Great Expectations

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But in our everyday relationships, expectations tend to be more resilient. We seem to be programmed to believe we will have above average children and relationships that are superior to most other people’s. But do high expectations doom us to disappointment?

Let’s start with expectations for our children. I don’t have great expectations for mine other than that they grow up happy and independent. So why do I push books down their necks and fret about how to enrich their lives when they’d rather watch the Simpsons?  If a legion of children is suffering from trying to fulfil their parents’ expectations (tutor, followed by piano lessons and karate), there are many whose families are unable to hold positive expectations for them and who may suffer more.
Among the casualties of modern life blamed on unrealistic expectations is marriage. The worst-case scenario says that a third to a half of all marriages end in divorce. Why don’t people realise that it’s not all sex on tap, raising perfect children and sailing into retirement on a cruise liner? Yet perpetuating the line that you are what you expect, research shows that if you expect it to be great, it’s more likely to be.

It’s okay to have high expectations for a relationship if they’re achievable and you’re prepared to behave in a way that can achieve them. If you think that most couples always agree, spend most of their free time together and have perfect sex, you’ll probably be disappointed. But if you believe your partner will agree with you on the important things in life, make time for you especially when you need it and still have sex after five years together — all positive expectations — you’re more likely to be satisfied. Positive expectations help romantic relationships succeed. We can save negative expectations for global affairs.

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