Whether we like it or not when we go into a relationship, we have expectations (or standards) as to how our partner should be and what our relationship should look like vs other relationships.
We don’t intentionally mean to set these expectations when we go into a relationship, a lot of the time they are unconscious, and we are unaware of them which can lead to conflict later down the line. Some of the healthy expectations we can portray in our relationship includes having someone to share our life with, someone to do things with (e.g. socialise, gym, travel etc), being able to rely on and trust our partners, having someone there to support us, care for us and love us.
Should we lower our standards when going into a relationship?
You shouldn’t have to lower your standards or expectations but rather it’s more about having realistic standards or expectations. If your standards or expectations are too high, no one is ever going to be able to live up to them and this will cause you insurmountable amounts of conflict and unhappiness as you will not be able to sustain a long-term relationship. No one will ever feel good enough for you.
Is it possible that one could not be presenting their true self and who they really are?
In the beginning stages of a relationship everyone is on their best behaviour, putting their best foot forward because they want to impress the other person and win them over to be their partner. However, this is unsustainable because we cannot always be on our best behaviour. As our relationship grows and evolves and we become more comfortable with each other, we behave in a way that is more reflective of our true or natural self. This often causes confusion as we may feel like the person we are with has changed, they are not the person we met and fell in love with.
When we have expectations that we don’t communicate with our partners, we are setting them up for failure as they will never be able to live up to expectations they know nothing about and that’s unfair on them.
Do people who lower their standards think it will be easier to ‘find’ someone?
Sometimes people settle for a partner which can be perceived as lowering their standards. People can settle for various reasons such as feeling lonely, not wanting to be on their own, everyone around them is in relationships, their biological clock is ticking, they want to settle down or even for financial reasons. In this case it may seem easier to meet someone because you are compromising on your values.
What is the risk of presenting set standards or expectations in a relationship?
When we have expectations that we don’t communicate with our partners, we are setting them up for failure as they will never be able to live up to our expectations, that they know nothing about and that’s unfair on them. When we are constantly being let down or disappointed in our relationships either consciously or sub consciously, it can impact our ability to have a healthy connection with out partner resulting in communication, trust and psychological safety issues.
What can you do if you feel you may have high standards or expectations which could be preventing you from sustaining a relationship?
You can’t expect your partner to fix all of your problems, you need to work on fixing them yourself. Your partner can be a great source of support while you work on yourself but they can’t do the work for you.
Cut each other some slack because you need to realise that there is no such thing as the perfect person or perfect relationship, rather it’s how perfect can you be for each other because you value each other, respect each other and want to succeed as a couple?
Don’t panic when you hit a speed bump, all couples do but that doesn’t mean your relationship is over or you’re not compatible. It’s just feedback that something is not working and you have a choice to do something about it if you want to get back on track again – if you don’t, you risk heading down that rocky road to break-up/divorce.
You are not mind readers so you need to be able to speak up about what you are wanting or needing and not always expect your partner to know what you want. Communication is key in being able to have robust conversations and a healthy relationship.
Focus on the positives and enjoy what you have and are getting from your partner and relationship rather than obsessing on what’s not working. Focusing on all the ways that your partner is not living up to your romantic notions is going to cause conflict. Rather have an attitude of gratitude and appreciate each other for your uniqueness and value you bring to the relationship.
Paula Quinsee is a Relationship Expert in Johannesburg. She teaches individuals and organisations how to cultivate healthy relationships at home and in the workplace to create a human connected world. Paula is also the author of 2 self-help guides: Embracing Conflict and Embracing No as well as an international speaker and advocate for mental health and against gender-based violence. For more info: www.paulaquinsee.com