THE PARADOX OF INTIMACY
When couples set unrealistic expectations about their romantic relationships, they put tremendous pressure on their partners. Most people want their partner’s approval but find they struggle to live up to such unrealistic demands.
Think about it for a minute. People struggle to live up to their own expectations on a daily basis. Parents struggle to be patient with their kids; friends struggle to withhold criticism; and neighbors struggle to be civil with each other. People struggle to manage their finances, their weight, and their time in general. If we can’t meet our own expectations, is it realistic to hold our partners to a higher standard? No, and yet we do it all the time. We want our romantic partners to live up to our expectations because it makes us feel safe, loved, and valued.
Not only do partners struggle to meet unrealistic expectations; people also struggle with competing demands. Although romantic partners place expectations on each other, people have to deal with others’ expectations as well. Life would be easier if people only had to be concerned about pleasing their partners. But, in the real world, dealing with competing expectations is a fact of life. For example, you may be looking forward to enjoying a long weekend with your partner; however one of his kids from a previous relationship is going through a bad breakup and needs his help—throwing a wrench into your weekend plans.
And sometimes, people put their own needs ahead of their partner’s expectations. People often experience competing desires, and most of the time, when these competing desires arise, people try to do the right thing. However, no one is perfect. Sometimes decent, caring people exercise poor judgment and put their own needs ahead of what’s best for the relationship.