Even though I am a couples counselor in Long Island, I also work with singles on what I call “individual” relationship counseling. This is counseling with individuals who are single, those in a couple that are having their own individual struggles from within their relationships, and those that are going through a divorce. Our goals are to overcome challenges at these stages and to transition successfully into the next phase.
In the past, we talked about how realistic expectations are important for appreciating and building upon your relationship. But what if you’re single? Realistic expectations may also help you find a successful relationship as well.
Be Careful of Lists
It’s not uncommon for those that are single by choice to stay single because they have developed something that is dangerous to finding a healthy relationship: long lists of requirements that they’re expecting a potential mate to meet before they’d even consider starting a relationship with them.
There’s nothing wrong with having core needs. But creating a list of expectations is not only unfair to potential mates – it’s also unfair to yourself:
- Assumptions About Your Needs – While you may feel like you know yourself (and perhaps you do), many people make assumptions about who and what they need that may not be exactly true to their personality. You may assume you need specific qualities and traits, when in reality there are other complementary traits out there that would work great with who you are.
- It Assumes All Or Nothing – Let’s say you have a list, and on the list you’re looking for someone that is confident, owns a home, and has brown hair. You meet someone that is very confident, owns an amazing home, AND makes you laugh – but they have black hair. Are they disqualified? While a person’s mental list of expectations may not be so specific, often lists exclude people that are actually an excellent fit.
- Looking For Disqualifications – When you have a mental list of needs, it causes you not to focus on what you appreciate, but to focus on whether or not they meet each and every need. You start to look not at their good qualities, but for their “bad ones,” because you’re rarely checking off all the great things that they provide – you’re looking for what they don’t provide.
- It’s Selfish – You find someone that is funny, interesting, fun, attractive, and you’ve developed a great connection with them. But you find out that they’re missing something that you had on your list – for example, “a good cook.” Now they are no longer perfect to you. But why do they have to be a great cook to be perfect? What makes you deserve a great cook? What makes them imperfect simply because they don’t provide something you came up with on your list?
Now, none of this is to say that you don’t have needs. It simply means that there is a difference between high expectations and reality. Rarely does someone need to have any single, specific trait. It’s about how you complement each other, how you connect, and more – all experiences that don’t fit in any specific list, but are things you learn about your partner over time.
For those that have found themselves single for a long time, it may be time to ask yourself if you have created these unrealistic expectations and lists that may be holding you back from a real, fulfilling relationship.