work on a common goal, they feel more involved with one another as a team. They each learn how dependable their partner is while working on their relationship.
The act of sharing mutual interests will also give them something to focus on. Making a plan they both work on together can be a game-changer.
Pursue a Team Player Attitude
Disappointments are a normal part of life. We can’t expect every day to be perfect. Nevertheless, it’s nice to know we have a partner who is on our side, someone who is there for us in our time of need, and someone interested in our happiness and takes pride in being in the relationship as a team player.
To be a team player in a relationship, you need to share and appreciate one another’s priorities, values, and goals. These may change over time, but being conscious of it and discussing these things is the key to an everlasting relationship.
I believe the thing that draws two people together is having shared views of what they both want in life. Their values and dreams are in line with one another. And they understand and agree on what life is all about.
Perfection is a fallacy. You can search your entire life for it. But when you have a wonderful person in your life, and you're considering a permanent relationship, don't be a perfection hunter. Your hunting days are over.
If you're considering if your relationship has the potential for a lifetime of love and respect, you most likely already know the answer. Go make it happen.
- Ann Smith. (January 7, 2013). "I Want More From Our Relationship!" Psychology Today
- Darren Gergle (2013). "Using Visual Information for Grounding and Awareness in Collaborative Tasks". HCI Journal: 1–43.
- "Healthy vs. Unhealthy Relationships". University of Washington. (Accessed on Oct 2, 2020).
© 2018 Glenn Stok