Relationships, in their most simplistic form, are merely a series of expectations. Problems occur when two different sets of expectations collide or when expectations change within the relationship. Maybe you always dreamed of being in a marriage where weekends were spent traveling and exploring new places. Meanwhile, your spouse’s idea of a good weekend consists of cuddling on the couch with a couple bowls of ice cream.
Although differences like this may seem insignificant, without communication of expectations, they can snowball into larger problems within the relationship. To begin opening the pathways of communication on expectations, reflect on the following questions.
- What do I want that I am not getting?
- What am I getting that I don’t want?
- What am I giving that I don’t want to give?
- What would I like to give?
- What am I getting that I do want?
- What can’t I offer that my partner expects?
- What expectation is most important to me to uphold?
By taking the time to understand which expectations are being met and which are not, you and your partner can better clarify what you each want to put into the relationship and to get out of it. Make each item as honest and precise as possible.
If you want to express that you are currently getting suggestions for solutions to problems instead of an empathic listener, explain to your partner exactly what your expectation is. Likewise, if your partner requests more space immediately after he or she gets home from work, understand where your partner is coming from and realize that these expectations are not criticisms, but evidence that you and your partner are invested in bettering your relationship.
To make the process of clarifying expectations as respectful and open as possible, make sure that no topic is off-limits. Express your expectations to your partner and listen as he or she expresses differing expectations. Once both sets are understood, brainstorm an agreement. This process solidifies the fact that you and your spouse are, in fact, together in the decision-making process regarding the relationship. Create a shared expectation with which you are both satisfied and hold yourself to it. If you see yourself or your partner straying from the compromise, take action to honor the agreement.
Clarifying expectations can improve aspects of your relationship that you never knew needed improvement. By discussing expectations, differences are resolved before potential arguments can occur and working together to agree on expectations aids you in establishing a loving, equal partnership.
(Source: Passage to Intimacy by Lori H. Gordon, Ph.D)
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