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How Expectations Can Cause Relationships To Fail

Here's how expectations can cause relationships to fail — and how to prevent it from happening to you.

By Ossiana TepfenhartPublished 6 years ago 8 min read

The other day, my friend was in the middle of a breakup with a guy she had been casually seeing for the past couple of months. It was a complex breakup in many ways — primarily because both parties seemed to be unable to come up with an understanding of why the relationship failed to bloom.

According to the guy, who was a friend of mine, he had caught her cheating.

According to her, she didn't think he expected her to be loyal because they didn't have "the talk."

It seemed clear to me that their unspoken expectations got the better of them, but for the two of them, that didn't matter. What mattered is that they were angry because the other person couldn't read their mind, and that was enough to make them feel wronged to the point of breaking up.

Though it may sound funny or even ridiculous to people from an outside standpoint, it's really not that uncommon. Most people don't realize how expectations can cause relationships to fail until they see it in their own lives.

Speaking as a relationship writer, I think this is something that needs to be discussed more often. Here's how expectations can cause relationships to fail — and how to prevent it from happening to you.

Everyone has unspoken expectations about how they should be treated.

No matter who you are, there are certain things you expect from other people in terms of how they behave. It's just part of how human interaction works.

For example, you would expect most people to reply with, "I'm fine," if you ask them how they are doing. You also might expect people you know to smile and wave if they see you smiling and waving back.

Generally, we also expect people to treat us with manners and respect.

This is particularly true when we are in relationships, and that's totally healthy. In fact, if you want to have a healthy relationship, you will need to start expecting that from your partner — and you also should learn to walk away if they can't do that.

However, this is where a lot of people tend to run into problems...

People tend to expect different things from their partners — and that's often how expectations can cause relationships to fail.

Everyone is different when it comes to their expectations, and that's where problems tend to take hold. Some people expect to be treated way differently than others do. At times, a person's expectations can be seriously unrealistic.

One of the most common (yet unrealistic) expectations involves girls who expect to be "treated like a princess." There's nothing wrong with wanting a man who treats you well, however, most men simply will not be able to shower you with presents and make sure you never lift a finger.

Among men, the equivalent of "being treated like a princess" often comes in the form of expecting a woman to take care of all the housework, look like a model, mind the kids, and also bring home a paycheck. Unless you have superpowers and a staff of people helping you out, that's just not going to happen.

Simply put, if you are expecting perfection from people, you will undoubtedly end up being disappointed. Nobody is perfect, everyone is a human being, and somewhere along the line, many people out there forget that.

But, what does this have to do with learning about how expectations can cause relationships to fail? Believe it or not, it has everything to do with it.

In cases where people get disappointed by their partner's actions, they won't say anything about it.

When most people get treated badly by their partners, they stay silent about it or just leave.

The leaving part is totally fine, and in many cases, may actually be warranted. If you're not being treated well, or at least, in the way that you would expect to be treated, you probably aren't compatible and you probably should leave.

However, the silence aspect isn't so good. That's how expectations can cause relationships to fail.

People who stay silent when they are not happy with the way that they are being treated by their partner end up shooting themselves in the foot. This is because people who stay silent when upset with their partners often don't realize how unreasonable they're being — nor do they see the effect it has on their relationship until it becomes too late.

In most cases, partners who "suffer in silence" don't feel comfortable admitting displeasure. Their partners often have no indication that they are upset with them, and even if they do know they aren't happy, they often can't tell why. So, their partners keep doing whatever they're doing and the disappointed party continues to be disappointed.

Over time, that disappointment builds. As disappointment builds, so does resentment. Resentment ends up turning into anger, contempt, and of course, a lot of really ugly actions from the person who was initially just disappointed.

No relationship can withstand too much resentment, even if both partners did, at one point adore each other. As a result, most couples that get resentful end up splitting — often after a major blowout fight where one partner just unloads everything on the other.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how expectations can cause relationships to fail catastrophically.

Some people, on the other hand, know that their partner falls short of what they want but seem okay with it — primarily because they expect the relationship to be temporary.

If you've ever read relationship articles, you may have noticed how many people are curious to find out if they are just a placeholder or a "backup" to their partners. This is a problem that's insanely widespread throughout people who are dating — and it's pretty easy to see why.

With many people, particularly those who have high expectations of who they want to marry, they will date people they believe to be beneath them because they don't want to be alone. However, that doesn't mean that they have lowered their expectations; that just means they are using the person they're dating as a "time waster" until they meet someone they believe will match their expectations.

Most people in placeholder relationships have a good time with their "backup" partners. Even though they may enjoy their company, they won't be with them because they think they deserve better. This is how expectations can cause relationships to fail without resentment even really being a cause of the downfall.

In these cases, it's clear that the relationship in question could have some potential for success. After all, you can't happily stay with someone long term without the relationship itself being somewhat functional.

Placeholders, on the other hand, are often blindsided and hurt when they realize that their partners were never actually going to commit. After all, it's reasonable to expect commitment after a certain timeframe. If you think about it, it's actually fairly difficult for a person to not be hurt by that behavior.

Speaking from personal experience, if you are turned into a placeholder too many times, it becomes way too easy to become bitter and paranoid about dating. That's just one more way that the wrong expectations can ruin relationships (and people) long after the everything has been wrapped up.

Thankfully, there is a form of karma that tends to take place with people who have "placeholder" relationships.

With cases like these, the using partner ends up realizing that they probably aren't going to be able to get what they wanted in a relationship after they drop the placeholder. But, by that time, it's often too late; the partner they left now has someone else.

Now that you know how expectations can cause relationships to fail, you also can figure out how to avoid it happening to your love life.

Expectations are something everyone has, but not many people actually are willing to discuss — and that's what causes most of the strife. No one is a psychic, but we all tend to act like we should expect people to "just know" what we are expecting partners to be like in a relationship.

This is why it's crucial to actually tell your partner what your expectations are.

If you go into a relationship, tell them if you expect it to turn serious or not. Moreover, don't try to convince someone to get serious with you if they've made it clear it won't happen. Part of how expectations can cause relationships to fail is the way we often expect people to change their minds despite them giving no indication that it'll happen.

Similarly, if your partner's behavior is falling below expectations, don't wait for resentment to build! Tell them that it's not acceptable to you, and they will be way more likely to change their ways. If they don't, then leaving is a healthier alternative than just stewing in your own anger.

No, it's not easy to actually stand up for yourself and tell people what you're expecting from them. But, it can save you time and tears. So, maybe it's time to give it a shot.


About the Creator

Ossiana Tepfenhart

Ossiana Tepfenhart is a writer based out of New Jersey. This is her work account. She loves gifts and tips, so if you like something, tip her!

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