By Jaime Jo Wright, Crosswalk.com
It is no surprise that many of us long for deep, meaningful relationships that are infused with romance and long-lasting commitment. It’s inevitable that, if this is a desire of our hearts, we will be laser-focused on this achievement.
From eyeing the cashier at the local Target wondering whether he is the one, to catching a butterfly moment of excitement when a new, single gal shows up at church, so much of life can become filtered through the hopes and dreams of the heart.
Romantic relationships come with many expectations, some of which are valuable and reasonable. Companionship is a major one, as is commitment. We look forward to no longer experiencing loneliness, and we also dream of the day when we can say “this is my person” with authority.
But what are some unreasonable expectations? You know the type. The ones that sneak their way into a romantic relationship, seemingly good-intentioned and even common sense?
But then they end up contributing toxicity, disappointment, discouragement, and sometimes even lend toward the termination of something that was really, really good.
Let’s look at a few unrealistic expectations and how to avoid them.
1. A Romantic Relationship Can’t Give You Fulfillment
At the outset, we’re likely rolling our eyes already as this is sort of a “no duh” disclaimer. But take a moment and analyze your hopes in a romantic relationship. Remember the other night when you went home and felt that pit of “what am I doing with my life” in your stomach?
Or maybe, you were laying in bed staring at the ceiling and were considering how, if you only had a romantic relationship, you would not be dreading tomorrow. That special someone would fill that purposeless void in you, and you could face the future with hope and anticipation. Maybe your ultimate dream in life is a relationship, a family, and if you only have that then you can envision your purpose. Purpose. We want purpose in life.
The world infuses purpose into the image of romantic relationships so much so, that without a relationship, life can seem aimless. This starts at young age. Remember middle school or high school? You were not much if you didn’t have a significant other? It gave you purpose—or extra purpose.
Fact check yourself. A romantic relationship will not provide lasting fulfillment. Why? Simply stated, that is a lot of responsibility to place on the shoulders of a very fallible person. And we all know the list: they will disappoint you, they’ll let you down, they’ll fail, etc. Still. Think about it. Fulfillment in a person is a gaping void that no one can fill. It is a relationship poison if you believe that it will fulfill.
God asks us to “seek him with all our hearts” and He promises that we will find Him. This is a bigger promise than any one person is capable of giving. We tend to have an imbalance in our romantic relationships. We tend to seek the other person with all our hearts.
nd that is understandable to a degree! The other person is tangible. Bluntly put, God is not. Yet, God is the only fillable option for that pit and void we entertain on a daily basis.
Without 100% laser focus on our relationship with the Lord, we then risk a high probability of romantic relationship sabotage as we put god-like expectations on a fallible human.
2. A Romantic Relationship Can’t Give You Satisfaction
How is this different than fulfillment? Satisfaction is being completely happy with a situation, person, place, or thing. It is contentment. It is not just finding purpose (which is fulfillment), but it’s finding that sense of inner peace when you look across the room at your special person and go... they’re fully and utterly satisfying to me as they are.
Okay, sure, you will have your moments. When my boyfriend gave me the choice between a rom-com or a violent kill everyone movie on our date to the theatre, I was very satisfied in my choice of a man when he did not balk at all about my rom-com choice. I was also very satisfied when he showed up to my Bible study at church with a well-worn Bible, and not just talked, but walked his faith.
Satisfaction can come in varying degrees. But a romantic relationship will not bring you ultimate satisfaction. Satisfaction will be fleeting and sometimes, downright borderline extinct in a romantic relationship.
What you once thought was strength or confidence, may later impose itself on you as them being finicky, or outspoken, or cocky.
What you once thought was kindness and gentleness, may later reveal itself to be more timidity, or reticence, or maybe even over-sensitivity.
And these are not deal-breaker traits in a relationship. But they can be when you’re expecting to be satisfied by the other person.
3. A Romantic Relationship Can’t Give You Love
Wait. Say again? Okay. A romantic relationship can’t give you love.
The definition of the word “romance” is: a feeling of excitement and mystery associated with love.
Romance is a feeling. It is associated with love, but it isn’t love.
Think on that for a bit. We spend a lot of focus and energy on finding romantic love. A feeling. Chasing after something we associate with as love but isn’t. This is why romance can die, and when it does, two people are left staring at each other wondering how on earth they landed here.
Love is: unselfish, loyal, and benevolent concern for the good of another.
Let that sink in. Love is loyalty and concern for the other person. It does not define your feelings. It defines your actions.
A romantic relationship can certainly lead to love. But it does not guarantee that true love will evolve. A romantic relationship can feel good, but it is deceptive if you put on it, the emphasis of long-lasting love.
4. A Romantic Relationship Can’t Give You Redemption
I know this one sounds strange but stay with me.
Have you investigated your past and wished that something better would happen? That something good would come to be and it would salvage your life from the wounds, scars, fears, and disappointments of the past?
Do you have regrets? Regrets from past relationships? Sometimes we hope a new one will be the chance we needed to start over. To try again. Someone new will wipe our slate clean. Romance will redefine itself with success this time, not failure.
When was the last time you looked at your significant other and knew—just knew—they would save you? Do not answer too fast. It might sound silly but analyze your expectations. I dare to argue that all too often, we do look at our relationships as a savior of sorts. A mode with which to redefine ourselves.
We have only one Savior.
This is such a key element to successfully navigating a romantic relationship without bottoming out your romance-vehicle in a pothole of horrific pressure.
A romantic relationship is not a fresh start and a redemption of your past. They cannot erase the scars and wounds. You will carry those into your new relationship, not erase them. A romantic relationship will not redeem the lack of a father in your life or erase the absence of your mom. A new relationship will not prove to you that abandonment can be erased. A romantic relationship cannot heal.
Remember, a relationship can be a tool God uses to bring about healing, but it isn’t the healing agent. He is.
As you examine your expectations for a romantic relationship, as much of a downer as it can be, it is important—I’d argue, critical—to clearly understand what it will not do for you. Unrealistic expectations are a major kill factor to a relationship. They build animosity, they breed resentment, they grow complaints, and they make the small, petty things become large, happiness-inhibitors.
Stop anticipating romance to cure your needs. Stop anticipating a relationship to be your answer.
When you can redirect your dependance for fulfillment, satisfaction, love, and redemption onto Jesus, you will discover an entirely new set of relationship can-do’s in a romance.
A romance can emphasize what Jesus is already doing in your life. A romance can support and even urge growth in your faith. A romance can become a treasure, a gift, while not a resolution to life.
A romantic relationship can be the culmination of a lifelong dream and can lend toward companionship.
Romantic relationships are exciting. They are burgeoning new steps toward a different, potentially exciting life. Be cautious you don’t sabotage this gift by wanting the relationship to perform in ways it was never intended to in the first place.
Fix your eyes on Jesus. Let the rest fall into place.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Deagreez
Jaime Jo Wright is the winner of the Christy, Carol, Daphne du Maurier, and INSPY Awards. She's also the Publishers Weekly and ECPA bestselling author of three novellas. Jaime works as a human resources director in Wisconsin, where she lives with her husband and two children.