An expectation is hoping for something which may or may not happen. In an intimate relationship, having unmet expectations leads to disappointment, unmet needs and growing resentment over what your partner may not even realize is important to you.
We all have narratives built around our hopes and possibilities for an ideal life. This keeps us focused on the standards we want to live up to. In relationship however, your standards may not be clear to your partner unless they are expressed with clarity, in a way that will be received and acted upon.
Failing to Meet Romantic Expectations
In the past, marital expectations were simple. A husband placed a roof, food, safety and authority, among other things, into his wife’s existence. A woman was taught that a man’s presence solidified hers. She understood her place in relation to his benevolence towards her.
Now, more women are able to provide for the entirety of domestic welfare. Men have taken on more companionate behaviors towards their wives. It’s created a deep emotional exchange. There’s an expectation for men particularly to consistently cultivate romantic overtures and experiences.
As romantic love has grown, so too have expectations beyond marital duty. Here in lies the dilemma. Modernization has opened up time and space to do more. People everywhere embrace the be-all nature of modern marriage and the ability of a spouse to fulfill all needs. Unfortunately, partners have consistently failed in their multiple roles of friend, lover, and advisor. It’s overwhelming for one person to be all that.
So how can you find the right balance, to have a healthy relationship and foster achievable expectations?
- Don’t set silent expectations, let go of ambiguity and communicate clearly
While some men struggle to decipher meaning from their wives rhetoric (yes, she really doesn’t want you to answer sometimes), women still have a hard time communicating their needs directly. It’s harder still to command that certain things go their way.
It seems easy to do but being vulnerable enough to speak your truth with the person you love is a learned habit. It needs to be cultivated and given room to grow by both of you; by yourself as the custodian of the message and by his welcoming of the message. However for the relationship to thrive, it’s essential to build the environment for open communication.
Teach him about yourself. Be clear about what you like, what makes you happy and what makes you sad. It might sound too simplistic, but men just like women are not mind readers, they need guidance and like communication packaged in clear and constructive terms.
Say if you want to be taken go on regular dates, ask for it. If you would like little surprise presents from time to time, buy him a couple first, and then encourage his reciprocation. He’ll get the point in time. When you expect patterns of young love to continue when the going gets tough, you are more likely to get disappointed if he settles into a rut that expunges all romance. So to avoid this, just ask.
You might wonder if the only time he does anything romantic is when you request it. Try asking yourself these two questions.
“Is this something I can’t live without? Is it a deal breaker?” If it is, then you need to let him know how vital the gesture is for your happiness. Explain how his effort in that area will show his concern and love for you.
“Do I want him to initiate the action or do I want to be happy?” If I want to be happy then there’s no harm, even if he takes long to get the hint, in asking for it myself. Waiting may reinforce the disappointment and sadness.
- Create mutual relationship goals
As individuals, you have your own desires for personal growth, health, wellness and a fulfilling life. As a couple, create mutually uplifting goals and expectations for treating each other well, giving reverence to the spaces you share and show love in. Without setting high standards for how you will interact, you inadvertently open up to unkind words and actions, possible abuse or even disregard for the sanctity of the relationship.
Consistency builds trust and agreeing on a set of values to guide the relationship fosters peace of mind plus a commitment to one another. It’s a commitment to the happiness, friendship and intimacy required for the long term health of the partnership.
Make it clear that you mutually expect to be treated in a certain achievable way and remind one another when you slide back. Relationship fires need to be stoked every so often.
- Be realistic
You are not your partner. It’s unrealistic to expect him to fully grasp the intense pains you went through as a child and even more so for him to be able to heal them. He can give a listening and empathetic ear but it’s up to you to go through the emotional processes in your healing journey.
You have your own career and self-actualization goals, and only you can achieve them. If you feel he is not supporting your personal dreams, speak to him openly about how that makes you feel but even so, look at the reasons why you feel the need for him to overtly show support. You may need to make peace with your dreams in order for him to make peace with them too.
There will be some intense disagreements and some which may last a lifetime. Expecting that you’ll fix things as soon as they happen or entirely may be a burden you need to let go off. Accept that sometimes things just don’t work out, but it will be good to set a precedence on full circle conflict resolution. Cut each other some slack when a problem is not fully resolved.
Ultimately, expectations serve the purpose of keeping you on track with the elements needed to maintain a healthy relationship. Granted too many high reaching expectations lead to disappointment, so discerning which will benefit the relationship will be key to peace of mind.