Romantic films, fairy tales, and countless love songs have painted a picture of love that many of us have come to adopt as the standard. Grand gestures, passionate declarations, and the idea that love can conquer all challenges without any substantial effort are notions we’ve been fed for years. These depictions, however beautiful and aspirational, have inadvertently set many of us up for disappointment, leading to a widespread belief in unrealistic expectations about love.
The origins of our unrealistic expectations
Media influence: movies and tv shows often portray love as a whirlwind of passion, where every obstacle is easily overcome, and every story has a happy ending. Such portrayals can instill the idea that love should always feel easy and destined.
Cultural narratives: from Cinderella to Romeo and Juliet, the stories we grow up with often present love in its most idealized form, leaving out the mundane realities and challenges of everyday life.
Social media: platforms like Instagram and Facebook give us glimpses (often curated) into people’s relationships, leading us to believe that everyone else’s love life is perfect, intensifying feelings of inadequacy or dissatisfaction in our own relationships.
Unpacking the unrealistic expectations
The idea of a soul mate: the notion that there’s only one perfect person for everyone can be limiting. It puts undue pressure on both partners to be perfect and can prevent people from working through challenges, assuming that any sign of discord means they haven’t found their “soul mate.”
Endless passion: while passion is a vital component of romantic relationships, it’s unrealistic to expect the initial intensity of a new relationship to last forever. Relationships evolve, and while passion might wane, other forms of intimacy often develop.
Mind-reading partners: expecting your partner to always know what you’re thinking or feeling without communicating can lead to disappointment and resentment.
No arguments policy: believing that happy couples never argue is a myth. Every couple has disagreements. It’s not the absence of arguments but how they’re handled that determines the health of a relationship.
Complete personal fulfillment: it’s a hefty and unrealistic burden to expect one person, no matter how loving, to meet all your emotional, physical, and psychological needs.
Consequences of holding unrealistic expectations
Constant disappointment: if you’re always measuring your relationship against an idealized standard, you’re likely to find it lacking, leading to perpetual feelings of disappointment.
Relationship turnover: believing that any challenge or lull in passion is a sign of being with the “wrong person” can lead to frequent relationship changes in search of the elusive perfect partner.
Emotional strain: holding unrealistic expectations can lead to feelings of inadequacy, stress, and anxiety, impacting one’s mental and emotional well-being.
Setting realistic relationship expectations
Open communication: discuss your expectations with your partner. Understanding and adjusting these collectively can set the foundation for a healthier relationship dynamic.
Educate yourself: read books, attend workshops, or seek counseling to understand the realities of relationships better.
Reflect on your expectations: take a moment to introspect on where your beliefs about love come from and if they are genuinely serving your best interests.
Seek real-life role models: instead of movies or fairy tales, look to real couples you admire. Talk to them about the realities of their relationship, the challenges they’ve faced, and how they’ve overcome them.
Prioritize personal growth: before seeking fulfillment from someone else, ensure you’re working on your self-growth. A relationship comprises two individuals; the healthier each person is mentally and emotionally, the healthier the relationship will be.
While it’s natural to dream about fairy-tale romances, it’s essential to temper these dreams with the realities of human imperfection and the complexities of relationships. Love is not just about grand gestures and epic declarations; it’s also about understanding, compromise, patience, and continuous effort.
By setting realistic expectations about love, we allow ourselves to experience its true depth and beauty. We begin to appreciate the small moments – a shared laugh, an understanding glance, or simply the warmth of a hand held on a cold night. After all, true love is less about perpetual passion or never facing challenges and more about choosing to face life together, with all its imperfections, come what may.