3 Relationship Expectations to Avoid Like the Plague

What if you could be satisfied with what you have and never again wonder what else is ‘out there’? What if your love life were 100% aligned with your expectations?

Unfortunately, we live in a culture that encourages people to search for something better when they’re dissatisfied with their marriage or relationship. This is especially true for women, who tend to have far more expectations of men and marriage than men have of women and marriage.

If you’re someone who constantly compares her life to other people’s lives, or to a life that you imagine is better than the one you have, you are doomed. Your life will be a constant cycle of misery and dissatisfaction.

I want to help you avoid that.

To that end, here are 3 relationship expectations women should avoid like the plague:

1. My husband/partner should be my soul mate.

Here’s what love isn’t: Being swept away on a white horse by a gorgeous, svelte guy who makes a crap ton of money and who, miraculously, doesn’t drink or gamble but is entirely selfless and happy to hang out with his wife and kids and even do the dishes and the laundry.

This man does not exist. Or if he does, he’s taken.

Many women will say they know the description above is unrealistic, but they don’t accept it as fact. Otherwise they wouldn’t be so chronically dissatisfied all the time.

And it’s the culture that did it to them. By the time the average woman gets married, she’s been drowning in “rom-coms.” These films are meant to be an escape from real life, but rarely are women impervious to the messaging. Women feed off romance. We inhale that stuff!

But it’s all a fantasy. How is it possible that of the millions of men in the world, a woman is supposed to find this one man who’ll fulfill all her dreams and whose goals and personality mesh so beautifully with hers she will never once be disappointed or dissatisfied?

The “soul mate” concept sets the bar too high. It’s totally unsustainable.

At the end of the day, marriage is a much more pragmatic undertaking than women wish it were. In fact, life in general is a much more pragmatic undertaking than women wish it were. Life isn’t endless excitement and entertainment. If you’re always seeking the next big thrill ride, you’re destined to be disappointed.

The only way to make peace with the choice you’ve made (unless it was a colossally stupid choice) is to get comfortable with the mundane and to find joy within that. Stay focused on what you do have and forget about what you don’t.

Gratitude journals work great.

2. Marriage should be 50-50.

No expectation has been more damaging to women and to marriage than the feminist notion of equality. Notice I say the “feminist” notion. That’s because a marriage can be equal, or equal enough, if you define the term differently.

The equality you’ve been taught to embrace suggests men and women are interchangeable, and they are not. A marriage can be team oriented without both partners living identical lives.

Let’s say you and I went into business together. To make it work, we would no doubt divvy up the tasks associated with the business. You’d be responsible, say, for the bookkeeping  and for getting new clients, whereas I’d be responsible for working with those clients. For the business to operate effectively, both of our tasks are equally important. Without one, we don’t have the other.

It’s the same with marriage.

Raising a family requires a myriad of tasks that are impossible for one person to do alone successfully. If there’s respect in the marriage, it shouldn’t make any difference who’s  performing which task. If you start playing tit for tat, your marriage is doomed.

At the end of the day, it’s about teamwork. If you choose to tally up a score, as the culture  encourages you to do, you’re destined to become resentful. And nothing will kill your marriage faster than resentment.

3. My man/marriage should make me happy.

Being happily married doesn’t mean you’re always happy.  On any given day, week, month, or year you may not be happy. In fact, there are times when you may be miserable and when your marriage or relationship sucks. So go with it—let it suck.

The reason marriage is hard is because life is hard. Don’t assume that whatever’s happening means you married the wrong man or that your marriage is doomed. Don’t assume that because things aren’t working out the way you envisioned or the way you want them to be that you need a new life.

If you’re chronically unhappy and there is massive conflict, that is obviously something to address. But even if that is the case, it isn’t necessarily your husband or the marriage that’s creating your unhappiness.

So many women convince themselves that a new man or a new life will make them happier. But the answer to our discontent rests within us. If a woman remarries without this knowledge in place, she will find herself back in divorce court ending a second marriage—no better off that she was with the first.

The good news is that once you accept that marriage isn’t supposed to make you happy, it frees you up to focus on what actually feeds the soul. By recognizing that satisfaction and contentment begins and ends with you, your energy will be focused in the right direction. And this will lead to real results.

Suzanne Venker

Suzanne is an author, a coach, and a podcast host committed to helping women let go of cultural beliefs that undermine their happiness in life and in love.