At the beginning of a new relationship, you’ll be forgiven for seeing everything through rose-tinted glasses - dreaming about your future together is part and parcel of the honeymoon period.
But once the lustful haze has worn off, you’ll realise your once perfect human being is also prone to their fair share of imperfections. Sorry, guys.
This disconnect between your hopes and reality may be difficult to get your head around, but that doesn’t mean it’s all over.
Social psychology professor, Eli Finkel, from Northwestern University, Illinois, who has just written a new book, The All-or-Nothing Marriage, on the topic, told The Atlantic that in modern relationships we are overly idealistic and expect too much from our partners, which means we can never be truly fulfilled.
“The main change has been that we’ve added, on top of the expectation that we’re going to love and cherish our spouse, the expectation that our spouse will help us grow, help us become a better version of ourselves, a more authentic version of ourselves,” said Finkel.
HuffPost UK asked Relate counsellor Peter Saddington, about this phenomenon, and he says: “Some people do have unrealistically high expectations of their partner, although it’s also common for people to have very low ones. The truth is that no relationship is perfect so setting your expectations too high may lead to a lot of disappointment and heartache.”
He shared six tell-tale signs that you may have your bar set too high.
1. You always idealise other people’s relationships.
They say no one knows what a relationship is like behind closed doors and putting other people’s relationships on a pedestal is a sign that you could be setting yourself up for failure.
Saddington said: “Our parents’ relationship can be a huge influence here – if we think they seemed like the perfect couple, we may set our expectations quite high. We also have a tendency to compare current partners to our exes.
“If our ex was a brilliant cook or was very affectionate for example, we may expect the same from our new partner, but it’s important to remember that everyone is unique and has their own strengths and weaknesses.”
2. You compare your relationship to fiction.
We can all fall guilty of lusting after a knight in shining armour (especially when Disney makes them seem so damn appealing), but we need to embrace our partner entirely - warts and all.
Saddington said: “Hollywood films and romantic novels can also have an influence, by leading us to believe that there’s one perfect person out there who’ll meet all of our needs. This myth of the one can mean people don’t feel the need to work at their relationship. If there are problems, they may think they’ve made the wrong choice of partner.
“The truth is that no relationship is perfect so setting your expectations too high may lead to a lot of disappointment and heartache.”
3. You expect your partner to spend all their time with you.
Obviously everyone wants to spend time with their partner, and have mutual interests and hobbies to share, but there is a difference between enjoying their company and requiring they be present 24/7.
“We rely on our partners for so much these days but it’s healthy to have some separate interests and to enjoy the company of friends and family. It means you’ll have more to talk about when you’re together,” said Saddington.
Not only that, but you will find that spending all your time with your partner makes you both logistically and emotionally dependent on them.
4. You believe you should be showered with romantic gifts.
A kind gesture or unexpected cuppa goes a long way, but expecting your partner to constantly shower lavish gifts might mean you are setting yourself to be disappointed. After all, you shouldn’t need to be bought.
“Expecting your partner to buy you gifts and make romantic gestures all of the time may be unrealistic,” said Saddington.
“Of course, the odd thoughtful surprise is lovely but it doesn’t determine the quality of your relationship. Trust, open communication and understanding are more important so try to focus on these.”
5. You get frustrated when they don’t read your mind.
Often a lack of communication can present big problems in a relationship, mainly when you think your partner doesn’t understand you. Remember something crystal clear to you, may not be so obvious to them. So give your partner the benefit of the doubt and try not to talk in riddles.
Saddington said: “Sometimes we expect our partners to be mind-readers but it’s unrealistic to think they’re going to know exactly what you’re thinking all of the time. If you’re angry or upset, talk to them about it and explain why, rather than expecting them to know the answer.”
6. You are unable to agree with your partner on expectations.
The last sign that you might be expecting too much, is if neither of you can agree on what is reasonable. This might not apply to every relationship - especially if there is an imbalance of power or emotional abuse - but if you consider your partner to be rational, caring and invested, maybe it’s time to look at what you’re asking.
“Do this as early on in the relationship if you can but even if you’ve been together for years, it’s still worth having the conversation and reviewing your expectations over time as you both change and grow together. If you think their expectations are unrealistic then talk it through,” said Saddington.
And most of all, don’t hold them to a standard you don’t uphold yourself.