Going in with Unrealistic Expectations
1 John 1:8 (ESV): If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
When we go into a relationship, whether we admit it to ourselves or anyone else for that matter, we likely have the “perfect person” in mind and make a mental checklist of all the things this person must fill for us and must be for us. Or, sometimes we expect the person we are with to fit this criteria and change to fit all the things WE want until they are perfect in our mind.
One core aspect of relationships that I have learned is that you shouldn’t go in seeking your happiness from another person - that will ultimately end up in disappointment time and time again when this person doesn’t live up to the mental standard you have placed on them on how THEY are supposed to make YOU happy, and it starts you off on a rough road that may not end up with you two together.
You should already be happy with yourself at least to a certain extent and content with God. This is likely easier said than done for most, but an important starting point is to be complete on your own with God in all aspects of your life. Consider this: if you are unfaithful and don’t know Jesus, unhealthy physically and mentally, maybe jobless or not quite where you want to be financially to support a family, have addictions, etc. - the list could go on and on, but if you hide all of this and bring all of these problems to someone else and start a relationship with the goal of building a family, eventually everything will be uncovered and you’re going to have struggles that you may not make it through together.
Joshua 1:9 (ESV): Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Proverbs 17:22 (ESV): A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
Now, going back to this “perfect person.” Perhaps you expect them to look a certain way, act and talk a certain way, and like certain things and activities, smell a certain way all the time, dress a certain way, have a certain amount of money all the time, etc. Regardless, getting too deep into this aspect of what the perfect person is going to be for you often leads you to having unrealistic expectations. Now, this isn’t to say to set your expectations so low that ANYONE will do, just so long as you aren’t alone. That too is perhaps even more dangerous. The answer is somewhere in the middle.
Often, the reason the former is dangerous is because both people go out of their way to create this perceived perfect environment in fear that they won’t be accepted if the other person witnessed their “dark side”, while the latter can lead you to a dangerous place by accepting someone who is completely not good for you. Both cannot realistically be sustained for very long, and this is often why relationships ultimately fail - once reality “kicks in”, it is easy to assume that there is a problem in the relationship that can’t be fixed and one or both parties quickly lose interest and desire to move on to another person.
Then, some people are in love with being in love. Their definition of a perfect relationship is a consistent feeling of butterflies floating around in their stomach. We’ve likely all felt this - it is an instant rush of attraction that runs through your body when you look at someone. But, when those warm and fuzzy feelings subside and reality sets in, we often think the relationship is in danger or something is wrong.
We quickly move on to someone else, or leave that person, trying to recapture those lost feelings once again elsewhere. We can have these unrealistic expectations and not even realize it. A sign of this is a consistent claim that we haven’t found the “right person” when in actuality it is because they don’t exist according to our expectations preordained in our mind.
(Not) Learning from Past Relationships
Proverbs 26:11-12 (ESV): Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly. Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.
When you look back on all of your past relationships, is there a consistent issue with the people you’ve been with? If so, have you written that off as a problem with them and misunderstanding you? Did you ever stop and realize that you are the common denominator in each relationship and maybe what people have said about you is actually true?
One of the major reasons relationships fail is because we don’t take enough time to look at ourselves critically and do some self improvement. Now, I’m not talking about turning into a self-loathing person, but do some personal assessments of what these other people say about you, especially if you have been in multiple relationships over a span of years and they all said the same thing about you, then it is very likely true and something you need to work on and seek the Word for answers. It is a “tough pill to swallow”, so to speak, but necessary and will make you a better person and better partner for someone else. How can you expect to find your soul-mate if you have a laundry list of legit issues?
When the relationship fail we are quick to blame the other person and think that once we finally find “the right one” we will be happy and everything will work out perfectly instead of processing what happened and assessing ourselves as well and how we might have a played a large part in the failing relationship. In other words, we should focus on how to “be the right person” for someone else and take action towards that, and get out of the mindset of “this is me! Take it or leave it!”
Unresolved Issues from Our Past
Ephesians 4:31-32 (ESV): Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
This goes hand in hand with the prior point - we all have issues from our past, and when we examine our relationship history and see these issues come up over and over, we need to address them instead of avoid them. They aren’t just going to disappear. We may have a myriad of issues, but here are some very common ones that most people deal with in general:
Maybe you grew up in a broken home, and didn’t get the complete love of both parents. Or maybe one passed away at a young age. Or maybe they divorced. Maybe you never knew either of your parents and they aren’t in your life or gave you up for adoption, or for some other reason. The point is, our relationship, or lack thereof, to one or both of our parents significantly impacts our relationships whether we think so or not. It shapes your personality and outlook on the world completely if you let it control you rather than focus on God and knowing Jesus. It can give you a false perception that everyone is always going to desert you, not love you, or hurt you like your parents did, if that’s what happened. If our parents were controlling, abusive or emotionally unavailable, these unresolved issues will hurt our relationships and friendships.
