Let’s talk about relationship expectations. The expectations you have of your partner may lead to disappointment and brokenness when it comes to your romantic relationships. But don’t worry, I am not just going to sit here and tell you that your expectations are bullshit and that you are ridiculous for wanting your partner to call, to help with the dishes, or to split the bill. I am going to assist you in understanding how to alleviate the communication barriers of expectations. How are we ever going to find a resolution if we can not communicate effectively about the problem?
Couples should discuss the expectation that they have. They need to be able to communicate this early on in the relationship. Some expectations are derived from each individual. They may have come from pressures our parents put on us or from past dating experiences. However, some expectations are created within the relationship. When a couple first gets together they are excited to be sharing in one another. They might talk on the phone every day and this expectation is one that is created by the couple in the process of engaging in the relationship. If this stops suddenly, there may be some discrepancies in how both parties feel about it. It is important to know and understand which expectations were mutually created and which are individually brought into the relationship. This way you can get a better idea of how to properly handle each expectation.
I will utilize an example so we can process the helpful responses we will discuss later. Sally wants Harry to text her on Tuesday because he is out of town for work. Harry called her when he arrived to his hotel on Monday night; they chatted, said goodnight, and went to bed. On Tuesday, Harry got busy with work and had dinner with colleagues, so he called Sally late in the evening around ten p.m. Harry did not text or call during the day. Now they are on the phone and at this point Sally is already irritated because she was hoping to hear from him during the day since he is away on a business trip. Harry is unable to understand why if he spoke with Sally on Monday night and again tonight why it is such a big deal? So Sally goes on about how Harry doesn’t care and Harry tries to explain that he does. He gets defensive and she came into the conversation angry. Inside he feels like he failed and inside she feels like she isn’t cared about.
It becomes a dance that we see all too often; and honestly, it is normal in the context of a relationship. Especially in the beginning when we are learning about one another’s needs. If this type of behavior continues as the length of the relationship progresses and the parties are unable to communicate about it, we have to ask ourselves, why? We have to consciously make the decision to do something about it and not just blow off the other person.
Not to make it a battle of the sexes, but woman often verbalize and hold onto their expectations more. Men are like, Meh. They can passively get through the small expectations. The woman handles it with anger or sadness which makes the man feel like he let her down. There is nothing worse for a man than the feeling of failure or disappointment. It is ingrained in the man to be able to care for the needs of others in specific ways. If he feels like he failed, withdrawing is often the easiest response to an angry woman. The easiest response for the woman is anger when hurt is what she really feels.
In the story of Sally and Harry here are some helpful examples of alternative responses:
1. Sally could have sent a text to Harry and said “Hey sweetie, How is your day going?” If we have an expectation for someone else to do something, the easiest solution is to do it ourselves. (Starting with a pet name always creates positive energy.)
2. Sally could call and leave a message or verbalize to Harry that it was her fault that she is upset since she had the expectation for him to call. But maybe in the future he can make sure to have some form of contact during the day when away? (This is formed as a question because it is important that our partner have a say in the resolution and that we are not just demanding something.) Sally is openly communicating a need and placing the burden on herself rather than her partner. This can help the partner to feel empathetic rather than defensive.
3. Sally can self-reflect. Understanding why we need a certain behavior out of our partner is important. Sally may have had a negative past dating experience with a previous partner while away on a trip. It is important to discuss this with our partner, but also to take additional time to ourselves to reflect on how we might be able to change this expectation since it was not created in the current relationship.
If these don’t work because there is still defensiveness and anger even when just trying to communicate a problem, it might be time to look into couple’s therapy and have a third-party reflect with you on some good solutions and tools. We get our cars serviced. Relationships are no different. If you want it to “run well” you have to take care of it.
When is an expectation reasonable or unreasonable? How is this even decided? This type of reflection and answer is a process. I believe that I personally didn’t understand the expectations that I had for partners until I had personal therapy combined with experiences in dating. There has to be some self-reflection and self-awareness that takes place if we are going to change patterns that sabotage our relationships. Expectations can disrupt a relationship if not handled correctly.
If you are the type of person that doesn’t take constructive criticism well, you might find it difficult to self-reflect. You will be more defensive at the thought of changing something about yourself instead of being humbled by the opportunity. I urge you to do the same type of reflection and allow yourself to let that self-critic go. It is beneficial to be able to change difficult or unwelcoming patterns so you can have successful romantic relationships. Ultimately in successful relationships, partners need to be able to meet one another’s needs or expectations to a reasonable level. The environment of the relationship should feel like teamwork. When it doesn’t feel like teamwork bitterness and frustration come in. It is only fair that we partner for the long-haul with someone who is similar in nature. Specifically when this nature has to do with work-ethic which directly correlates with some expectations. I have yet to see anyone do a relationship perfectly, so we are all in this together. Relationships are hard work, but they yield the most rewarding happiness.
