My Account
0

The Truth About Expectations in Relationships

By having high (but still realistic) standards, you are far more likely to achieve the kind of relationship you want.

Share this post:

If you lower your expectations, the argument goes, then you won’t be disappointed by your partner.

Is this advice really helpful? Dr. Donald Baucom, a psychology professor at the University of North Carolina, studied marital expectations for a decade. He found that people get what they expect. People with low expectations tend to be in relationships where they are treated poorly, and people with higher expectations tend to be in relationships where they are treated well.

By having high (but still realistic) standards, you are far more likely to achieve the kind of relationship you want than you are by looking the other way and letting things slide.

The “Good Enough” Relationship

I encourage couples to strive for the “good enough” relationship, which sounds like settling for less than best. Isn’t that contrary to Baucom’s research findings on marital expectations?

Allow me to explain.

In a good enough relationship, people have high expectations for how they’re treated. They expect to be treated with kindness, love, affection, and respect. They do not tolerate emotional or physical abuse. They expect their partner to be loyal.

This doesn’t mean they expect their relationship to be free of conflict. Even happily married couples argue. Conflict can be productive because, when handled in healthy ways, it leads to greater understanding.

Solvable & Unsolvable Problems

We should not expect to solve all our problems in the relationship, either. My Love Lab studies found that almost ⅔ of relationship conflict is perpetual. As Dr. Dan Wile says, “When choosing a long-term partner… you will inevitably be choosing a particular set of unsolvable problems.”

It’s unrealistic to expect a relationship to heal childhood wounds, or to become a pathway to spiritual enlightenment or self-actualization. Eli Finkel, a psychology professor at Northwestern University, encourages couples to “recalibrate” their marital expectations for these existential needs.

Strengthen your Foundation

In our empirically-based theory, the Sound Relationship House, we describe what couples in the good-enough relationship do and have. These partners are good friends. They honor one another’s dreams, even if they’re different. They trust one another, and can manage conflict constructively. That means they can arrive at mutual understanding and get to compromises that work. And they can repair effectively when they hurt one another.

Expect that. You deserve it. It’s not unreasonable, and it’s achievable.

Research-based Resources

How can you know you’re in a happy relationship that’s both good for your health and everyone around you? Take this quiz and find out how well you know your partner.

The Gottman Relationship Adviser, the world’s first complete relationship wellness tool for couples, takes the guesswork out of improving your relationship. Measure your relationship health with a research-based self-assessment, then receive a tailored digital relationship plan proven to heal and strengthen your connection.

For an in-depth analysis of your relationship health check out the Gottman Assessment, a virtual relationship evaluation tool for couples.


Sign up for the Love Notes Newsletter and receive a free download

Get the latest on relationships, parenting, therapy and more from the experts at The Gottman Institute. Sign up now and receive a free monthly download.

Share this post:

World-renowned for his work on marital stability and divorce prediction, Dr. John Gottman has conducted 40 years of breakthrough research with thousands of couples. He is the author of over 200 published academic articles and author or co-author of more than 40 books, including The New York Times bestseller The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.

Recommended products

Gottman Relationship Adviser Product Image, two faces touching at the noses

Original price was: $250.00.Current price is: $179.00.

Our Best prices of the year on the Gottman Relationship Adviser. 

Celebrate Dads this month.

Sale Ends Soon!

The Gottman Relationship Adviser is a complete approach to relationship wellness. Measure your relationship health with the research-based Gottman Assessment, analyze five key areas of your partnership to identify your strengths and weaknesses, then start a tailored, step-by-step digital program proven to heal and strengthen your connection—all on your schedule and from anywhere.

The Adviser uses the legendary scientific Gottman Method to help you understand what’s really going on in your relationship—and gives you exactly what you need to improve it.

Original price was: $119.00.Current price is: $79.00.

Research-based Foundations for a Lifetime of Love.  The Gottman Relationship Coach is an inspiring and educational multimedia experience designed to enhance the well-being of relationships. Participants will be guided through research-based tools and communication skills that can transform relationships—all based on the popular Gottman Method. The first program, “How to Make Your Relationship Work”, is now available and includes:

  • The Gottman Method and How to Make Your Relationship Work
  • How do we predict the future of a relationship?
  • How to build a Sound Relationship House
  • What to do when the destructive Four Horsemen enter your relationship

“Buy Now” will take you to GOTTMAN CONNECT to purchase and view this product.

$599.00

Created by “the Einstein of Love” (Psychology Today), this two-day workshop is grounded on what actually works in relationships that are happy and stable. See for yourself why millions of couples worldwide have benefited from the Gottman Method.

Quote from participant in most recent Live Virtual Workshop:

The Art and Science of Love workshop- where do I begin? It was an absolute stellar workshop. We were looking forward to this for weeks, and it exceeded our expectations! It was well-structured, and well-organized, and provided a wealth of information with real-time demonstrations of how to work through specific scenarios. The outstanding support that was provided throughout the exercises with therapists on standby- WOW! Priceless!

Includes the Art & Science of Love box set.  Please allow time for shipping.  Please Note: This is a live online event. To attend, you will need a reliable internet connection. Our staff will reach out to you with your personal registration and access information.

$30.00

Improve your relationship in 30 days! Backed by over 50 years of research, the 30 Days to a Better Relationship challenge will help you reconnect with your partner and bring more positivity into your relationship. The tools and exercises, delivered once a day for 30 days by email, build on one another and take five minutes or less to complete.

 

Related posts

Authenticity in Relationships

Anna Aslanian

To create a close, intimate connection we need to be authentic in our relationship. However, this is easier said than done. ...

Read More

Couple not talking where one person is stonewalling.

What Is the Difference Between Stonewalling and Gaslighting?

Laura Silverstein

Read More

Couple using the power of touch to strengthen their relationship

Touch More, Touch Often 

Cheryl Fraser

How to strengthen fondness and admiration - without saying a thing ...

Read More

Couple having a romantic date.

Date Your Mate!

Cheryl Fraser

Why date night rejuvenates long term relationships - if you do it right. ...

Read More

Turning toward and emotional bank account

The Secret Ingredient to a Thriving Relationship: Turning Towards Each Other

Kyle Benson

Read More

Couple doing breathwork

Bridging Love and Breath

Beth Wylie

The Gottman Approach Enhanced by Breathwork in Couples Therapy ...

Read More

Subscribe to Gottman Love Notes

Sign up and start your relationship transformation. Subscribe and get the latest on relationships, therapy, and much more from the experts. Includes a free download and access to special pricing on Gottman products every month