Do Unrealistic Expectations Ruin Our Relationships?

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It seems that most dating experiences and relationships are ending prematurely, leaving one partner completely confused, or fizzling out without it getting a proper chance. The result is time wasted holding on to something or realizing you lost a good person but you never gave them the chance to be. I spent some time thinking about this; among the many reasons a relationship will end or a dating encounter may fail, one culprit was the most common suspect: Unrealistic expectations.

The key issue at hand is that we no longer see what real relationships are. Our only insight into relationships are the “perfect”, valueless, and unfounded ones created in shows or curated on social media or the dysfunctional, and toxic ones we came from (I’m looking at the majority of MENA parents and marriages – from personal observation). Don’t get offended just yet; take another hard look at them – is this something you want for your life? If it is, good for you, you’re lucky. All these contribute to building unrealistic expectations.

We are constantly fed unattainable standards and relationship examples (hence the unrealistic expectations) to the point that we believe they are the norm. I cannot stress this enough: they are not! Have you ever wondered in all the Disney movies: do they truly live happily ever after? No fights over the chores, Who uses the car today, the princess being constantly late, the prince leaving heaps of laundry unwashed or unfolded, one partner changing their mind?

What we now seek in relationships are unrealistic standards and practices that cannot be sustained, heck we even expect our partners to know, without communicating it, to the dumbest details what we want our surprises to be! – does this sound familiar? Are we only focusing on the superficial? How many truly good people did we let go of just looking for the pointless superficial things? 

The reality is everyone seeks the incredible high of meeting someone new, getting to know them, and starting a new relationship – exciting stuff, I love it! However once that high comes down, no-one puts in the effort to maintain the relationship.  Did you forget about the fun in overcoming hurdles, building a partnership together, or a future? Have we become slaves to the dopamine high?

Labels aside, this is a pure function of the times: back then, the attitude was to or at least attempt to fix things, not just relationships but everything. Think of it – who fixes their car, oven, or furniture these days? Am I the only one left fixing things around? Our norm today is quick things, swipe right, swipe left, right? Quickly meet people, quickly order things in, and get most of your stuff pre-done for you – Little to no effort needed.

Given that most of us grew up in our own internet bubble; we have also become too individualistic, perhaps to the point of selfishness, we can no longer compromise to a partner’s different ways or a change to our routine and priorities – If you find yourself here, please take a step back and re-evaluate if you want a partnership or something else. You must communicate that with your partner too, don’t leave them hanging, not knowing what is happening, that’s just unfair. 

The norm now is to dump the problem or deflect it on something else either by canceling it all together or replacing it right away without giving it a chance to be fixed. This applies to dating and relationships too – This behaviour was only reserved for Bic pens, Bic razors, and Bic lighters – Coincidentally the most abandoned and stolen items. Do we really want to treat people like Bic products? Abuse them, neglect them, then lose them, or discard them?

Everyone talks about meeting a new person and starting a new relationship, no one ever talks about communication, meeting halfway and maintaining it – this is the real part. Know that you can love someone and be angry at them for some reason, or that they are human and will make mistakes, work on fixing things rather than avoiding things – most things can be communicated and fixed, this is only transient. Finding someone who is perfect and will never conflict with you is an unrealistic expectation, you’ll always have to put in the work. That being said, there is an extent to which you shouldn’t put anymore effort in, I am guilty of this! Many times I found myself carrying a relationship while clearly the other party did no meaningful effort at all or negated everything at the first instance of an inconvenience or a mistake.

Expecting that a partner will magically start contributing to a relationship where they haven’t done their share is also an unrealistic expectation – one I unfortunately fell into myself.

This is a balancing act. You need to give the benefit of the doubt and put in the effort. However, recognize when to stop no matter how much you want this to succeed at the time.

Our world today is all about attracting attention, but maintaining a meaningful relationship needs substance. Substance however, needs you to put in the work. Trust me, it may seem hard at first but this is the ultimate investment in yourself. Work on your substance to maintain a relationship

Moving forward, how can we navigate the dating world in this day and age?

  • Give everyone a minimum “starter” package – This includes some effort, open communication, and the benefit of the doubt.
  • Embrace their imperfections and differences – Perfection does not exist, get it out of your head. Also know that your partner will not be an exact copy of you
  • Know when to stop carrying this relationship – If they ghost you, abandon them and do not even try to restart it, they will keep ghosting you time and time again – respect the dead, bury it.
  • Be comfortable and realistic with who and where you are in terms of: boundaries, what you seek, affection, and sexuality – Be certain about these before moving forward – if that changes, communicate it. If you are disconnected on the above; that is a sign that you are not genuine with yourself. 
  • Know that a partner is different from your friend – We all seek friendships in our partners. However, your friends are not attracted to you and do not spend the same amount of time with you – we as MENA need to re-evaluate this concept. I’ve seen it way too often that someone wants to start off as friends and then develop feelings, progress to dating…etc. This rarely works. The dynamics are completely different here. It is also worth noting that this has been over-romanticised in movies and novels – unfortunately they are seldom the case in reality. It is best you own up to it and accept that you are dating or interested in the person. Don’t get me wrong your partner is your friend in life but is not a friend like the rest are. 
  • You do not need to find someone to be happy, love yourself and work on you being your best self. Consequently, this will eventually attract the right person to you. – I personally still need to remember and work on this
  • Finally, never beg someone to stay in your life, it never works and if it does it becomes miserable – trust me on this one because it hurts too much to try it on your own.

There is a lot to unpack here, this is a balancing act. You’re only human,  and so are they. Perfection does not exist. Be the best person you can be, because a partner won’t fix you. Give everyone a chance, if they don’t give you a chance back: run away don’t even try to resuscitate this.

Remember this: The flip side of getting what you want in life is accepting the risk and responsibility that comes with it. Easy come, easy goIn the end, nothing worthwhile is easy. Good things are worth the effort – they need your work.

By Abraham
@jaba.abe

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