Many of us enter romantic relationships hoping that they will last forever. Therefore when a decision is made to move on, we feel that we have failed in the relationship. Yet the failure is in living up to our relationship expectations, rather the relationship itself.
Here’s a way of looking at relationships that will instantly make the world a happier place: A relationship is not some kind of test to pass or fail, nor is its success judged merely by its longevity. It is a gift to be enjoyed while it lasts, and maybe a chance for us to grow.
Identify your relationship expectations
Here are some questions to ask yourself, to find out what you really expect from relationships. You can then decide if (a) these are reasonable expectations, (b) your partner has the same beliefs and expectations, and (c) do you want to drop any of these expectations.
I’ve framed it as a fun, totally unscientific but rather revealing quiz that you can answer easily. Just add up the value of your answers. For example, if you picked option (2) as your answer, that’s two points.
1. How long should a relationship last before you consider it ‘successful’? (expectations of longevity)
(0) One day
(1) One year
(2) Ten years
(3) Till death
2. Which endings would classify a relationship as ‘failed’? (expectations of control)
(0) If it was my unilateral decision to end it
(1) If it was mutually agreed
(2) If it was the other person’s decision, against my will
(3) Any kind of ending
3. How many romantic relationships can you have before you consider yourself a ‘failure’ at love? (expectations of early success)
(0) An infinite number
(1) Too many for me to remember
(2) More than I care to admit
(3) Just a handful (that’s 5 for us normal-handed people)
4. When you look at friends who seem happily attached, what are your thoughts? (expectations of happiness)
(0) All relationships have ups and downs, and it’s great when it’s up
(1) I wish I had what they have
(2) Maybe one day, that will be me
(3) Maybe I’m just not cut out for a happy relationship
5. In you most private moments, what are you secret thoughts about yourself as a lover or partner? (expectations of self)
(0) If they don’t like me, it’s their loss
(1) Not everyone will like me, but some will
(2) If I tried harder, I could make things work out
(3) Things haven’t worked out so many times, the problem must be me
Bear in mind that this is a fun, unscientific quiz, just to get you thinking about your relationship expectations. There is no right and wrong, just awareness. The higher your total score, the more expectations you have and so the higher the chances of you feeling like you’ve failed in your relationships.
You have few expectations of relationships and are happy to take each as it comes and live it while it lasts. You tend to be grateful for every person that has come into your life, even if they are not part of your life anymore.
You have an average number of expectations and sometimes experience disappointment because some of these are not met. While you are relatively balanced in your approach, you sometimes blame yourself when things go wrong.
You have high expectations of relationships and as a result often feel like you have failed in relationships. You are inclined to despair of ever having the dream relationship you desire, and sometimes withdraw altogether rather than get hurt again.
How to manage your relationship expectations
Of course it is beautiful to see two people who have been married for decades and grew old together happily. There is no doubt that most of us would consider that a wonderful relationship. Yet if this is your only measure of a good relationship, you may miss out on so much else that life has to offer.
If longevity and happiness are not necessarily the best or only measures of a relationship’s success, then how do we recognise a good relationship? In the next post I will suggest some alternative perspectives.
27 replies on “What are Your Relationship Expectations?”
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Thanks for the reply. …. to my reply ….
What has happened has kicked off an awful bout of depression. Maybe this is no surprise. So I am trying to deal with that as well as the loss of the relationship. It’s difficult…
I’ve read Deepak Chopra “The Path to Love” and that has helped a little. Every now and then I would read something and think: “He is talking directly to me.” It was uncanny. One idea I picked up from his book is echoed in what you say. I think it comes down to: We are all love. Made of love, born to love, here to give love and feel love.
I put a lot into the relationship (such as it was – mainly one sided) and felt that it should have been returned. I understand now (I think) that it didn’t have to be. I understand, but it is hard to “own.” Does that make any sense? The analytical part of me can understand. The spirit (or is it Spirit?) part of me can’t understand. It just hurts.
The hurt is probably caused by ego, which I am beginning to believe is not a good force. Not to say that is or isn’t – I’m still learning. But I understand that ego can exert itself through hurt – so I suppose that is what is going on.
To get back to love: Where you say “Love is not wrong, it never is,” it just shot through me. Everything you said after that seems so true. This is what I need to learn … somehow.
Letting go and not judging myself were also things you talked about which really struck home. So I’m glad you said all that. You get stuck in a cycle sometimes and it takes someone outside to encourage things in a different direction. So: I’m trying to let go, okay? It may not happen at first, but I will work on it.
And I already feel, to some extent, that I did nothing wrong. The love I felt was an honest feeling (still is, if I am truthful ….) and it was offered as such. I guess I’m glad I did it.
