Whether you realize it or not, everyone in life has expectations from their relationships…it’s normal to want something from the people in our lives. It’s also healthy to be in reciprocal relationships of give and take. But our expectations can often be way out of whack when it comes to our partners. For example, some people believe that their mates should be romantic and selfless at all times. Or we may expect that our mate will always be strong, being there for us each time when we need them to be. When this doesn’t happen, we can think that our lovers have failed us. If we deem that our expectations are the rule book for the way other people should live their lives, we are then quite astounded and angry when our expectations are not met.
In a mature relationship, there is a balance between what you expect and what your partner can realistically deliver for you.
The critical point is to know what realistic expectations are. First off we need to determine what realistic expectations really are and what we want and need from each other. For expectations to be sensible they must be founded in reality. Can my wife give me some of her time right now, or is she too busy? Why do I need my husband to tell me he loves me so often? The more we fantasize about how others “should” be in order to soothe our personal insecurities, the more we will expect of them and the more disappointed we will inevitably feel.
Here’s what unrealistic expectations may look like:
- If you really loved me, you would make love to me every night.
- You should know what I want before I do.
- You should always know what to do to make me happy.
- If you loved me, you would buy me expensive presents.
Here’s what realistic expectations look like:
- I expect that my partner and I will have a healthy sex life where we receive mutual satisfaction and also make compromises around our sexual desires.
- I understand that my partner can’t read my mind or know my needs. Instead I expect her to listen when I tell her what I want.
- I don’t expect my partner to be the sole reason for my happiness.
- I expect my partner to remember birthdays and anniversaries with a thoughtful gift that does not have to break the bank.
So, what happens if you both have expectations that do fall in the realistic category but one or both of you isn’t fulfilling these expectations for the other? That’s when it’s time for a deeper heart-to-heart conversation about what is truly enough for both of you to get your needs met. Here are some suggestions of how to talk about expectations you’d like from each other where both people can feel like it’s a win-win situation:
Expectations need to be replaced with core values that both of you can agree to. If couples can talk about what is essential and important for a loving relationship and then bring these values into the reality of everyday life then they can work for both people. There has to be an acceptance that as values they are not always possible to be implemented but the direction toward them is what you strive for. Something like: We both want to feel accepted for who we are while allowing for the wants and needs of the other and doing the best we can to respond to those needs and wants. Both of us want fairness, equality, harmony, compassion and understanding about differences and similarities while being accountable for both. It is about the effort we make to do those things that are important to our mate that matters most. In all things there needs to be room for glitches, foibles and flaws. There is no perfect system.
Alienation is unavoidable because no two people can be connected all the time. If we use this knowledge to create realistic expectations, we will not overreact when we experience the inevitable loss of connection. Learning to consciously and thoughtfully create connections based on an intrinsic grasp of what’s realistic allows us the freedom to experiment with different and unique relationship ideas. To play and venture into new worlds with each other gives rise to innovation and rebirth, which brings us from distance to intimacy and from frustration to contentment.