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What do we expect of our relationships?

Updated: Sep 14, 2020

Falling in love is one of life's most powerful and overwhelming experiences. It often provides a euphoric high filled with passion, excitement and hope, which typically lasts six to 24 months (Fisher, 2016). It is often referred to as ‘limerance’ by psychologists and it is effortless thanks to our bodies’ bio-chemical processes. However, as a relationship continues, this phase will eventually pass, and remaining fulfilled and content within your relationship will begin to require some effort.


About 50 percent of couples who live together separate within the first five years of their relationship (Hayes et al., 2010), which suggest that many couples lack the skills and perspective to capably nurture their relationship. This is a significant concern given the importance of positive relationships to our wellbeing (Seligman, 2011).


One question to consider in light of this is what expectations we have of our partner and our relationship. In western society, our partner is now expected to fulfil our needs for friendship, emotional connection, sexual passion, self-discovery and personal growth. Moreover, our longer life expectancy means that our partners are, in theory, responsible for meeting these needs for longer than ever before.


“Today, we turn to one person to provide what an entire village once did: a sense of grounding, meaning, and continuity. At the same time, we expect our committed relationships to be romantic as well as emotionally and sexually fulfilling. Is it any wonder that so many relationships crumble under the weight of it all?” (Perel, 2018)

While satisfying this broad range of needs can lead to greater overall wellbeing, it also requires a greater focus of time and energy within a relationship. Unfortunately, this does not seem to be occurring; couples are spending less time together than they used to, and instead they are spending more time on parenting and work (Passmore, 2015). This highlights that if you have high expectations of your relationship, it is important to prioritise the time and effort required to meet those expectations. After all, nothing of any value, such as doing a job well or being a good parent, can be achieved without effort or time.


In addition, at certain phases in your relationship, it may be useful to adjust expectations because your energy may necessarily be focused elsewhere, such as parenting small children.


Overall, reflecting on the expectations you have of your relationship is vital in maintaining satisfaction within it. Questions you might want to consider to help you in your relationship include:

- Am I expecting that my partner will meet all my life’s needs?

- Are we focusing sufficient time and energy on meeting our needs within the relationship?

- Can I meet some of my needs outside the relationship?

- Do I need to adjust my expectations during a particular phase of our relationship?

- How can we ensure that we still maintain a connection during this phase?



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