Perhaps you get bored fast and have trouble staying faithful to someone. This essentially is an inability to truly love someone, and a sign of commitment phobia. You may often think you are “missing out” and need to get some attention from someone better, perhaps “just to see…”. Often this person also thinks the whole point of a relationship is their personal happiness, but this is a selfish behavior and character issue within a person that doesn’t see a relationship as 50/50.
Low Self-Esteem and Attitude
Having a low self-esteem can make you very insecure resulting in an lack of trust that goes both ways. You may have trouble trusting other people, and they surely will have trouble trusting you if you don’t even believe in yourself. You may view others with suspicion constantly. In your mind, they are guilty until proven innocent. Instead of looking for the good, you always focus on the bad. No matter how much praise you get, it is never enough to convince you of your God-given worth. This needs to be addressed. This goes hand in hand with your attitude - simply put, there’s an attitude adjustment that needs to happen within you. Have you ever been called negative, critical, spoiled, a complainer, or said to possess an abrasive attitude? It probably sucked to hear it, correct? And it’s actually become such a large part of your personality that you’ve accepted it, but it ultimately pushes everyone around you away. If this sounds shockingly familiar, you need to assess this and fix it.
If you have an addiction such as alcohol or drugs, these addictions can take over a relationship and cause serious problems. Sadly, we often refuse to address them and get help so they continue to destroy what could be great relationships because these addictions become priority - everything else truly is 2nd. You might think, “it’s just pornography”, “it’s just a bottle a night”, “it’s just weed” (if not legal or prescribed where you live), etc… The list can go on and on, but the point is any addiction that takes precedent over your life and other aspects will control said aspects. In a sense, the addiction becomes “god of your life”. Everything else will always come last. How can you expect to have a truly great relationship with someone if you can’t even put God first in your life? Or even them ahead of your addictions?
We Continue to Settle
We likely all have done this once or twice before - we “settle” for someone knowing that we truly don’t like the person or should be seeking someone “on our level”, so to speak, but fear being alone and just need to be with someone for attention and otherwise.
We ignore all of the warnings that our friends, parents and the Holy Spirit reveal to us. We ignore our “gut feeling” and blindly go in seeking personal happiness.
We think we can overcome them and the potential faults others told you about. We think we can change them and make them better.
We stay in relationships without commitment although we desire that very thing. We settle for someone who looks great on paper but we have no real chemistry with and ignore the glaring issues. Why? Many people are not happy alone and feel the need to be in a relationship to feel good about themselves. Unfortunately, this leads to settling to be with someone who we often times know we shouldn’t be with, but in their mind, being with the wrong person is better than being alone.
Starting on a Bad Foundation
Quite simply, if you don’t start with God and start with the commands of Jesus from the Word, you’re going to have a rough road, whether you are a Christian or not. This is a very broad statement, but whether you know the Lord or not, whether you accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior or not, if you don’t live by His command and seek Him (which includes being a good person and addressing all the prior issues we discussed Biblically and personally), then you are going to have a rough time and might not make it through, or you may live a miserable life compared to what you could have if you follow Jesus.
I don’t know how to say it any other way. Whether you are a Believer now or not, just know this - Jesus works. If I had known how much it just works - declaring Him as my Lord and Savior, and truly studying the Word and becoming a student of the Word so that I could more fully correlate it to my life and happenings around me and the world - I would have done it decades ago instead of just several years ago.
I look at my life before I did that, and now several years later, and honestly, I’ve kept doing the same thing, working hard and being the same person, except for that one change that I made to follow Jesus closely, study the Word, and truly accept Him as my Lord and Savior and apply His commands to my life, made everything is magnitudes better. I’ve witnessed prayer work in my life and others with no other action taken. But I didn’t stop there. I truly became and still strive to be a better student of the Word. I really can’t explain it better than that.
If you wonder why your relationships keep failing and you find yourself on this relationship cycle I discussed, I pray that you will consider the things I have written here and take a serious look at yourself so you can make the changes that are necessary for healthy relationships. For many, maybe for all, as it was for me, that one change was following Jesus, as His commands cover every aspect of life. And I don’t mean just saying, “I follow Jesus now.” and go on making the same mistakes - you must truly study the Word and live by His command, and claim Him as your Lord and Savior. His commands in the Word are a way of life - the correct way, and actual literal methods if you take the time to read the Word.