How To Set More Realistic Relationship Expectations (so you won’t end up heartbroken, annoyed, or disappointed)

realistic relationship expectations

This guest post comes to us via The Naked Redhead blogs about relationships, life
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The April issue of Psychology Today features the cover story, “You’re Driving Me Crazy: 10 Relationship Headaches and How to Fix Them.”

I only bought it because my boyfriend needed to learn him some lessons. A-hem. Right.

Anyway, the article is solid gold for any of you out there who find your partner annoying every now and again (anyone? Anyone?). Gone are the early relationship stages of picking up underwear and holding farts for days at a time, you are now in that phase of the relationship where if your partner isn’t giving you a German Steam Bath on a regular basis, he or she is at least leaving dirty dishes in the sink, or wet towels slung over the tops of doorways, or laughing shrilly in ways you never, ever imagined.

Family therapist John Van Epp says, “You don’t really live with the partner in your home. You live with the partner in your head.” I remember so many times during my marriage where I was SURE that my ex’s lack of general tidiness meant that he was trying to just piss me off. As I’ve matured a bit, I’ve come to realize that, as the article says, “Sometimes a sock on the floor is just a sock on the floor.”


Whatever. Moving on.

So, I read this article and began thinking of the things that I find annoying in my boyfriend (none, baby, none. Go have yourself some chocolate and don’t read the rest of this post). One thing we’ve been working through is his summer schedule, and how he often forgets to check in when he’s gone for the day. I don’t need to know what he’s doing at all times, but he’ll often tell me that he’ll be gone for an hour or two to play volleyball, when lo and behold, it’s eight o’clock and he’s still not home.

So, last night, after a week of much better ETA communication, this scenario happens again. He texts at 6:30 to say, “I’ll be home in a few minutes” (progress!) and wow, look at the time, it’s way past eight, no texts, no phone calls, he’s just not home.

In my head, I’m thinking of the article, that the partner in my head is just an idealized version of who my boyfriend really is, and I’m trying to be patient, and understand that he just loves his sport, and time flies, and OH GOD, I AM SO HUNGRY, PLEASE HURRY THE EFF HOME. He FINALLY calls at 8:30, and I answer with a less than pleasant, “WHAT.”

To which he responds, “Please don’t be mad, I’ve been in the back of a police cruiser for the last half hour.”

Um, the partner in my head is not a criminal…WTF?

Turns out, he was pulled over because he was leaving the outdoor courts, which also happen to be located at a bar. The cops assumed he’d been drinking, pulled him over, ran his tags, and oops! He had a warrant for his arrest from an unpaid parking ticket. So, into the back of the car he went until they could figure out what to do with this quiet guy with no priors.

Finally, they let him go, and guess what else? While he was in the car, his parents tried to call about eight times to let him know his grandma had died.

All that to say,

“Every annoyance in a relationship is really a two-way street. Partners focus on what they’re getting, not on what they’re giving. But no matter how frustrating a partner’s behavior, your interpretation is the greater part of it. What matters is the meaning you attach to it.”

So, be patient with your partner today. Are you annoyed simply because of what you’re not getting out of the relationship? What can you give instead?

P.S. How to get the love life you want + How to get over a breakup

photo by Ananda Escudero Gomes // cc

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  1. Holly

    I should probably be a lot more patient with my other half. I tend to get very angry with him at times and when I think back later it's over such silly small things.
    Thanks for this great post!

    Holly ♥

  2. Rebekah

    I thought my boyfriend was the only person alive who leaves wet towels on doorframes. Oy.

    Great post.

  3. Melissa E.

    There's some great worked-up anger gone to waste. Poor guy.

  4. Ellie Di

    Thankfully, I've known about this discrepancy for a while and do whatever I can to fight against the OMG ANOTHER WET TOWEL ON THE FLOOR I'M NOT YOUR MOTHER instincts. Not that it always works, mind you. Being aware of the behaviour is super-important, though, and it sounds like you've had your fair share of experience with it. Patience can be one of the hardest things in a relationship (vying for first with trust, I think), but it's also one of the most rewarding when achieved.

  5. The Naked Redhead

    @Ellie Di–I love this: "Patience can be one of the hardest things in a relationship (vying for first with trust, I think), but it's also one of the most rewarding when achieved."

    Well said!

    To all…thanks for reading! <3

  6. Alli

    Wow, that is unbelievable! What an incredible example of how we look at our needs (right there with you sister!) when sometimes our partner is having a tough time of things. I definitely take the downfall sometimes of thinking he's doing things to annoy me but, as you said, sometimes a sock is just a sock. thanks for that wonderful post!

    (Tell your man that I'm sorry for his loss, that'd be a very tough night).

  7. Zoe

    I read the article because I thought it sounded very interesting. Some of the points were great – which were the ones that you brought out I think, but some of the others seem incredibly sexist, or imagine some one in an abusive relationship, it gives complete rationalization to some aspects. Some of the points didn't sit well with me, like for example the intimacy section.. WHAT?

  8. Miss Boo

    Thank you for this! I'm a month away from my 7 year anniversary, and I've been feeling guilty for going crazier than usual about the little things that never change. This is exactly what I needed to be reminded of. Totally going in my journal for reminding!

  9. Alli

    Love this post… such a good reminder to remember that we're ALL human.

    Wise words I've learned in the past year: relationships are not 50%-50%. They're not even 100%-100%. So many times relationships fail because we expect 100% and give 0%. Instead, we should give 100% and expect 0% – then everything our partner gives is a gift to be cherished. When both partners see the relationship in this light – give 100%, expect 0% – we end up treating each other so much more gently!

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