As our world moves quickly on, we are seeing some countries slowly emerge from the horrors of the Covid-19 pandemic. Along with this has come a surge in socialization and intimate relationships. Whether your partnership broke down in lockdown, or you spent the time as a bored singleton — millions of people have spent the better part of the last year isolated. This has led to an uptick in relationships, especially those of a casual nature. But is the accompanying dip in expectations and communication really a great idea? Or are we setting ourselves up for some serious future failure?
The dangerous craving for connection.
Trends show that casual, expectation-free relationships are on the rise in the post-pandemic reality we’re now facing. New research from Tinder indicates that more users are focusing on phrases like “see where things go” which indicates a more general openness and a dip in expectations. But is this drop in specificity a good thing? While some might see vague approach as a step in the right direction, it could have disastrous consequences for the quality of our relationships overall.
Expectations in relationships are healthy when set in reality
It’s important to have expectations in a relationship. Even more than that, it’s important to be brutally honest and upfront about what you’re looking for, what you expect, and what your long-term goals are for the future.Using terms like “no pressure” and “go with the flow” are often cop-outs; half-hearted promises from people who don’t have the heart to admit that they aren’t willing to commit. Expectations in relationships are healthy when set in reality. When we give in to our craving for connection over our true needs, we set ourselves up for major failure and heartbreak.
Why this trend could pose a threat.
Casual relationships can certainly be healthy, but no matter what kind of relationship we have, we need to be specific on what we want from it. We all expect things from our relationships. They’re partnerships, and the word “partner” indicates a give-and-take, or exchange. When we bumble into couple-hood without being clear about what we want to give and get, we end up with dysfunction, heartbreak, and chaos.
Sure, going into a relationship with absolutely zero expectations sounds nice — but it isn’t realistic. We all want something from the partnerships we set up, whether that’s a physical connection or something a little deeper. When we pretend that this isn’t the case, we end up with serious misalignment in the people we date and connect with. This can have catastrophic results when we gamble and invest in the wrong person.
Going into any relationship — whether casual or serious — is a waste of time if you aren’t being clear about what you’re getting out of it. At the very least, these connections should be fun and spirit-lifting. In their grandest form, they should be deep alignments with people who want the same things from their future. When you jump in and set no expectations, you’re potentially wasting your time with someone who is going to add nothing positive to your life.
Not every relationship you have is going to be a whirlwind romance. We’re not meant to stay in every coupling forever. Some partnerships (and even marriages) are lessons. They help us learn what we want and don’t want. Whether you’re building something that lasts a lifetime, or something that just lasts for a night, you should be seeking connection that is fulfilling on some level. Bonding with someone should be a pleasant experience and it should make us feel good about ourselves and our world.
Believe it or not, setting out clear expectations at the start of any partnerships or relationship can help us to avoid conflict. Going in blind is never a good idea when it comes to love or casual connection. We have to be clear and that only happens with communication (aka talking things out). Failing to be honest about what you want and need creates more fighting and high drama in our relationships. Instead of immaturely pretending we don’t need anything, we have to just be honest with ourselves and thsoe we connect with from the jump.
Like it or not, families result from couplings — even if you don’t plan for it to happen that way. Depending on your beliefs, this can spiral into a very interconnected tragedy. When two people come together and pretend they don’t want anything from one another, they could end up bonded by a family they aren’t prepared for. As the the couple grow to resent one another (and their misalignment becomes more apparent) the family unit suffers as a whole.
How to set better expectations for our relationships.
Contrary to popular belief, expectations are good to have (especially as it pertains to our needs and the things that we value in our partners). Instead of settling for anyone who will have us, we have to instead focus on setting healthier expectations and communicating them effectively. In my new book, Relationship Renovator, I discuss how we can set better expectations for our relationships.
First, know what’s realistic and what isn’t.
