Are Your Relationship Standards Too High?

A new study suggests you might be expecting too much from your other half

21st century romantic wisdom dictates that we should expect a lot from a romantic relationship. And we’re not talking about the fireworks and ferris wheels that most rom-coms promise.

The thing is, if you choose to commit to one person for a significant amount of time should it not be because they are terrific and make you feel like the best version of yourself? They should be your biggest cheerleader even when you don’t get the promotion you wanted and decide to grow out your armpit hair, right? If the partnership is not rewarding, nourishing and happiness-producing, what on earth is the point? It’s not like we need anyone to pay our bills anymore…

“Should Spouses Be Expecting Less From Marriage?” – is the doom and gloom title of a new study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. The researchers were out to conclude whether we are all demanding too much from our other halves by examining newlyweds over a period of four years.

Spoiler alert: it’s inconclusive. Sometimes we are, sometimes we aren’t.

Some psychologists believe that having high standards will probably make actual relationship outcomes seem worse by comparison, therefore poisoning the partnership with feelings of dissatisfaction and unmet expectations, which seems fair.

Other leading thinkers in the field believe high standards are motivating – they make you commit to putting in the extra effort needed to establish a fulfilling, quality pairing. This also makes sense.

The crux is both partners need to have their expectations in line and be willing to put in effort.

How much we should ask of our relationship depends on how much we honestly believe the person we have chosen to shack up with is capable of and willing to give. If your relationship is already rocky then expecting a lot spells disaster, if the foundations are solid then wish-fulfillment may happen.

Dr James McNulty, a professor of psychology at Florida State University who conducted the study said:

“Some people demand too much from their marriage because they are requiring that their marriages fulfill needs that they are not capable of achieving, either because they have limited time, energy, effort, or skills to apply to their marriage.”

“But other people demand too little from their marriages,” he said. “Their marriage is a potential source of personal fulfilment that they are not exploiting.”

He councluded: “Ultimately, spouses appear to be best off to the extent that they ask of their marriages as much as, but not more than, their marriages are able to give them.

“This research suggests people need to have some idea of what they can get from marriage before they get it.”

The study also highlighted the negative impact of indirect hostility on romantic relationships. Being passive aggressive is really toxic. It’s more destructive than direct hostility – where one partner openly (sometimes very loudly, publicly and angrily) blames another. Basically, if your expectaions aren’t being met then you should say so explicitly to your partner’s face.

Last year another study was published outlining the disturbingly titled ‘suffocation model of marriage’. It concluded that marriage is becoming an ‘all or nothing’ institution. Once upon a time people hoped marriage would help them to achieve economic stability and fulfill their intimacy needs.

Nowadays, marriages are either super successful or dreadfully disappointing because we expect our long-term partnerships to help us fulfill our self-expression and personal growth needs. I mean, the new model sounds ideal… when it works out.

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