Why You Should Manage Your Expectations

sad couple
Photo: iStock

Have you ever met one of those people who seem to be mad at the world? Every minor injustice is perceived as a personal attack on them. And, worse than that, everyone and everything continually fails to live up to their expectations. Needless to say, they're not pleasant to be around. And if you're married or in relationship with someone like this, that's definitely hard. If, on the other hand, you are someone like this, it's time to turn things around.

Happy people, I find, tend to have a fairly realistic and measured view of the world. Basically, they understand that the world is a messed up place, and when things are bad, they're just kind of even-keeled about it. When things are good, however, they're happy and thankful, because they know that those good things are a gift.

Unhappy people, on the other hand, view the world as they think it should be. So when things are good, they're at best even-keeled. And when things are bad, they get really angry because, in their minds, it's not as it should be. Essentially what this is is a failure to manage expectations.

In relationships, this can happen a lot. We tend to have a view of how people should be. And when they fail to live up to those expectations, for some of us that means anger and grudges. Very often, though, the problem is with the expectations and not the person. People are flawed. Our partners, no matter how much we love them, are flawed. And most importantly, we are flawed. You'd think that with all of those flaws, we, as a species, would be better at doling out grace, but we aren't.

We set these impossible expectations, ones that we couldn't even come close to living up to, and then get hurt and angry when our partners don't live up to them either. That isn't love. Instead, that is what's known as a transaction. We offer them the possibility of love, but only if they meet our expectations. Which is honestly a pretty crappy way to live. The healthier way to go about it is to lower, or better yet completely remove those expectations.

Love is giving grace. Remember that. Tattoo it on your arm if you need to. But whatever you do, keep reminding yourself that loving your partner is an action. And not a single action but, like a rifle, a repeating action. One that you have to perform over and over again. Because they will let you down. And you also will let them down. And so, when you give each other grace, i.e. that necessary elbow room to be human and flawed, you are loving them.

Seriously, anything less than that is not love. And I know, it's probably the hardest thing you'll ever have to do, because those letdowns really can hurt. But you have to do it. If you want your relationship to be long and healthy, you have to manage those expectations with your partner. Your happiness depends on it.

For more guidance, try Lasting, a science-based app backed by The Nest dedicated to improving the health of your marriage or relationship.