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September 2, 2014

Why Lowering Your Expectations in a Relationship is a Bad Idea.

love couple hug

We meet someone new. We feel like we’ve known them forever—they get us, we get them.

We feel amazing at the start.

This person seems as excited to know us as we are to know them. They state they weren’t ready for this kind of relationship until now. Meeting us has changed everything—or has it?

Something transpires. This person stops showing up in the same way. What seemed to be easy in the beginning has grown harder. It can happen at any point, one week to years later. We may spend the remainder of the relationship trying to get it back to those magical first days.

How often have we all heard this lament from someone, or gone through it ourselves?

We were trying to recapture what wasn’t really there.

It was our perception of what we wanted, which was altogether a different reality. Imaginably, this person played a part in our hope for an amazing union, but we felt utter disappointment more often than we felt connected to one another.

Depending on our level of fear of abandonment, or loss of any kind, we start to manage down our expectations so we can justify staying.

If we have a high level of fear and a low level of insight into ourselves, we’ll put up with quite a bit before we call it quits. Even those of us who have a lot self-awareness can still find the possibility of abandonment too much to bear, so we stay hooked.

Some of us stay hooked past the point of getting over the fantasy image of the relationship and continue hanging on, managing down our expectations ever further until we are not even in a relationship— we are in a situation, and one that consistently invalidates us.

While we are dating, the communication may be choppy or wildly inconsistent; we may see them once a month or once a year and sit on the edge of our seats anxiously, waiting to hear from them.

If we live together or are married, we may give up sex, sleeping together, doing things as a couple. We may have two separate lives with nothing in common, but neither of us will leave.

As claustrophobic and depressing as this description sounds, there’s a key point here: the two people engaged in this situation are not able to self-validate—they don’t love themselves equally. They’re in common lack together.

No one seeks this on purpose; it comes from something that is seriously lacking inside of us that we hope someone will fill for us. We then place all the responsibility for validation on the shoulders of this person, and are constantly disappointed as they invalidate us with their non-action. This leads us to think there’s something wrong with us, and we spend a lifetime trying to get the missing validation.

Now, the other person, who we believe withholds validation purposely, also has a certain level of deservingness. Therefore, anything that exceeds it makes them shut down and close off, or run away.

What can we do to increase our self-love so that our expectations are not managed down to meager servings of attention and affection?

1. Stop telling ourselves a story.

When we look at the future-based picture we’re painting, we aren’t creating a reality. We’re creating something to keep us from feeling actual loss, which most likely already took place.

If we look at what we’re getting and are honest about it, we can then make a different decision.

2. Stop the excuses.

We invalidate ourselves, every time we make an excuse to say okay to less than we deserve. Saying yes instead of no, and vice versa, with the intention of miraculously being able to turn around the situation, is a delusion. We validate ourselves when we stand in truth.

3. Stop the people pleasing.

We cannot buy love and affection any more than we can work ourselves to the bone to receive it by pleasing someone else. It’s manipulative and we always feel unfulfilled with the results. If we feel we can’t stop the pleasing because we’re afraid it may result in some loss, please go look at number one again.

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Editor: Emily Bartran

Photo: Luca Vanzella/Flickr

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Tracy Crossley  |  Contribution: 11,970