I don't think expectations should necessarily be "lowered" but maybe thought through with more care.
I like this. It involves thinking about whether they're realistic, or what is realistic, and where the expectations even come from.
I think a lot of my expectations come from my parents, from Disney (I'll explain that in a minute), and from my interactions with my parents and how things get twisted. I grew up with my godmother buying a ton of Disney films, most of which have the "warm and happy ending between two perfect people" etc etc. Some of the things she said and the way she saw her friends' marriages seemed to imply she thought that would happen to me too, because she said I was "beautiful" and compared herself unfavorably. It made me very uncomfortable. Shouldn't everyone have a happy ending? I thought. Somehow (still trying to figure out how), I'd thought that if not everyone got a happy ending, that it was unfair, that my godmother deserved one too, that I didn't like her emphasis on "do you know how beautiful you are?" When she ran her hands down my body when I was sixteen, it got worse. I began to hate being "beautiful" (according to her), and then some of my male friends confirmed that, by their standards, I wasn't anything noteworthy - I was the girl to talk to about other girls, not the one they wanted. That should have been a relief; maybe it meant she was wrong and I didn't have to live up to her expectations, maybe she would stop calling me beautiful. But I let myself adopt two very extreme perspectives: for the guys, I was sub-normal, and I really wanted to be "beautiful" so that I would feel "clean" and "normal" and not violated anymore. For predators like my godmother and others, I was "pretty" - so I "owed" them for their kindness - I hated them, and I was only allowed to stand up so far for myself. I began wanting validation from guys because I thought it would take away from some of the shame of my godmother and what she did. I felt and still feel deep disgust around being my gender. I'd love to be genderless! But I developed the hole during my teenage years by feeling like if I could be right for a guy to acknowledge me as a worthy lover, then it would mean I did what I was supposed to and my godmother would consider me "graduated" (of course, it doesn't work that way on either accounts - no such thing as a happy ending, and no such thing as a predator who lets you go. Stable reality and change are not dramatic - they're slow and steady and CONSISTENT). And that if the guys kept seeing me as sub-normal, then it would keep me in the dungeon with my godmother where I belonged, and maybe I was really her, because I repulsed people.
So because I had not changed the hole I'd been creating, I was perfect for my H when he came along (I'm still struggling with LETTING GO of a certain kind of validation from him). He could get away with saying and doing hurtful things because I wasn't strong enough to walk away. So he began to confirm for me that I was ugly, unworthy, sub-normal as a lover, by comparisons to past lovers, passing chicks, and OWs. I felt like I was the gross one. And when I cheated, that was what I was looking for from the OM - confirmation that abuse was what I deserved. I chose my physically, sexually, psychologically, and economically abusive ex. I was trying to make the hole bigger. Why would I do that? Did falling in the hole make me feel like suddenly I'd be invisible to my godmother's violations of my boundaries? Because the abuse from OM would be worse? Take my mind off all the other ways I was unworthy and just sink right to the bottom. No more expectations. Still wrapping my head around it. Trying to go to rock bottom was a very selfish way of trying to take a vacation.
Or maybe, with the extremes, there were two holes. That means double the work. Make black-and-white thinking into more reasonable shades of grey.
The hole is widened by bad habits. It has to be. If we repeat the mantras in our heads that validate the hole, whether the message is good or bad, then we add to the infection. That's why reality-testing is so important.
Reality: LOOKS DON'T MATTER. Do not validate either beauty or ugliness - both because it's unsafe to do so, and because they really don't matter. LOOKS DON'T MATTER.
Reality: MARRIED MEANS MARRIED. Among many parameters, the big ones are: you are to be faithful to the person you are in a relationship with, and you must treat that person as respectfully as possible. That's it. That's the core. Every other expectation, going either way, must be thought over more carefully.
Reality: ABUSE IS WRONG, AND I AM NOT MY GODMOTHER. I do not ever have to say yes or OK or I'm sorry. I can say no. That is a boundary. It is WRONG for her to overstep that boundary. No apology is needed for having a boundary that says no to abuse. My door has a "Do Not Disturb" sign on it for a reason!
Reality: I DO NOT NEED VALIDATION. I need a roadmap. Just an indicator that I am in the ballpark of 'healthy'. I might need to reality-test it until I'm sure we're safely there and can remember how to stay there. There are times when walls are useful.
Reality: Sometimes sleeping on it really helps. Clarity can come with actual rest and refresh.
I don't look for more from anyone than has already been shown.
That is so wise. Accepting people as they are, as part of reality.
The only exception to that is myself---I don't think I'll ever stop requiring a strive toward excellence from myself.