How many hours have you gone without texting your significant other? I assume that most of us will answer something less than 2 hours to this question. Most of us will never answer anything over 12 hours unless we are working, sleeping or lost our cell phone in the debauchery of our weekend shenanigans. For the purposes of this article- sleeping and working do not count for giving you high fives on being away from your smart phone.
How many minutes or hours do you go without texting your significant other or a friend back? Or how many times have you taken awhile to respond to someone and minutes later they send you a ?
How many of us have our phones by our sides when we sleep and eat? How many of us get anxious at the thought of leaving the phone at home for a whole day? The answer to these questions: Most of us. When did we become a society that had to respond immediately or had to be told not to text and drive. I recognize that we are a society of now and fast, but when it comes to our relationships the notion of right away is destroying the wonders that make relationships special in the first place.
Recall being in high school and waiting for your crush to call. Your mom or dad would answer the phone and yell into the other room, “It’s for you!” You would get really excited, your face would get red, your heart would beat and your ridiculous smile would make your cheeks hurt. You would drag the phone cord as far as you could to get a little privacy. After a conversation in which minutes felt like hours you would say goodbye. After getting off the phone you would sit, smile and dream. You would repeat this for years, but then something happen. That same boy or girl you were interested in didn’t call, they sent you a text. Something along the lines of Hi;) It was enjoyable in the beginning but still not as exciting as getting a call and hanging up. You didn’t know that someone was into you instantly by way of emoticon. The excitement lingered for weeks and months not hours or days.
You see, we never hang up with text messaging, it is this ongoing conversation that literally never has an ending. When you are in a relationship you never get the “absence makes the heart grow fonder” because you are all up in each others messaging all the time. Or if you are dating and one party decides to make it have an ending (i.e not texting back) we get confused and wonder if we did something wrong. Maybe he thought I was mad. Maybe she doesn’t think I’m funny. Maybe he doesn’t want me anymore. We make all these guesses because we actually have no idea how anyone honestly feels anymore because you can only try to interpret through messaging. The bottom line is our cell phones are ruining our relationship satisfaction because there is no excitement in it anymore. All the maybe thoughts or the anxiety that you have should only lead to one thought, I am too available which is boring. This isn’t people wanting what they can’t have, this is a genuine human response to want excitement and wonder.
Your boyfriend, girlfriend, or dating partner has access to you anytime- all the time. But it goes both ways. We can not have the expectation that people have to get back to us this second. That people have to text us no matter what they are doing. Maybe someone is busy. Or maybe they just don’t want to talk to you right now. And honestly, why is that second one not okay? Am I really obligated to talk to everyone who texts me every second that they do it? There are times when I don’t feel like it. If we were all honest, we would understand that we all feel like that at some point. Maybe they had a long day. Maybe they don’t like you. Maybe they don’t have their phone on them. Maybe they are in a meeting. Whatever the reason is, if you want to get to the point of someone sticking around and being in awe of you- you have to be a little mysterious. You have to stop being boring and available. You also have to remind yourself that even if the other person is going to be offended by not hearing back from you right away, that is on them, not you. It speaks volumes of the assumptions that they will make throughout the relationship.
I honestly hear this time and time again, “He hasn’t texted me back.” I then ask, “Well how long has it been?” Reply, “Well ten minutes.” My response is always the same. It has only been ten minutes. I am not sure what the etiquette is for response time in texting, but there needs to not even be a window. Whoever the person is, they will see the text, and they will respond to it when they damn well please. In the end, the person texts back if they want to continue to engage with you. If this is someone who you are starting to date and they don’t text back- that’s called rejection. I get it and I am not afraid to admit that it has happened to me many times. Brush it off and move on. The point is, we need to remind ourselves to talk instead of text. To be patient instead of anxious. We need to put the excitement back into our dating lives and relationships by giving someone something to miss and by us missing them.
With so much in our lives to keep us busy, it is difficult to get quality time to connect with your significant other. Maybe you are constantly rushing out the door for work or school; you might be picking up the kids for a quick second only to get them dressed and right out the door again for soccer practice. You might be in the middle of a big move or frustration may have kicked in about a big life change. Whatever the situation, it is important that we continue to develop and sustain rituals in our relationships.
Too often, couples are missing the quality connection because they are rushing off to the next event or hammering out the next big project.
Allowing time for your partner can help alleviate some of life’s stress, while at the same time creating quality romance and bonding.