So I need to stop judging myself negatively. That already seems to be such a mountain to climb. ….. but I’ll look for my boots 🙂 I also need to try and stop judging a relationship to be right or wrong. It is there to teach me something. Yet to remember that relationship seems so difficult. I spend most of my time trying to forget it – as if that will heal me. Deepak says (I think) that what caused the pain will only come back worse if all I do is ignore it. So, ok, I’ll try to be open to what there is to learn. And the last thing – focussing on love – I think I can do that now sort of. I do feel full of love. I feel like I can love and be loved. So that seems like a start. But it also feels so exposed – so unprotected, I guess.
In addition I have to do some work on depression. I have been reading a lot of the Metaphysical Junkie’s blog and trying to get some system together from that. She has discussed her struggle with depression and a lot of that rings true with me. It’s just that when you get to such a low point it is hard believe that anything you do will work. It’s more like going through the motions.
Maybe first I need to manage this sense of anxiety, fear and loneliness I feel. It’s exhausting sometimes ….
I hope this reply isn’t too long. I don’t know if there is any special etiquette to blog replies. But thanks for talking. I’ve registered to receive your future posts and, as I have time, I’ll go over your older posts. Can you recommend any books I should look at? I’m thinking I should start A Course in Miracles and maybe Osho’s The Book of Secrets.
Thanks for being there….
Your honesty about your feelings is a great first step to healing. And you WILL heal, with time. Especially with this wonderful attitude you have about reaching out to others, reading and learning and helping yourself.
Deepak Chopra’s words about not ignoring your feelings is wise. You may want to consider a time lag here though. Let me share with you my personal experience: I’m usually not ready to confront my feelings until weeks or months later. During the early phases of a break-up, I try very hard NOT to think about it. I go running everyday to tire myself out, and sleep early from the fatigue so I don’t cry into my pillow every night. Oh, and I drink lots of water to replace all that moisture lost in sweat and tears! Only when all the negative energy has left me am I ready to face, and finally “own”, my emotions. Trying to deal with it all at once may be overwhelming, discouraging, or depressing. So don’t be so hard on yourself and demand that you recover quickly. This is a time to love and be patient with yourself. Do whatever heals you and brings calm, whether it’s exercise, music, walks in the park…
You made an intriguing statement that you can make analytical sense of what’s going on, yet the hurt is still there. Our hearts (or souls) have a rhythm of their own, and we would do well to honour life’s own rhythm, instead of trying to make our souls march to the beat of our mental drum. Understand that time is our friend, and submit to the process instead of trying to hurry it along and bend things to our will. Does this make any sense to you? Feel free to ignore it if not 😉
As for judging ourselves, boy do I know what that’s like. I loved your imagery that it’s a touch climb but you’re already wearing your climbing boots! I’ve found that when we stop judging ourselves, when we stop judging others, when we stop judging in general, it’s so much easier to love and be happy.
I just re-read a book called Conversations with God, Book 1. While not everybody can accept the premise of the book (that the author had an actual conversation with God), I personally was very healed and restored by it, especially on the subject of relationships. Here’s a quote: “there are things you can do when you react with pain and hurt to what another is being, saying or doing. The first is to admit honestly to yourself and to another exactly how you are feeling… There is only one thing you can do. You must honor your feelings. For honoring your feelings is honoring your Self.” Mark, this you are already doing by being so candid in your comments here, so you’re on the right track. You may want to read the book – it’s incredibly liberating.
No reply is too long for me. I’m very honoured that you trust me enough to share so much of yourself here during this difficult time. It’s also gratifying to know that what I write can actually help people. I’m able to write all this, of course, only because I’ve been through the same pain myself. We all pay it forward, don’t we? So I’m glad I can be here for you now, just as some day you will be there for someone going through the same thing…
I wonder if one key to any successful relationship – actually, family relations as well as specifically romantic ones – may not be mutual respect. When one of the two people disrespects the other, even in little ways, it chips away over time at the relationship and eventually breaks it. At least I’ve seen this happen multiple times – also experienced it.
Expectation is a debilitating virtue especially in relationships. Love is all understanding. 🙂
Thanks for your post.
I started on a path last year, I guess, which I’ve only begun to see. It seems to hinge on relationships and how I get them all wrong. I guess I am at a very early stage right now compared to you and the others who have responded.
It seems so difficult to lose a relationship. How can you have all that commitment one day and then the next day (essentially) have nothing? Doesn’t that say that either one condition or the other (being committed or not being committed) was wrong?
I read what you are saying about trying to take each relationship for what it has to teach you, but it is so hard to “own” that, if you know what I mean. To lose a relationship just seems to involve so much pain. And that makes it even harder to try again.
