Managing Unrealistic Expectations In Our Relationships

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The day that Tonia told me that I could not fulfill all her expectations was the day I realized I had unrealistic expectations. So, to avoid disappointment, I had to learn how to manage unrealistic expectations in my marriage. Here are a few things I learned in the process.

Before my marriage and during the first couple of years, I bought into a lie. As the man, I assumed I was expected and obligated to meet ALL her needs. I was sadly mistaken. I had unrealistic expectations.

Clinging to Unrealistic Expectations

I didn’t know why we were experiencing increasing disappointment in our relationship. Then, I realized I was clinging to unrealistic expectations. These unrealistic expectations were causing tension and a bit of relational misery.

One way to be or remain miserable in your marriage or dating relationship is to continue to cling to unrealistic expectations. When we first got married, it seemed the relationship was all about romance. I thought I was her Prince Charming, and I assumed she would be my Princess. When I fell in love with Tonia, I absolutely loved her, but I think I was in love with the idea of being in love as well.

Incessant romance.

Perpetually gazing into one another’s eyes.

Magic in the air.

Forever sentimental.

Whispering sweet nothings to one another.

This unrealistic view of love and relationships lasted a year or two after the wedding. Now, this is not to say marriage became boring or monotonous. It just moved from fantasy land to hard but enjoyable reality. It moved from living off love to building a strong marriage – resolving conflict, dealing with money issues, communication miscues, and so many other issues that bring a couple to earth.

Reality exploded my unrealistic expectations. I panicked because I thought that there is something wrong with our relationship. There was nothing wrong with our relationship; we were experiencing reality. But, Tonia and I wanted our expectations and reality to align, thereby eliminating disappointment in our relationship. Through a lot of hard work, we were able to, year after year, bridge the gap between expectations and reality.

We realized that just because we could not meet each other’s expectations didn’t mean we should give up or strive to have an amazing marriage/relationship. In fact, this helped us to work harder to understand one another needs. The sooner we understood this, the sooner we could recognize what was happening and weren’t caught off guard.

Stop Waiting For Your Mate to Fulfill All Your Needs

If we are waiting for our spouse or significant other to fulfill our needs in the relationship, we are making a big mistake and will be disappointed every time.

One way to manage unrealistic expectations is to stop waiting for your spouse to fulfill all your needs. We must grieve the loss of the Hallmark Channel relationships and live in the real world. Now, I am not saying that we don’t step up our game and strive to meet our mate’s needs or be a Prince Charming or a Princess. I am saying that it is impossible for one human being to meet all the emotional, physical, and spiritual needs of another human being. Only Jesus can do that.

Examine Your Expectations.

If we want to manage unrealistic expectations successfully, we have to examine our expectations. I understood that it was unrealistic to expect Tonia to fulfill needs that only my male friends could fulfill (enjoying sports, etc.). I realized that she had needs only a girlfriend could fulfill (shoe shopping, etc.). Moreover, it is unrealistic for spouses to expect their mates to re-parent them. Your spouse did not marry you to re-parent you. We should not burden our spouses to heal wounds that we have dealt with since childhood. What do you expect from your mate? Is it realistic?

Accept Your Mate for Who They Are.

Another key to dealing with unrealistic expectations is to accept your mate. When you accept your mate for who he or she is, you recognize his or her uniqueness. Thus, you will not spend a lot of time trying to change your mate and fit him or her into your mold. Early in our marriage, Tonia tried to change me, and I tried to change her. And we frustrated one another in the process. It wasn’t until we accepted one another for how God created us to experience greater relational harmony.

Change What You Can.

Trying to change your mate is futile and unrealistic. Stop trying to change what you cannot.

Instead of trying to change your mate, determine what you need to change. Begin with your attitude and thoughts toward your spouse. Remember, this is the person you met and decided to love unconditionally. Let God do the changing.

Love Never Gives Up

Read 1 Corinthians 13:7. It says, “Love never gives up, love never loses faith, it is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” This passage reminds us never to stop loving and hoping for a better tomorrow in our relationships. “Don’t stop loving your spouse.” “Don’t lose faith in the power of God to give you a great relationship.” This verse is saying, “Be hopeful, even when things don’t look good and know that you’re called to endure.” As you strive for realistic expectations in your relationship, may the Lord bless you and keep you, cause his face to shine upon you, be gracious to you, and give you peace.

How do you manage unrealistic expectations in your relationship? 

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