Rituals can help you connect to your partner. Life can get busy and overwhelming, and before you know it disconnection has happened in your relationship.
Develop a ritual in your relationship to stay connected such as:
- Walks outside
- Romantic baths together
- Coffee and talk in the morning
- Watching a television show together
- Whatever you choose make sure you are connecting.
- You might not talk, but during the television show you can playfully sit on your partner’s lap or spoon on the couch.
- Make sure the rituals contain an intention physical and emotional connection, such as talk and touch.
- Remove any distractions such as smart phones or work emails.
Sit down together and think about what would be meaningful to you and your partner. It is important that you understand how each of you connects with one another. In an earlier article, we discussed the five love languages quiz: this can help show you how to romantically engage with your partner. Here is a link to the quiz: http://www.5lovelanguages.com/profile/
First, understand what makes your partner feel connected to you. Then, develop rituals around those languages that can connected you on a regular basis.
I figured that it is time to write some more articles about my personal journey; I mean what good is all the objective relationship advice and discussion if you don’t hear some of my subjective experiences. Self-realizations have to be a part of the process in order to implement change. You can have all the knowledge in the world, but it won’t do you any good if you can not put it to use.
This all began one day when I called my mom to let her know that I had some news. It went like this:
Me: “Mom, guess what?”
Me: “Jason and Jamie are getting married!” (Both good friends of mine).
Mom: “You are getting married! You and John are getting married!” (Screaming to my father). Honey, Laurie and John are getting married!”
Me: “MOM! MOM! MOM! I said Jamie and Jason are getting married.”
As I listened to my mom’s demeanor change and calm, I explained to her that John and I had broken up months ago.
I also told her that I was glad to know what excitement she would feel for a man to propose to me; even if it was a man she had yet to meet. Thank God my Dad wasn’t updating his Facebook status at the time! Why was it that every time I traveled the 2000 plus miles home, everyone wanted to know who the man in my life was? It was a typical question that made its way into conversation after conversation. I mean, maybe it was partially my fault for making my last relationship FBO (Facebook Official). Or maybe I felt uncomfortable about even being asked that question.
Whatever the reason was, it had a multitude of social and personal factors. What matters is how we react to it; it helps you discern where you are in the growing process. In the aftermath of my mom carrying on, I realized it was the first time that I acknowledged the ending of my last relationship. As I had to, once again, tell close family members and friends that I had ended yet another relationship; I began to feel the weight of what I thought would be their disappointment, but I realized it may have been my own.
So I looked back at the reasons why my other relationships had ended. I realized one common theme: that for whatever reason or another some aspect of each relationship was falling short of what I or the other person really wanted or needed in the relationship. That is the thing about dating and being in relationships with other people; we are trying to figure out what we want our best relationship to look like; the person we want to spend the rest of our life with. For some of us that happens in our 20’s, but for some of us it will be in our 30’s and on. As I get ready to turn 30 in less than a year, I welcome the idea that I have yet to find my best relationship.
During my 10 plus years of dating, if anything, I was getting much better at it. I was understanding the realities of what it takes to make a relationship healthy and long-lasting. In my mid-twenty dating, I thought I could harness change or mold the people who I was with. I now realize there is little you can do to change anyone.
The best you will get is the best that person is capable of giving you. Who they are today and the habits they have are what they will have tomorrow and forever. Everyone has faults, but if you can strengthen each other in personality and purpose in life you will find that happiness and love will thrive. So, Mom and everyone, I can not promise you wedding bells in my future, but I can promise you that I will strive to welcome it as I find true happiness and love in myself. Until then, I will be, Just one.
Do you remember back when a “crush” would call; you relished the fact that you finally got your parents to buy a cordless phone so you could take the call in your bedroom. You would yell out, “Mom, I got it,” after picking it up. Before that you would hope that the phone cord would reach far enough into the other room so you could close the door in privacy. Now all of that seemed complicated!
So if we have privacy and numerous ways to connect (social media and online dating) what makes dating so complicated now? Whether you are new to the dating scene or getting back into it after a recent break-up or divorce, dating has never been more complicated.
Dating is so complicated because:
We bring our past into it. It is sometimes unintentional but also unavoidable. Most of our grandparents and some of our parents met and married when they were between the ages of 19-23. This means that their past dating profiles were limited in comparison. In todays’ culture our break-ups and divorces stack up and make it more difficult to let our past go.
Too much freedom. The days of leaving a message at the beep are over. Text Messaging is the new way to ask or be asked out on a first date. The problem is that beginning a relationship like this makes it so impersonal.