The first step in overcoming the negative side of your expectations is to spend some getting familiar with what’s realistic and what isn’t. There are a number of unrealistic expectations that we put on our partners and our relationships, and these expectations seriously undermine our long-term happiness and encourage resentment and contempt. If you want to manage your expectations, you need to do be honest about whether you’re asking too much.
Step back from your partnership and get some quiet time alone where you can detach and look at things from a third-party perspective. Question the things you want from your partner, and question why you want them. Are you asking them for qualities or actions you should be providing for yourself?
Don’t expect your partner to provide you with self-esteem. Don’t expect them to correct all the wrong in your past, or magically know what you want and when you want it. Be your own independent person apart from your relationship and look to your partner for companionship and support — rather than a crutch for your emotional baggage. Allow them to be themselves and find the courage to discover your own authenticity beside them. Strive for a fair and equal relationship and use your complimenting strengths to drop the need for expectations at all.
Then, tap into greater appreciation.
Appreciation can be a great revealer of the negativity in our lives, and it can go a long way in helping us to manage our relationship expectations. This is not to say that you fail to see the shortcomings where they lie, it’s simply committing to desire an appreciation for your partner over a need to look for flaws. Tap into appreciation for your spouse or loved one, and use that appreciation to maintain realistic expectations.
Make a conscious effort to value the positive things your partner brings into your life. Whenever you’re confronted with something that frustrates you, look for something that you’re actually grateful for. In this way, you begin to see the value of your partner in a completely different light.
Shift your expectations and move them away from the realm of “demands” and into the realm of appreciation and gratitude. Use this positive light to overcome the aggravations and allow it to be the fuel that encourages you to reach out to one another and stay connected. The more you come to appreciate one another, the easier it is to let go of any out-of-this-world expectations that are toxic or unrealistic.
Finally, you can drop the comparisons to maximize the effectiveness.
Comparisons are toxic, and they can cause us to question both ourselves and our relationships. When we constantly look outwardly for what we should seek from within, we get confused and lost in the ideals of other people. Step back and look at your expectations removed from your partner. Where did they come from? Are you basing them off of someone else’s relationship? You must remove all comparisons and ensure you’re acting from a place of authenticity.
Stop comparing your partner to everyone else. Don’t compare your relationship to your friend’s or your parents’. Drop the comparisons cold and start seeing your relationship for what it is. Allow it to be natural and be present exactly where you’re at right now (instead of trying to force it in a different direction).
Embrace going with the flow and see your partner for who they truly are. Measure this person against your own ideals only and stop looking outward for comparisons that only compound your harsh or unrealistic expectations.There’s a real power in learning how to be present in your relationship, but there’s also power in seeing it for what it is. Leave the comparisons in the dirt and celebrate or address your relationship for what it is right here and now.
Putting it all together…
The last year and a half has been a stressful experience for everyone. From couples splitting, to singles being forced to lockdown on their own for months at a time — it’s been an intense time for relationships in the worst possible way. Many are emerging single into the post-pandemic world, and this is coming with a dropping of expectations that could be dangerous and toxic. It’s important that we don’t let the chaos of Covid-19 strip us of our standards. Setting healthy expectations is a key part of any happy partnership.
Although we may crave intimate connection in the wake of the pandemic lockdown, it’s crucial that we don’t let our expectations and standards slip. Investing in any relationship for the sake of not being alone is dangerous. It sets us up for failure and serious conflict in the future. In order to make sure that we are choosing partners that align with our needs, we have to stick to our standards and know what’s realistic and what isn’t. Then we can tap into greater appreciation, drop our comparisons, and branch out into even greater aspects of relationships exploration and stability. Don’t let your expectations slip just because you spent the pandemic alone. Make sure you’re looking for partners who have what you want and what you need to feel loved, wanted, and appreciated.
- Richardson, H. (2021). The latest dating trend will save so many single people from disappointment. Retrieved 22 April 2021, from https://www.stylist.co.uk/relationships/dating-love/dating-without-expectations/514721
- Johnson, E. (2021). Relationship Renovator: Transforming Your Love Life from the Ground Up. London, UK: Independently Published.
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