How to make your love life a success by finding a healthy balance between your standards and expectations
If you don’t want your relationship to fail, just remember to manage the expectations and standards you have for your partner realistically. Anything else is a recipe for disappointment
We are often told that to attain happiness in life, we must learn to be content in life.
I prefer to accept things being good, but imagine the very best things they can be too. Because that means that while learning to appreciate the present, we are still hoping for a better future.
Having a positive attitude via constant exposure to helpful information and through personal experience is fundamental to building any form of a strong interpersonal relationship.
When it comes to romantic love, there is a false belief that feeling comfortably content or having little expectations is a compromise. It can be interpreted as, “if we ask for less, we will get less, and that means we will be less happy”.
Before we reach the desired goal of finding our significant other, we need to be sure to manage our expectations and standards. Of course, we first need to maintain some expectations or standards, but according to dating expert Ariadna Peretz, founder of Maitre D’ate, there is a big difference between them.
The right approach, Peretz explains, is to know and respect our standards, and hold ourselves and others to them, but keep expectations at bay as they are often “a recipe for disappointment”.
“A standard is a need whereas an expectation is one very particular way you want that need to be met. There are many ways to meet a person’s standards,” she says.
Some people like to keep their expectations to themselves. This means they can use them as benchmarks to test and measure their partners’ behaviours to see if they fit the bill.
However, this approach, Peretz warns, has the potential to blow up in your face. “If I am expecting the impossible, I will inevitably be disappointed.” And if you really want to have expectations to help guide you to your desired goals, it’s necessary to be realistic and communicate them clearly to your significant other before the situation arises.
Communication is not a one-way street though. Besides telling your partner or potential partner your expectations, you also need to have a heart-to-heart with them and swap notes. It’s important for you to find out what your standards and requirements are in your partner and vice versa.
“We must ask ourselves: what are my standards and why? Are they realistic? Will I reciprocate and hold myself to these standards too?” Peretz says. “For example, your standard might be you want romance. But are you OK with your significant other being romantic in the way they choose to behave or is there a particular way you want them to behave?”
Peretz insists that ideally we shouldn’t have any expectations but if we do, we must never assume we are going to be on the same page as our partners, as we can be let down.
I have a girlfriend who met a man on an online dating site. They chatted online every day for a few weeks and finally decided to meet up one weekend. After spending a lovely, amorous weekend together, the man stopped writing to her. Her immediate reaction was much expected – she felt hurt and confused.
So how do we keep cool and calm when someone we fancy doesn’t respond as we hoped they would?
Peretz believes being realistic and level-headed is key to picking ourselves up after a huge disappointment. “You must have grace and be level-headed when faced with rejection. If you are rejected, you accept it, learn from it and move on.”
That said, Peretz explains that it is quite common for some people to expect the feeling to be reciprocated if they like someone and treat them nicely. It’s human nature to respond this way because they think it’s only fair for the other party to “return the favour”.
What is the key to this? Peretz says it is to flirt.
“You must flirt. It’s by flirting that we communicate our interest, and it is by flirting we give the other person permission to flirt back, thereby creating the romantic vibe we are hoping for,” she says.
“When flirting, start with the basics such as pay them a compliment or tease playfully. Their reaction will give you an indication if they are interested in you or not.”
Life, in all aspects, would be much easier if we trained ourselves not to build up too many expectations because they destroy all enjoyment in life and kill the element of surprise. More importantly, it’s worth bearing in mind that the flip side of expectations is obligations, which are burdensome to any relationship. This is especially true during the initial stages of dating.
“You are better off not having expectations. However, you most definitely need to have standards and I would suggest communicating them in the initial stage of the romance,” Peterz says. “I would also suggest that if the person you are seeing says they cannot respect your standards, or more importantly, if their actions show they don’t respect your standards, just walk away.”
Luisa Tam is a senior editor at the Post and a former sex talk-show host at DBC Radio