Setting Realistic Expectations | How to Avoid Disappointment in Relationships

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Romantic relationships can be a tumultuous typhoon of emotions, especially at the very beginning. Feelings are all over the place; it’s new and exciting, and we can act impulsively. It’s so easy to get caught up in the excitement and swept away in the winds. 

Not to be a buzzkill about your new romance, but when your heads are up on cloud nine, your feet are nowhere near the ground. And although we don’t want to take away from the buzzy feeling of being infatuated in the honeymoon phase of your relationship, you have to keep one foot on the ground. Or at least a few toes. 

It pains us to bring you back down to earth, but setting realistic expectations has to enter the picture at some point, and it’s better to do so sooner rather than later when it might be too late! Realistic expectations act as a safety net to catch us from the sky-high heights of romantic idealism. This is not to say that you can totally avoid disappointment in relationships, but it can cushion your fall. Here is how keeping it real can help and actually keep the romance from ending up DOA (dead on arrival).


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Realistic vs Unrealistic Expectations

Before we get into the brass tacks, let’s clarify what sets realistic expectations apart from their unrealistic counterparts. Realistic expectations are grounded in the knowledge that romantic relationships are a mix of happiness, challenges, compromises, and personal advancement. They subscribe to the fact that no person or relationship can be perfect, and they appreciate effort and growth over perfection.

On the flip side, unrealistic expectations are mostly caused by romanticized ideals shown in movies, novels, or even on social media. They set a bar so high that no human being could possibly reach it. Expecting your partner always to know exactly what is on your mind, never disagreeing with you, or constantly making sweeping grand romantic gestures are a few examples. These expectations set the stage for crushing disappointment because they’re based on fantasy rather than the reality of day-to-day life with another person.

That’s why recognizing the difference is so important! It’s about finding the middle ground where you respect and love each other for who you are, not who you wish or want each other to be.


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Reality in Romance

Romance often paints a picture of perfection. We dream of flawless dates, faultless partners, and fairy-tale endings. But let’s be real—life isn’t a well-written movie script, and accepting that every relationship has its highs and lows is of the utmost importance. Accepting the imperfections in your partner and your relationship doesn’t make it less romantic; it makes it so much better and stronger.


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Communication: The Golden Compass

The heart of any healthy and happy relationship is communication. It’s imperative to honestly talk about your expectations, needs, and boundaries. Remember, your partner doesn’t have ESP (unless they are a psychic or a magical mind-reader). By talking things out, you avoid misunderstandings and set a clear roadmap for your romantic relationship together.


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Knowing Each Other’s Love Language

Not everyone expresses or receives love in the same way—some like words of affirmation, while others show love through acts of service, quality time, physical touch, or giving or receiving gifts. Understanding and practicing your partner’s love language can prevent feelings of neglect or unappreciation, which often stem from incompatible demonstrations of love.

Romantic relationships can be a tumultuous typhoon of emotions, especially at the very beginning. Feelings are all over the place; it’s new and exciting, and we can act impulsively. It’s so easy to get caught up in the excitement and swept away in the winds. 

Not to be a buzzkill about your new romance, but when your heads are up on cloud nine, your feet are nowhere near the ground. And although we don’t want to take away from the buzzy feeling of being infatuated in the honeymoon phase of your relationship, you have to keep one foot on the ground. Or at least a few toes. 

It pains us to bring you back down to earth, but setting realistic expectations has to enter the picture at some point, and it’s better to do so sooner rather than later when it might be too late! Realistic expectations act as a safety net to catch us from the sky-high heights of romantic idealism. This is not to say that you can totally avoid disappointment in relationships, but it can cushion your fall. Here is how keeping it real can help and actually keep the romance from ending up DOA (dead on arrival).


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Keep Your Independence

While it’s lovely to share your life with someone, do not forget that you are still your own person. Keep doing your hobbies, seeing your friends, and anything that interests you outside of your relationship. A partner should complement your life, not consume or take away from it. This balance prevents the pressure of relying on each other for every need, which is an unrealistic expectation in itself.


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Adapt to Change and Growth

People change and so do relationships—the person you fell in love with will evolve, and so will you. Accepting that change is part of every relationship helps you grow together instead of apart. It’s unrealistic to expect that you’ll both stay exactly the same.


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Disagreements Are Totally Normal

No two people will agree on everything, at least no one we’ve ever encountered! Disagreements or arguments, when handled in a mature and respectful way, are actually healthy. They’re an opportunity to understand your partner’s point of view and put yourself in their shoes, and vice versa. Expecting a relationship without any sort of conflict is like expecting that water won’t be wet.


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Financial Transparency

Money matters can be a sore spot and super awkward even to bring up, let alone have a full-blown convo about it, but it needs to be done if you are cohabiting. Be upfront about your financial situation and any expectations you might have—whether it’s splitting bills or saving for the future, being on the same page financially can help you sidestep a ton of stress and disappointment.


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Applauding the Effort

You don’t actually have to clap (unless you want to), but you should acknowledge the efforts your bae makes for you, even if it’s something small, it goes a long way. It doesn’t have to be some grand gesture; sometimes, it’s the morning coffee they brought to you in the shower because you overslept or the way they actively listened to your story about work and that b*tch from accounting. Appreciating and acknowledging these things strengthens your bond—and it’s polite to show your babe you’re thankful for them!


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Balancing Time Together and Apart

As a couple, you have to balance the time you spend together and the time you spend apart. Being with each other 24/7, 365 is not healthy, even if you can’t imagine spending a minute away from each other—that’s called codependency, and it’s a toxic trait. It’s okay, nay, healthy, to have separate friends and plans, just as it’s equally important to have quality time together!


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Keeping That Physical Spark Up and Running

Physical intimacy is so much more than just a simple physical connection or sexual chemistry; it also includes emotional intimacy. It’s super important to have open and honest conversations about your wants, needs, and comfort levels. Yes, this can be weird at first, but if you are really comfortable with a person, it’ll become second nature eventually. And remember, physical intimacy can ebb and flow, especially after the honeymoon phase has ended, and that’s completely normal.


Handling External Pressures

Outside pressures and influences, whether it is coming from family, friends, or society in general, can really warp your romantic expectations. There is probably a movie or a TV show you watched as a kid and saw a couple that made you think, “That’s it! That’s what love is supposed to be like!” That’s called imprinting—we carry that “ideal” with us into adulthood. And when it doesn’t happen like that for us, we can get turned around in our minds.

At the end of the day, it’s your relationship, and it should work for you, not for anyone else’s standards or timelines. Even if it doesn’t look exactly like the couple on One Tree Hill or your mom thinks you should get married, don’t listen to what others say about your partnership—do what both of you want and stand firm in it!


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Be Forgiving and Patient

Everyone makes mistakes—yes, everyone, so strap on your patience hat and stock up on your forgiveness vouchers—you are gonna need them. Besides, holding onto grudges or expecting perfection can only lead to one thing, and that’s (you guessed it) a lot of disappointment. Be aware that relationship progress most often comes from overcoming tough times together, so work as a team to get through the ups and downs.


Takeaways

Setting realistic expectations in relationships isn’t about lowering your standards or giving up on the dream of a loving, happy, romantic partnership—it’s the opposite! You are grounding that dream in reality, where it should be.

It’s about understanding and accepting that a perfect relationship isn’t about being perfect because nothing is perfect. It’s about being real, being honest, and being together through the ups and downs that come with relationships. So, here’s to love—the real, sometimes-messy, but no-less-beautiful-because-of-it kind.

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