We all deserve to find people who connect with us, who care for us, who make us laugh, who drive us crazy (in a good way), and who make us feel more excited than a popcorn kernel in a microwave.
Of course, we should all strive for all five qualities, not settle for two or three of the total. That said, many of us have unfair expectations of what relationships are supposed to be like.
Blame it on the movies, or romance novels, or Barbie-and-Ken mythology, but seeking perfection in a relationship isn't noble; it's doomed. Think about the lottery winners: They play with the hope that they'll score big, quit the job, buy a yacht, and party for the rest of their lives.
But the reality for so many mega-bucks winners is that they end up in a dead-end life with relatives clawing at them and bankruptcy lawyers dividing the spoils. Why? Because their expectations of their fantasy life were far different than the reality, and they end up blowing the so-called best thing that ever happened to them.
Same goes for relationships. You may hit lucky sevens with a perfect match, but if you don't manage the fantasy with a dose of reality, your heart will be headed for bankruptcy.
Below, you'll find four key fantasy vs. reality clashes. Make sure you end up on the right side
Expectation: The Fireworks of Romance
Reality: The Fireworks of Conflict
Sure, when sparks fly in a beginning of relationship, you've got oodles of chemistry, hopes, and anticipation. But to think that every day is going to be a barrel of butter-cream icing is just asking for trouble.
If you're experiencing a lot of passion, you need to manage the 180-degree side of that passion-hard-core conflict. While some see conflict as relationship weakness, it can actually be the opposite - a Harvard study, in fact, found that subjects who express their anger have half the risk of heart disease compared with men who internalize it.
It's a sign that you're communicating, a sign that you both care about the relationship, and a sign that you've got sparks, not complacency.
Expectation: The Perfect Package
Reality: Imperfect Behavior
When two people meet "the one," they tell all their friends about all the qualities of the new-found lover: Cute, friendly, compassionate, funny, good job, nice shoes, gorgeous body. In other words, poifect!
Yeah, right, your friends think, and they're probably right. Okay, your new love interest seems to fit 97 of your 100 pieces of criteria for the perfect mate - after the second date. But again, that level of expectation can be an unfair standard that your imperfect companion will never be able to live up to as weeks, months, and years pass.
Better to admire and appreciate the things that made you swoon. Then, it's up to you to manage the warts and worries (in personality, behavior, hygiene, whatever) that will slowly be introduced the more you get to know them.
Expectation: Wild Nights, Sleepy Days
Reality: Wild Days, Sleepy Nights
The joys of dating: Party all night, then lounge around during the day in anticipation of the night ahead. Of course, the initial excitement - about an impending date on the town or a friendly tussle in the bedroom - is one of the main engines that drives the relationship early on.
That power source will wind down a bit once commitment sets in and routine takes over. Fight the impulse to pull away when you start to feel this relationship shift; spending time with a romantic partner can curb work-related stress and lower blood pressure, according to researchers at the University of North Carolina.
The most successful couples are the ones who are able to adapt to the fact that crazy work days, the stress of life, and the daily grind of reality will become a stronger force than all-night talks under the stars.
Expectation: Complete Immersion
Reality: Occasional Diversion
When you start dating someone who drives you to Jack Nicholson levels of craziness, you want total saturation. You want to talk on the phone, you want an inbox full of flirty messages, you want five nights a week of dates, you can't stop thinking about them, and everything you say, do, smell, touch, or eat reminds you of that person.
If that's you, I'm happy for you. That kind of all-consuming infatuation is one of the greatest feelings in life. But it just can't last. And - truth to tell - men may maintain an interest in the NFL, and want to watch a game or two with buds.
Or women may decide that, heck, those end-of-season sales just can't go on without them. Many couples write off those feelings as evidence that they must be falling out of love. I don't see it that way. I see it as falling into reality, and successful couples know how to change their definition of immersion.
In fact, University of Chicago researchers found that those with a wide circle of friends have an easier time dealing with stress and have a lower risk of heart disease than people who rely on only one or two others for support. That is, they don't see immersion as being based on quantity of time together, but rather immersing themselves in each other in whatever time they have-whether it's a lot or not.
For a great look at this process of making real lives work with real love, check out this article, "How to Find Your Way Home," and show it to the man in your life.
Have other ideas for keeping our love life revving-but not too high - sound off here.