I love your certainty that you’re in things for the long long haul. I’ve never wanted to make that commitment for myself – I love being free and open to possibilities too much. Yet I do know that I’m missing out on a great experience. Good to know that you’re much happier when you choose the change the things you can change and leave the rest alone! 🙂
‘Debilitating virtue’ is an interesting way to phrase it. Yes I suppose we think expectations are to be expected, yet they are often the reason for ruined relationships. Thanks for your comment.
I’m sure you’re right. I read a book called Love And Respect which said that men especially need respect (women prefer love to respect) and when that is not present, then love starts to die. Very important point you make here.
I thought about your comment for some time. Thank you first of all for leaving a comment and sharing your personal experience. Readers like yourself, who are not bloggers yet take the time to comment, mean a lot to me.
It certainly IS very difficult to lose a relationship. Letting go still doesn’t come easily for me, ever after so much practice! Yet we make it more difficult on ourselves by judging things as ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, which I notice you are doing in your comment. Sometimes we magnify the emotional pain of letting go by adding the mental pain of judging ourselves negatively. “What did I do wrong? Could I have saved the relationship by acting differently? What if….?” It’s this kind of thinking that tortures us, more than the actual emotional pain.
I also know what you mean about making it harder to try again. We’re so afraid of being hurt again that we hold back next time. When we feel love again, we tell ourselves to “be careful” and “go slow” and all that false advice that causes us to experience less joy than we could, and to be a lesser person than we are. I’ve been through all that too, and still struggle with it sometimes.
Can you accept that there is no right and wrong in a relationship? That everything that happened is good, and that one day we will understand the reason and purpose for both the relationship and it’s end? Do you feel it is possible to love without expectation and commitment? Yes perhaps one day you were committed and the next day it’s over – yet the love hasn’t changed. What has changed is our expectations, our vision of the future – and it is this that we refuse to let go off. If you focus on the love, you will find that it’s still there. Love is not wrong, it never is. If you can learn to be grateful for the chance to experience the love, without demanding that this feeling remain forever, and remain unchanged forever at that, then you can start to be happy and be grateful for relationships even if they don’t last.
Gosh, this was a long reply to your comment. I do feel so much for you, and really believe that you can be so much happier just by changing your perspective a little. Do think about what I’ve shared if it helps. If not, you can still look into your own soul and ask yourself what this all means. The answers are all there – you just have to look.
You know, one day the sun will come out again for you, Mark. It really will.
This was very eye-opening.
I know I’m in things for the long long haul and the biggest thing for me is going with the flow, can’t change him so I might as well change my thoughts and perceptions about given situations. Much happier that way!
Hi Daphne .. I enjoy others’ relationships and am so pleased for them. I think Tess’ comment about looking at ourselves to see what we need to change is an important one.
I can’t really relate to the post at the moment, partly as I’m not in a relationship and haven’t been for a while – it doesn’t worry me at .. I’m me … and because I now have my uncle in the hospice for 2 week respite before a return to his house – so thngs have been a little busy (a sudden deterioration).
So Tess’s comment – look at yourself .. and I know I’m criticising others during this time and my mother’s 2+ years strokes .. I need to address that; the other thing is we need to listen to what the other person is saying .. put ourselves into their shoes briefly in relation to the question asked. I have so often had completely the wrong answer .. and that just adds insult to injury as I’m coping with 2 houses, admin for 2 and 2 x visits twice a day ..
Anyway I’m fine .. and we’ll be alright .. It is just another interesting twist to life!
Have a good Sunday and week ahead ..
all the best – Hilary Melton-Butcher
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Wasn’t the pic the cutest thing? It represented how I feel many people look at relationships: “Oh no, failed again! Time to re-start the whole game and do better next time…” I like your play on expectations when we read comments too 😉 Gosh, remaining authentic is probably one of the greatest challenges of relationships. So often we feel that we have to change for the other person, and even worse, demand that they change as well to prove their love for us. Yikes, and then we wonder why relationships don’t work out. Growing is definitely one of the purposes of relationships, as I’ve discovered, and I think we’re both on the right track!
You know where to find me if you need to talk. Thank you so much for your recent comments. You give me inspiration to continue writing this blog.
You are such a darling girl for taking time to comment despite your life being upside down right now. If I were going through the same thing, I’d be snapping at everyone, including the people I love most. It’s tough, I know. Hang in there, Hilary. You have more strength in you than you ever realised, and right now you’re about to find out how much you can take! Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help.
Thanks Daphne for your reply. You’re quite rights as regard my deeper issues. But i’m having dificulties in sending(from mobile phone) my mail. I’ll keep trying. Thanks for your concern.
