Are Comparisons and Expectations Killing Your Relationship?
One of the most dangerous trends in our modern society is our obsession with comparing ourselves to others, and feeling inadequate when we inevitably don’t measure up (at least in our minds). Books, magazines, movies and now social media all portray something that often seems unattainable, which can make us question our self worth. This inevitably leads to a reduction in self-esteem and can result in stress, anxiety and depression.
Our relationships are no different. We are fed a recipe of the idyllic relationship through the media that we feel should be our reality. We also look at other couples around us and think that their relationship is better than ours. They seem to have it all, but do they really?
We never really know what is going on behind closed doors. What appears to the outside world to be happy and harmonious may well be fighting to stay alive on the inside. I personally know of many ‘perfect’ relationships that suddenly and unexpectedly disintegrated. And though it may have been unexpected to us on the outside, it likely wasn’t as sudden for them (or at least for one of them).
Often we are afraid to confide in our friends of our relationship troubles, but when we do we find that we are not alone. Relationships are not easy, and every one of them has its own unique set of challenges. The trick is not to find a relationship that doesn’t have challenges (hint: they don’t exist!), the key is to find someone with whom you can face those challenges together with a shared sense of purpose.
Expecting your relationship to be all smooth sailing is very dangerous. It will lead you to question your compatibility, and encourage you to focus on everything that is wrong with the relationship rather than everything that is right. And what we focus on is what we tend to get more of.
So, what can we do to ensure that we don’t allow these comparisons and unrealistic expectations to destroy our relationships? Here are a few ideas:
- Understand that all relationships face difficult challenges, yours is not unique.
- See these challenges as a growth opportunity.
- Try to see each issue from your partner’s point of view and express understanding of their position (even if you don’t agree with it).
- See your relationship as a continual journey of discovery, not as a destination to arrive at. The fairytale is not in the happy ending, but in the continual growth and discovery.
- Appreciate your differences as the reason that you are attracted to each other, even if they do frustrate you at times.
- Reflect on what is good about your relationship and your partner. Regularly express these things to each other.
- Accept that the grass being greener on the other side is almost always an illusion, created in your own mind due to unmet needs in your current relationship. If you feel your grass has started to brown, water it until the green shoots reappear (and then never stop watering it!).
- Know that you both want the same thing – a loving, respectful relationship. Draw a line in the sand and work together to understand what that means to you and how you can achieve it.
Marriages used to be a union of convenience, based on children and financial support. However, times have changed and we now expect a lot more from our relationships. It was only during the last century that this ideal of a relationship built on love and emotional support came into being. In the past, women relied on their circle of female friends and relatives for this support, but with the changing dynamics of our lifestyles this expectation is usually now placed mainly on their male partners. Though some men are comfortable with this, in many cases men are still coming to grips with what this entails as it wasn’t something they experienced growing up.
This new relationship paradigm is a wonderful thing as it gives us the opportunity to create something truly beautiful that respects the needs and desires of both partners. But if we aren’t getting these needs met we increasingly look outside of our relationship to find them. However, it is often unrealistic expectations and unfair comparisons that blind us to what we really have, and lead us to believe that we may be better with someone else, or even alone. But with a little bit of work that love and affection that seems to have disappeared can resurface and blossom once again, it’s up to you to make it happen!
Matt Glover is a relationship expert with Happy and Healthy Relationships. If you would like to learn how to improve or re-ignite your relationship, book a free consultation here or contact Matt on 0416 211 424, or email firstname.lastname@example.org