We all enter a new relationship with high expectations. In the initial flurry of love and emotions, we tend to idealize our perfect prince or princess and overlook the flaws that everyone has. And why not? Why not enter a new relationship with the expectation that it will be amazing, or at the very least, better than the last one?
The problem is that no one is perfect, not even the most compatible partner (including you!). And if your initial expectations are unrealistic, over time your partner will inevitably fall short, and you will be disappointed. They will inevitably fail to live up to all of the visions of sugarplums dancing in your head.
I believe that the key to a long-lasting relationship is learning to accept your partner "With All Faults."
This is a term I stole from the real estate business (my day job). It's used to describe a situation in which a buyer agrees to purchase a property with all its defects. Similarly, when entering into a relationship we should all be aware that we are accepting our partner "With All Faults."
Again, all human beings on earth have faults, even the Dalai Lama, Mother Theresa, and, you and me! When you discover this shocking fact, you can either hide in a cave all by yourself, or learn to live with people who are faulty. I choose to live with people who, like me, have flaws.
I may get into trouble here (some consider that one of my faults is my willingness to be "too" outspoken), but I don't think that my wife is perfect. And she doesn't think that I am either.
And yet, here we are, a happy couple who have had more than thirty-five years of marriage in which to search out and destroy every single fault in one another. Not surprisingly, we have both failed in that mission. And at this point I'm going to bet that we will never succeed.
And that's why I embrace the Serenity Prayer (written by the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr). "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."
It's good to be idealistic, but high expectations are like the Titanic, destined to strike an ice burg and perhaps sink your entire relationship.
To enter into a relationship you need to be an optimist. To stay in and enjoy that relationship you need to be a realist. Keep your expectations of your partner a little lower than what you think is realistic, and you won't be disappointed.
Remember, no one is Princess or Prince Charming all of the time. Your relationship cannot always be perfect. But you can enjoy and celebrate the reality of each other for many long and happy years. This is as close to living a fairy tale as any of us should (realistically) expect.
Alan Fox is The New York Times–bestselling author of PEOPLE TOOLS, a series of self-help books that give powerful advice on building happy and meaningful relationships. He has shared his wisdom with national audiences including the Steve Harvey Show and The Meredith Vieira Show.