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.
Have you ever dated a guy that made you swoon over the way he treated you? He opened doors, he made sure to walk you to your car, or he brought you flowers so often you thought he owned a floral shop. You have been with this guy for only months and you begin thinking about details of a possible perfect wedding. Nothing could stop your fantasy dream….. but then you meet his mom.
The more and more time you spend with his mom, you begin to realize that she has no intention of stepping down as the most important lady in his life. As time goes by you begin to un-plan the wedding. Not to his discredit, as he has learned the love language of the ladies from being close to his mom.
The problem is unless his mom is willing to step out of the lead role, it will be impossible for you to fall into the role of wife. It is customary for a mother to protect her son. However, when that son is ready to go out of the nest, it is vital that the mother let him go out alone. It is important that her role is less and less as he gets closer to choosing a partner for himself. There are many different reasons for a mother to be too attached to her son; including unhappiness in her own relationships, jealousy of other or younger women and the list goes on. It is a response and a behavior that comes from something deeper. It is important for you to know that biologically it will be natural for the son to take the mother’s side. As much as you can want to have a happy family, it will be near impossible until mom steps out and lets you have the leading role. This is a difficult relationship triangle that needs to be resolved if there is going to be a successful relationship between you and your boyfriend
Family is one of the most important things in life. I am not downplaying the strength of family, but psychology tells us that enmeshed family can create maladaptive behaviors. We talk about how boyfriends and girlfriends need time for friends and need individual space, and the same is true for the immediate family. Separation is important; you can have a healthy family life with your significant other when boundaries are in place throughout all relationships.
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.
People sometimes use the phrase, “Why you aren’t meeting Mr.Right.” I don’t necessarily like that phrase because even if you are out meeting people in the dating pool, you are the only person who gets to decide if they are right or wrong. It is about finding Mr. or Mrs. Right for You. And if we are being completely honest, you may have thought previous people who you dated were right for you the moment you met them. As the relationship goes on you begin to learn more about yourself and that other person. They might turn into Mr. or Mrs. Wrong for you. No one is objectively wrong or right, when we get into relationships we learn if we can stay together.
This article is not about whether a specific person is right or wrong for you. It is an article about why you may not be meeting anyone. In today’s culture of social media and technology, it is not often that we interact with other people as much as we used to. We don’t have to go into stores to pay our bills, because we can pay them on the internet. We don’t have to deposit in banks with direct deposit and bank apps. Online shopping allows us to spend less time as outside consumers, and you can even have your groceries delivered. Social sites like Facebook and Twitter keep us from connecting with other people conversationally. Technology is great for briefly catching up on the latest news, but not so great for your dating life.
What Can You Do
It might be that you see the same 20 people over and over again if you work for a smaller company. Even if you work for a large company, it is likely that you only see people from the same department. Think about if you leave the house (from a car in the garage) and drive to work. Then after the day at work, you get into the car and drive home to make yourself dinner and watch the latest episode of your favorite show. You have only interacted with those same 20 people from work that day. You have met zero people that day; which gives you zero chances to meet a potential partner.
Now, if you take public transit or grab a friend to go out to lunch, or go to a place to eat after work; you have just given yourself 1-3 opportunities in just one day to meet someone. That means that out of the 52 weeks in that year, you can give yourself 260-780 instances in which you can meet a partner.
Or Try These
- Change up your routine. Go to different grocery store or work out at different times. The same people at the gym at 5 pm present the same dating opportunities. Mix it up to see what the gym holds early morning or what shopping late at night might offer you.
- Forgo technology. Go to the bank, shop at the store, and even leave your phone in your pocket in public. You are unapproachable when you are walking and texting at the same time. Every time you can immerse yourself in people gives you more and more opportunities to meet someone.
- Take a class. Not in school anymore? Take a class; and make sure the ratio is to your benefit. Women take a welding or building class, men try for cooking or pottery. Sounds ridiculous, but you might be the only female in a room of 20 men; half of which statistically will be single.
- Move from the small town. Do you live in a town where “everybody knows your name” ? If you want to branch out and meet people, maybe the small town isn’t for you. If you don’t want to move, traveling 45 minutes to an hour can give you new scenery including new potential dating partners.
- Stop locking and dropping. This is locking yourself into a dating situation where the other person is waiting to meet someone else before they drop you. If you are locked into dating one person who just isn’t real or serious about the relationship, it is time to remove him or her from your dating life.
- Boys and Girls can be friends. Yes they can be, but hanging out with the opposite sex all the time will make it impossible for other people to know you are available, even if your Facebook status reads “single.” Remember that no one can read your profile when they are having a conversation with you.
You have many opportunities to meet potential partners but you may first have to embrace some change and commit to meeting new people.
Whether you are in a long-term relationship or marriage, are just dating, or are seeking out a relationship; a relationship status is something you might be concerned with. To understand the application of this concept, let’s begin with a story.
I was listening to a woman chatting with a friend the other day. It went something like this:
“Oh yeah, we broke up. I don’t understand why, though? I did everything for him. I would make his lunch before he went to work. I would do his laundry on occasion if it was lying around. I would grab his favorite beer if I was at the market. We would cook dinner and always watch his favorite sports team. I just don’t understand? But I am dating someone else. He works at five a.m. usually, so I am going to go over to his place soon, so I can make his lunch and hang out with him before he goes to bed.”
