Perhaps no topic is more widely covered in books, films, music, poetry, and art than romantic relationships. However, not all of what is passed on to us through our cultural history is wisdom. An important part of maintaining a healthy relationship is keeping our expectations of one another, and the relationship, realistic and appropriate. Some unrealistic expectations couples sometimes have are:
He/she will meet my every need, will make my life perfect. This is “Cinderella thinking.” Waiting for a wonderful person to come along and put everything right is a staple of fairy tales. The real path towards “happily ever after” begins with capitalizing on your strengths, minimizing your weaknesses and working hard at connecting with someone else. When you begin to do this, you become ready to welcome someone wonderful into your life to add to your happiness, not create it.
He/she will understand me without words, if he/she really loves me, he/she will just know what I need and what I think. When we become close to someone, we become better at guessing what they need or want, but it is still only a guess. If you want your needs met, state them clearly, don’t expect mind reading.
We will never fight or disagree. Some of us are raised with the idea that fighting and love are incompatible. Friction is to be expected when two unique individuals interact on an intimate level. Different points of view can be an opportunity for growth. A couple learns to understand each other better, effectively communicate and deepen their intimacy.
We will be able to be together 24/7. Wanting to be with someone you care about is natural. But if you need them with you at all times, ask yourself what is really missing when you are alone. Often the answer is not your partner, but something inside you.
If he/she loves me, he/she will change. Be clear about what qualities you want your partner to have and what faults you are willing to live with. Then ask yourself if your partner fits your standards. If not, your options are tomove on to another relationship or change your standards. Changing your partner into what you want is unrealistic.
Think you are doing ok? What makes the difference between “ok” relationships where nothing is wrong, and one where you are blessed by the presence of the relationship in your life?
- Have you learned something new about each other lately?
- Have you nurtured a new interest or skill in yourself and shared it with your partner?
- Have you been surprised by your partner’s interaction with you, or are you in a predictable rut?
- Have you introduced something new into the relationship, a thought, an interest, a theory, a viewpoint?
- Are you supported and even challenged by your partner to grow and change?
- Are you free to pursue your interests without guilt from your partner?
- Have you two learned something new together, attended class, joined a study group, picked up a new hobby?
- Do you feel free to disagree, or do you keep the peace at all costs?
- Do you share equally in celebrating each person’s successes and victories?
- Is the level of spiritual intimacy valued along with emotional and physical closeness?
Give your relationship a point for each statement you can agree with on most occasions. The closer to ten, the more closely your relationship comes to fully nurturing the two of you.
Maybe you see a pattern or old habit recurring in your relationship. If you feel stuck and at a loss as to how to change, talking with a counselor may help. The Engle Center welcomes the opportunity to talk with students about relationship issues, individually or as a couple. We are also available to provide premarital counseling for engaged couples.