Too much distraction. I can recall going on a few dates in which the suitor would utilize his electronic device during dinner to text or skim Facebook. Honestly, that was such a turn-off that I never went out on a second date, but some of us don’t see it right away. The distraction of smart phones becomes one that is hindering our dating lives. (And some of our relationships).
Too much talk. We become a more entitled people each generation to the next. We believe that because we graduated college someone owes us a great paying job. This sense of entitlement has carried over into our dating lives. We want someone who is going to have the full package (looks, personality, career, character, and thoughtfulness) but we are not willing to make sure we are giving the full package in return. If you complain about your 35 hour work week, don’t expect to find someone who is loyal to a job and lands a managing position after putting in 2 years of 50 hour work weeks.
You don’t pay attention to red flags. Most of the time there are hints about a person in the beginning of the dating relationship. You can pay attention to these and weed out the bad ones pretty quickly. If you have a tendency to try to look past that and find the best in people, well that is a very admirable quality, but it is not a quality to utilize in your dating life. Be smart and weed the bad out quickly.
Dating doesn’t have to be complicated. Join us tomorrow as we talk about How You Can Un-Complicate Your Dating LIfe. Don’t worry, it does not include plugging back in that landline phone.
What do you think your biggest relationship asset is? Let me give you some hints:
It is not your looks, as sexy as you may be. It is not your job, or your money, it is not your large house or the metals you won in sports; it is not how you romance someone.
The biggest asset in securing a relationship and keeping it is your attitude. Your attitude is something that, whether you like it or not, is going to come out at your best times and your worst times. Your attitude includes the way you evaluate yourself and the outside world around you. It makes you judge and perceive situations and people. But it also gives people insight on your personality. Your attitude will allow your partner to see how you engage in certain situations and with certain people.
Here is a list of unattractive attitudes:
– Bad attitude. Who wants to be around Pouty Pat or Sassy Sarah all the time? No one does!
– Entitlement attitude. The reality is that your entitlement attitude might get you through your teens and even college, but it will not help you secure a spouse.
– Inflexible attitude. Exceptions are important in life. A black and white view of the world will only hinder your attitude.
– Selfish attitude. Being giving shows your ability to love. If you are too busy keeping things all to yourself, sharing your life with someone will be difficult.
Your attitude will motivate you or make you fearful. Your biggest relationship asset is part of your personality, but it is the part of your personality that can be altered. Your attitude can change, but you have to work on aspects of your life in order to begin to change it.
Here are some attitudes you should adopt: hopeful, optimistic, playful, grateful, cheerful, open, and confident.
Here is how to work toward those promising attitudes:
Change your Expectations: If you want others or yourself to meet too high of expectations, you will always be disappointed which will fuel a bad attitude. Lower your expectations and make them more reasonable, this way you and others will be able to meet those expectations.
See the Glass Half Full: Change the way you look at things. Try to find the good in people, events, work and relationships. This will help shape your attitude for the better.
Your Friends: Make sure you have optimistic people surrounding you. Our attitudes brush off on one another. Being around people who have good attitudes will allow you to create one too!
In the relationship world, this tune plays out in real life and in the movies. Someone might let you down by claiming all the responsibility and breaking up with you by letting you know that “It’s not you, it’s me.”
But who is it really? When it comes to whose fault it is that a relationship doesn’t work out, can any one party be to blame?
When any relationship ends, whether it is a friendship or a romantic relationship, a small assessment is done. The assessment takes place by talking to friends, looking back on old relationships, and by replaying what went right or wrong during the past few months leading up to the loss of friendship or break-up. We try to find answers, but the truth is that sometimes those answers don’t exist.
We tend to think about all the bad things that happen when ending the relationship rather than having an objective idea of what the relationship looked like. Both parties contributed to the ending of the relationship in some way. It is important for you to be able to evaluate your contribution so you can be aware of it in future relationships. Never try to assess or blame the other person’s contribution; this is when we get into trouble and make a bad situation worse. Always use “I” statements instead of “You” statements.
We live in a world filled with more break-ups and breakdowns than commitment. Working hard to mend a relationship or assertiveness to make one’s life better seem like daunting tasks. We are too used to giving up being the new “norm.” I am not suggesting that you try to stay with someone who is abusive physically or mentally, but that you take the time to assess your life, your hang-ups, and your past to understand where it puts you in your relationships today.
It is easy for us to pass the buck and the blame onto someone else or to profess ourselves the blame to slip out of something. Maybe in a world filled with easy outs, it is time that we went back to fighting for the health in our relationships. It is time that we seek out professional help to overcome the barriers that lead us to struggle in romantic relationships or friendships.