I wanted so badly to intervene this conversation right then and there. I wanted to scream out to her. I wanted to tell her that she would find herself dumbed again in a couple of months, with no understanding of what she did wrong and why she can’t keep a man around.
Instead of imparting my unsolicited advice to a stranger, I will offer it here to anyone who would like to read it. I call it PPS- Partner Preoccupation Syndrome. A syndrome is defined as; a collection of signs and symptoms known to frequently appear together but without a known cause. During Partner Preoccupation Syndrome, you are more preoccupied by taking care of your partner than taking care of yourself. This syndrome is more commonly found in women than in men, but it can make a good relationship unbalance quickly.
The example above exhibits this. PPS is not contagious; it is actually the opposite. Both partners can not have it at the same time, as it only affects one party; if there is equal share and collaboration in a relationship, we would not see this happen. However, when a partner gets PPS they don’t really understand it. If PPS goes on long enough in a specific relationship, the other party will probably break it off or walk away, simply because there is no challenge. This is not the same as, ” They ask you to jump and you say how high.” This is more subtle and most people do it without realizing.
PPS is easy to diagnose and treat. If you have ever told a story similar to the one above, you probably have PPS. If you have a good heart and a need to take care of people, try putting that energy into something else other than your partner. Volunteer somewhere, help out your grandma, or establish a hobby or routine that does not involve doing something for your partner. Do your own laundry. Watch your favorite shows. Stay at your place or clean only your house.
You will probably have to consciously think about stopping this pattern, but once you have trained yourself to not be too preoccupied with your partner; you may be able to free yourself from PPS.
Now, there is nothing wrong with taking care of your partner, but it becomes a problem when it is a pattern that includes multiple failed relationships as a result.
If you ever have this question of your extinguished relationships: I don’t know what I am doing wrong, maybe it is time to change that.
What is the difference between compromise and collaboration in a relationship? Is one better than the other? Is there something we can do to make sure that we are not giving more than the other person in our relationship?
Thank you to Dr. Kyle Weir for sparking my interest on this subject. The word compromise is heard over and over again when we are talking about couples learning how to cope with each other’s differences. (I have also used it several times myself.) It was a concept that not only made sense, but had something that it could be measured against: sacrifice. But is sacrifice really something that we want to do in a relationship? The dictionary definition states that each side is making a concession. That sounds easy. Except for when you have two people inside of a relationship that are unwilling to budge on a matter and just want the other side to give in.
Humans are passionate when it comes to opinions. Two people working towards a life together are going to come across a lot of them. Compromise is something that is needed, but it is also something that assumes one partner will give in. Collaboration on the other hand is working together towards a common goal. Collaboration supposes that you already have the same goal in mind. In a relationship, you should have similar or same goals in mind. These goals include: what the future looks like and what passions you both have as individuals that you can work together towards in the relationship. In this journey, one partner may make compromises for the other, and then when the time comes the positions need to flip-flop. You should never be the only person to compromise in the relationship. During these times of compromise you should be collaborating towards the goal.
For example: if you have been offered a new job, your partner may have to compromise to move with you to keep the relationship going. However, you will both have to collaborate about what this means for the other partners’ job or schooling. A compromise can not take place unless you have discussed what that looks like.
At the beginning of a relationship, a couple tends to be directed towards either compromise or collaboration. Too much of one person giving in at the beginning of the relationship can be a red flag that collaboration will not be part of the relationship. A collaborative person will be present to work towards the relationship and making sure it is successful and happy. These are items that we can asses early on in a relationship to understand our partner’s and our own investment in the relationship.
A relationship build on compromise (even though we have to make them at times) will not last, but a relationship build on collaboration will be able to stand difficulties and trials.
I hear many people say, “I hate games.” Relationship games that is. They are referring to having to wait three days to call a potential date, or purposely ignoring someone to make them want you.
The problem is; I can not tell you to play games or to not play games. We all have different temperaments when it comes to our likes and dislikes in a relationship. I can assure you that most of the need for games comes out of a skewed vision of what relationships should be. That said, it is difficult to change what we view as normal and healthy verses what other people do. Some people think that fighting in a relationship is healthy and that not fighting can cause tension. I urge us to think differently about that matter, that working out the communication differences and arguments is key. But not getting on COPS for a domestic dispute call is also key. However, because we can not change some else’s thinking, you may need to change some of our actions.
I have a friend who is in a relationship and her man will claim that he hates games. However, he is always more attentive when she isn’t as available. Why is this? Why do people claim to hate games, but happen to be a sneaky part of the process? Even if you don’t instigate the game, you may still have to play it.
Some people play games on accident. I have a few girlfriends who are busy and more concerned with their jobs, activities, and friends than they are relationships. Both of these girls secured a husband and are doing a great job keeping that balance and love in the marriage. It is their nature to not be as “needy” as some woman can come across as. It is the “needy” women that may have a hard time securing a man without engaging in some game playing.
As part of the relationship process, games later become irrelevant. It is the same way with how men are romantic at first, but then this fizzles. If we want something bad enough, we will go after it. However, if it is a baseball game, you can’t bring a soccer ball. You have to come equip to win the game with the proper tools, and sometimes playing games is one of those tools.
Tomorrow I will touch on: How do you know which games to play and when to play them?