We all have different expectations in a relationship. These expectations can come from different places. A reasonable expectation is understood with two different components: one partner vocalizing their expectation and the other partner either being capable or not capable of meeting that expectation. Early in a relationship, you learn what your partner is capable of. They might not be able to cook or to build a tree house. We learn this through interaction and communication.
Where can our Expectations Come From?
- They can be derived from pressures that were put on us as children or teens.
- They may be a result of our ability to push and expect certain degrees of accomplishment for ourselves.
- They can come from conversations we have had with our significant other about things they wish to accomplish in the future.
Expectations are normal; individuals that have higher drive and initiative might expect more of others. However, there is a difference between reasonable expectations and unreasonable expectations. A great example is if you ask your significant other to change your headlight. It is a reasonable expectation for you to ask if your partner can help you out. Your partner will then answer that they can or can not meet those expectations with a yes, I can change the headlight or no, I can not change the headlight.
If your partner says yes…
A yes yields that to be a reasonable expectation for your partner. Your expectation is obtainable for your partner through their verbal reflection. They agree that it is obtainable and reasonable by agreeing that they can take care of it.
If your partner says no…
Now, if your partner vocalized that they are unable to meet this need, than you look for another route to accomplish this. Your expectation is unobtainable for your partner through their verbal reflection.
It is in these instances that we learn what our partner is capable of verses what they are not. If you have a partner that teaches college for a living and is mainly a reader and writer, they may never be able to construct an addition to your home. You learn what your partner is and is not capable of by getting to know them.
In the example above we are able to vocalize a need/expectation and see if our partner can meet them. However, we can have expectations that are too high. To use the headlight example: If you expect that your significant other will first notice the headlight problem themselves and change it: that can be seen as too high of an expectation. Asking always gives us a chance to reflect on what our partner brings into the relationship.
Where the frustration lies…
Frustration comes up in a relationship when our expectations are not met. If we understand these as reasonable expectations that our partner has agreed they can accomplish, but then these expectations are not met: we need to ask ourselves if we are in the right relationship. Not having your needs and expectations met will cause constant bickering and unhappiness.
However, if your expectations are constantly too high or unobtainable then you need to asses how to adjust and meet those needs in other ways. This way you will not take the undue frustration out on your partner.
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The Cynical Therapist came to be when two therapists became friends. SoulMates or Kindered Spirit Animals… Call us what you will…. We are two bad*** chics Licensed to teach you how to grow into your full potential and add some humor along the way.
Laurie Wilson and Elle Anzalone are both Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist practicing in Huntington Beach, CA.