What a fun and creative quiz, and I LOVE Snoopy! (Who doesn’t?!) I think I landed in the middle of the road. I like to think my expectations are low, and on a good grounded day, they are. When I’m caught up in my egoic mind, though, watch out! I expect that you should expect me to have expectations, and if you didn’t, then expect me to think you’re nuts! (wink)
I really appreciated what you said about the value every relationship offers — we can be successful in so many ways when it comes to others. For me, I’m learning more and more that if I can remain authentic, open and loving most of the time, I’ve been successful. And yet in saying that, I also know that when I’m not those things, I’m being offered a valuable chance to grow. That’s also a form of success!
Thought provoking… I can’t wait to read your next post!
I think I got the highest “mark” from the questions. Thanks Daphne for removing the scales from my eyes. But do you think being an introvert affects relationship negatively?
High expectations are fine as long as you know how to get what you expect, and you strike me as the sort of person that does! Good on you if that’s the case.
I had to think about your question. Being an introvert or extrovert is a personality trait, and says nothing about our expectations of relationships. So I don’t think being an introvert affects relationships negatively at all. Perhaps introverts are attracted to extroverts, or perhaps introverts find it harder to initiate a relationship. All this is possible, but not negative in any way. You sound like you have deeper issues behind this simple question. Please feel free to email me if you want to discuss this in more detail in private. I’ll do my best to help if I can!
I think I got the highest “mark” from the questions. Thanks Daphne for removing the scales from my eyes. But do you think being an introvert affects relationship positively or negatively?
This was an interesting exercise. It made me realize my expectations are quite high!
Great post. This is so, so helpful for me! Thanks for putting this out there. 🙂
Your comment is much better than my post! Yes, growth is one of the reasons for relationships, and I was going to touch on that in my next post so your comment certainly gives me something to build on. Thank you so much for this wisdom. I agree that we are too quick to judge. A relationship just IS, until it IS NOT. And yet we feel a need to put labels on it. It’s great that you’re conscious of your expectations for your oldest daughter and are managing this well. Thanks lots for sharing your experience as mother and counselor.
You’re better off than most people for not expecting or wanting longevity from your relationships. I’m not sure about counter-dependency, unless you’re referring to what I have – an addiction to independence and therefore sometimes even relief when a relationships ends and I can be on my own again. Maybe we both need help! 🙂
You’re very welcome. I’m glad it helps and I’m grateful for your positive presence here always.
Hi Daphne — that’s interesting, I’ve never really believed in the “dream relationship” or relationship that would “last forever” at all. I would put my score at 0. But perhaps that is a symptom of “counter-dependency” (the opposite of codependency) and it must be treated immediately. 🙂
I think we are too quick to judge if relationships are good, bad, successful or unsuccessful.
As a counsleor I saw people heart broken and full of self blame. Instead the question is did I learn from this and if so what? What do I want to change about myself to prepare for my next relationship?
Many people have been married for years and don’t love each other. Too the outside world it looks successful. Wrong.
I also thought about my relationships with friends and my duaghters. What are my expectations? To this day I expect the most of my oldest. I’ve worked on this and she lets me know when I slide back! Thank God or we wouldn’t have a relationship.
I say don’t judge and learn from each one. Oh and grow as well. That’s the only thing that needs to be measured.
Nice quiz! It’s true that we have certain expectations from our relationships, and we have different expectations for different people. Sometimes we expect much, at other times, all we want is to be able to express our love for that person. Being clear about our expectations certainly takes away a lot of our frustrations and allows us to love consciously 😉
It’s a paradox that we should expect the best out of life, yet expectations cause so much misery. I think the trick is to manage expectations outside our sphere of influence, and have the highest expectations only of ourselves, which to a degree we can control since our time and energy are ours to spend as we choose.
I’ve never forgotten a saying I once heard: Some people are friends for a reason, some are friends for a season, and some for a lifetime. We’d love all relationships to last a lifetime yet sometimes we need to let go because their time is past, or the reason to hold on no longer exists. It’s tough though, and my thoughts are with you.
Loving consciously sounds like a good way to live. You’re right that if we can consciously choose our expectations, perhaps in discussion with the other party, it would take away a lot of the pain and frustration in relationships and friendships.
A very timely post. Thank you Daphne.
I am a bit blase about romantic relationships – they’ll happen when they do and I am able to enjoy them for the moment.
With my important friendships it is different and I am struggling to decide whether or not to “let go” those relationships which just don’t seem to have anything in them for me.
It’s funny how a lot of happiness in life is simply raising or lowering your expectations.
On the flip side, it’s amazing how much crossed-expectations can take things downhill quickly.
I like your thought provoking questions to tease out clarity around personal success rules for successful relationships.