Standards vs. Expectations

Something that has been on my mind a lot lately is how to know when you are expecting too much versus how to realize when you are compromising your standards.  I feel that in the modern world of the internet, people tend to view the extravagant things that they see on social media as acceptable/common expectations for relationships, when what they really need to be focusing on is figuring out their personal standards.   The difference between the two may seem hard to grasp at first, but I feel there is one important distinction, which can be seen if we look at the definitions:

Standards: Those morals, ethics, habits, etc., established by authority, custom, or an individual as acceptable.

Expectation: Something expected; a thing looked forward to.

In other words, standards are broad, expectations are narrow.  In relationships, everyone should have certain standards that they establish for how they will or will not allow themselves to be treated.  However, it is unfair to your partner to have specific expectations in your mind for every little thing as this just sets them up for failure.

The one standard that everyone should have for their relationship is healthy communication.  If the relationship is going to ‘go the distance’, both parties need to be able to discuss their thoughts and feelings with the other person.  However, there should be very little expectations placed upon how honest and deep communication comes about.  For example, perhaps you expect your partner to be able to discuss what you are feeling whenever, wherever, but your partner feels the most comfortable discussing things in private after some time de-stressing from a day of work.  If you focus on the fact that your expectation is not being met, you are disregarding the reality that he or she is still honoring the standard of communication.  If, however, your partner refuses to communicate at all, you would be lowering your standards by staying in that relationship.

Another standard that should be, well, standard in a relationship is a certain level of affection and appreciation.  Both parties need to feel that the other person recognizes their value and is attracted to them physically and mentally.  This is where the 5 love languages come into play (read the book by Gary Chapman if you haven’t already).  If you have the expectation that you should be verbally thanked every time you do something nice, you may totally disregard when your partner does a kind action in return.  If you refuse to see how your partner gives and receives affection and appreciation, you will inevitably end up disappointed and angry.  However, if you focus on simply having a standard that you will only be with someone who appreciates you and finds you attractive, you will be opening yourself to the myriad of ways that others show their acknowledgement and interest.

A third standard that should not be compromised is similar life goals.  Each half of the relationship should desire complimentary things.  However, this is another aspect that can be ruined by specific expectations.  For example, if one of the focuses of your life is going to the gym and staying healthy, you would want someone who also values health.  However, if you expect that your partner be a gym rat as well, you may totally disregard someone who goes hiking and biking on a regular basis when they may be perfect for you in every other way.  Another instance might be someone who is ambitious and wants to become the top salesperson in their district discounting someone who does not want to rise to the top of their own field, when the person they passed over is actually quite motivated in other areas of their life.  So many times we create an image of who we expect our ideal partner to be to complete our personal picture of our future, yet completely ignore the simplicity of traveling in the same general direction in life.

Overall, every person deserves to have an optimal relationship that meets their standards, but no one deserves to be in a relationship where they are trapped by unrealistic expectations.  If your partner meets your standards for communication while showing you affection and appreciation in a way that you understand, they should not be expected to meet those standards in a certain cookie-cutter way.  Of course, everyone has particular things that they enjoy; these should be communicated with your partner, and they should be allowed to communicate their specific desires to you.  If you really love that person, you will WANT to know what makes them happy.  However, if you cling to certain expectations all of the time, you are setting yourself up for failure.

Initial human relationships are the most difficult and confusing things on the planet.  Don’t make them harder by having unreasonable assumptions of how things should be OR by accepting less than what you deserve.  In the end, though, if you find someone who is worth the hassle of riding out the inevitable turbulence, you’ll find that there is nothing more amazing than the rock-solid knowledge that you have someone who is always in your corner, no matter what.

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