Dave and Lisa have never had a conversation regarding their relationship expectations. This came to a head when Lisa admitted she was disappointed in the way their relationship was going and was considering ending it. Dave was shocked and had no idea Lisa was so unhappy.
Relationship expectations make a difference and need to be discussed. When expectations are positive, it helps a relationship grow. When you don’t know what the expectations are, it causes problems. And when relationship expectations aren’t met, it leads to distress.
People have interesting approaches to deal with relationship expectations. Some, like John and Sue, never discuss them. Others think that if you expect little in a relationship, you become pleasantly surprised when an expectation is met. But studies show that people who have low relationship expectations tend to be treated poorly, but the reverse is also true.
Even if you have high expectations, they need to be reasonable. For example, do you expect your partner to understand you without ever having to explain yourself? While being understood is a good expectation, this is an example of a relationship expectation that needs to be adjusted and made more realistic. You can’t be understood if your feelings and needs aren’t communicated. You have to talk about how being understood will happen–usually that means communicating well. Thus, healthy communication is an expectation.
Here are a few relationship expectations to discuss in order to decide what is reasonable:
- How much time should your partner spend with friends versus you?
- Are your demands too high—name a few and get the reaction of the other person.
- Do you see conflict as a normal part of every relationship?
- How much do you compare your relationship to people you see on social media?
- Do you have to have the same interests? If not, is that an issue?
- What are expectations around your sexual relationship?
- How important is trust in the relationship?
- Do you expect to be loved unconditionally or are there strings attached to love?
- Do you expect the other person to fix all your wounds from childhood?
- Do you expect a relationship free from any type of abuse?
Discussing expectations like the ones above can prevent problems. And this type of discussion may make a difference as to whether or not you pursue a relationship or stay in one.
Once you put expectations on the table, you can decide if they are reasonable or up for negotiations. But if you never talk about them and they don’t get met, you can build anger and resentment towards the other person.
Most people in a loving relationship will do their best to meet reasonable expectations. The problem is not making those expectations known. So, verbalize your relationship expectations and see where you have agreement. On points of disagreement, talk about how your expectations formed and how your family handles differences. While these conversations can be difficult to have, working through differences can make or break your relationship health.