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Unrealistic Expectations vs Realistic Expectations in a Marriage

Expectations are beliefs that are centered in the future that may or may not be realistic. Having unrealistic expectations in a relationship can set couples up for failure and disappointment as well as blame-shifting and resentments. Following is a list of common unrealistic expectations couples often have of each other: 

"He/she will make me happy."

This expectation places a great burden on the partners as it is not the significant other's responsibility to make you happy.

"I expect my partner to change after we get married."

 This is probably the most common and most disappointing expectation couples have of each other, thinking the other will change once in a committed relationship-falling in love with the potential, not the real partner. For example, couples will expect that once they are married their partner will become more communicative, more nurturing and attentive, faithful, affectionate, physically and emotionally available, a planner and initiator of social activities, etc. The reality is, if your partner did not bring these qualities or behaviors to the relationship in the first place there is little chance your partner will develop them later on in the marriage. Using the dog breed analogy, if you wanted a Golden Retriever but settled for a German Shepard, even if your Shepard has similar qualities as the Retriever, it will NEVER be a Golden Retriever. The question you must ask is, " Can I love and live with the Shepard or am I settling for something just to fill the loneliness?"

"I expect my partner to not change after we get married."

This is not only unrealistic, it is selfish.  It is human nature for people to grow and change. What is reasonable to expect is that your partner will grow and change, hopefully with you and in the same direction. Everyone has their own journey and therefore it is impossible for people to remain the same as when they first met. 

"I expect my partner to have ESP."

Your partner is not a mind reader, therefor it is unrealistic to expect that your partner will know what you feel, think, need or want at any given moment. Couples do get in synch with each other but our needs and wants change depending on the situation. So to say, " My partner should just know how I feel or what to say," or " My partner should just know what I need," will oftentimes cause frustration and disappointment. If you need or want something or if you are feeling or thinking something, just tell your partner so as to avoid the unnecessary game-playing that leads to the unnecessary conflicts.

"Now that we are married, our relationship will last forever."

If couples have not done the ground work prior to their marriage then this expectation becomes unrealistic. Later in the marriage they may realize they are in an unhealthy or abusive relationship and stay for all the wrong reasons or they just grow apart. This is not to say that people do not find their life partners. Couples who are genuinely happy and stay together for a lifetime do so because they did the ground work and developed a solid foundation to build on. 

Now that we have examined some of the unrealistic expectations couples bring to a marriage lets look at what you can expect:
  • It is realistic to expect that all relationships are work.
  • Both parties are responsible for the success or failure of the relationship.
  • Both people can change behaviors that are not working in the relationship if both people make the commitment to change.
  • If the proper foundation has been set the relationship will thrive and grow. 

If couples are willing to put forth the effort to identify their relationship expectations in the very beginning of their courtship they will save significant amount of time and energy determining if this is the right relationship for them.