Have you ever done something that you thought was the right or the proper thing to do, but the other person took it the wrong way or reacted differently than you expected? Has this made you feel angry, sad, frustrated or dissapointed?
In any relationship, managing and understanding expectations is important to success. In a romantic relationship, and especially in marriage, understanding your partner’s expectations is a must, and will allow you to have a better and stronger relationship.
What can these expectations look like in a relationship? You may expect your partner to help at home, help with kids, spend in a certain way, do something for you or support you in specific ways. Remember, in a relationship, both individuals are different and come from different backgrounds, so it is natural for our expectations to be different. By discussing these expectations, you allow the gap to close and your behaviors and views to align.
When do expectations cause problems in a relationship? When we don’t speak about them or spend time defining common goals and views. If we don’t understand what the other person is expecting, we may suffer as a result, by getting frustrated or letting it negatively impact our relationship.
There are two types of expectations that impact a relationship:
- Unrealistic Expectations: when we expect someone to do something they do not like or act differently from who they are. These types of expectation usually lead to feelings of frustration and disappointment.
- Conscientious Expectations: when both partners agree with expectations and demonstrate this through behaviors and actions. These kinds of expectations are healthy and positive and typically don’t lead to frustration; instead, they show mutual understanding and empathy between the partners.
We know that marriage is not perfect; however, having reasonable expectations will certainly help to build a stronger foundation for a happier marriage. We know our partner cannot attend to our every need, so balancing expectations is the key. Relationships are a two-way street where we need to give and receive.
We also need to remember that men and women are different and therefore will have different expectations for a relationship. We need to be conscious and accept this in order to be successful. For example, what are some of men’s traditional expectations in a married relationship? These can be frequent and passionate intimacy, freedom for personal time, personal security, strengthened self‑esteem, and feeling appreciated. On the other side, women’s expectations might be more related to attention, tenderness, signs of love, and open communication.
Mismanaged expectations may lead to failure in a relationship. This is when you think that your partner is responsible for achieving your dreams and your sense of fulfillment. No one can be responsible for the other person’s happiness.
As always, communication is the key for any solid relationship; sharing and agreeing on expectations should be the base.
How can you avoid negative consequences of expectations in a relationship?
- Be more flexible. Don’t try to find someone who is 100% perfect; allow the other person to be fully him/herself.
- Explain what is non-negotiable. Ensure your partner knows what is essential for you and ask him/her to support you.
- Ask your partner what his/her limits are. You need to know what your partner’s boundaries are and you need to know what is important to him/her.
Another key factor that affects a couple’s expectations is the social ideal. We can’t expect that our life is going to be what we see in movies or on TV and we should not assume that life is like what is shown on social media. All couples and people can be struggling and will choose not to show it publicly.
A couple without expectations is set up for failure as they don’t have a common denominator, a common project, or common sense of self. In these cases, individuals will feel isolated and will distance themselves from each other. We all need intimacy, love, and closeness.
As we deal with expectations, we might try to exchange expectations for preferences. An expectation is something we need from our partner in order to feel safe, happy, and fulfilled. A preference is something we want from our partner, but do not need it so desperately that our happiness will depend on it. Choose those expectations that you consider most realistic and try to express them in the form of preferences.
Our marriage and relationships can be more fruitful if we work on and manage our expectations.
Genaro Poulat was born into a Catholic family in Mexico City where he lived for the early part of his life. He lives now in Key Biscayne, Florida with his wife Martha, to whom he has been married for 26 years. He has been blessed and fortunate to have 4 kids: Genaro, Daniela, Bernardo and Andres. Over the past 26 years he has lived in Edinburgh, Mexico, New York, Panama and Florida.
Genaro is an International Banker and he has worked in the sector for 28 years. Over the past five years, together with his wife Martha, he has been dedicated to supporting married couples and helping them to get closer to God. Genaro is an active volunteer in his Church and supports many ministries.