Studies show that it is actually good to have high expectations when it comes to your relationship. It is healthy to have expectations of respect, affection, intimacy, time together etc. Being in a healthy relationship means you are getting your needs met by a person you love and trust. Whether you are in a new relationship and trying to decide what to expect or trying to make an existing relationship better, discussing expectations of each other is important.
Before you can discuss your expectations, you have to figure out what they are. More importantly, you need to be sure your expectations are reasonable. This is the part that can get a little tricky. We do not always recognize our expectations as being unrealistic because we do not even realize we are expecting them. Here are a few healthy expectations: affection, respect, time, challenges and growth, trust, honesty and emotional and mental support.
Do not compare yourself or your relationship to others.
This is very important not to do because it takes away from what you already have with your partner. It takes away from what you two have built. It takes away from you looking deeper into and appreciating the man that you already have. Comparing yourself and your relationship to others is always going to be the death of your good feelings toward your partner and the relationship itself, plus anytime you start to compare yourself to other people you will always be on the losing end of the stick. You must think about what the other couple is showing you, because a lot of times, it is what they want you to see and what they want you to believe. It is not necessarily what is happening in their relationship.
Why do we make relationship comparisons?
Social comparisons help us understand ourselves, so it is no surprise that relationship comparisons are tactics we might use to help us make sense of our own relationships. We even ask ourselves question such as:
Am I in a healthy relationship?
Are we going to stay together?
Should we break up?
Is what I am experiencing normal?
Has anyone else gone through what I am going through currently?
Should I seek counseling or coaching in order to make sense of things?
By looking at the relationships around us, we seek evidence that might help us gain a stronger sense of our own relationship strengths and weaknesses.
I remember when I used to compare myself to my other friends and their relationships. This happened specifically when I was not in a relationship and I would always look around and even make snide comments, to myself. I thought on several occasions, “Wow! She is not even a nice person or how does she keep getting into relationships and I keep getting passed by?” I used to compare myself no matter where my friends or family members are within their relationships. Not looking any deeper into how they feel about their relationship, what was going on in their relationship, if they are happy in their relationship or if they are getting their needs are being met in the relationship. The only thing I saw was the outside, which was they were in a relationship that seemed to be going well and it felt as if I was missing out on something.
Challenges and being able to grow together.
By facing the challenges together and seeing yourself as a team, you will create greater intimacy and connection, deepening your love and strengthening your relationship. A lot of people believe that relationships are synonymous with discomfort. This does not have to be the case for you. This is often because for them a relationship represents a permanent sacrifice or an uncomfortable place to be. Again this does not have to be your story. A growth focused relationship can bring out the best in you and in your spouse.
Make time to talk about the relationship. This will help you understand your partner much better, be more empathetic and loving. Scheduled time will give each other an opportunity to talk about the relationship without judgment or animosity. And by “talk about the relationship”, I mean treat your relationship like a third person. You can do this by asking plenty of questions, then figuring out the solution or the cost for each question you asked. Ask questions such as:
Are we talking enough?
Are there unresolved issues?
If there are unresolved issues, what are those issues?
Which one would make the greatest impact on turning our relationship around?
Do I feel as though my needs are being met?
Is my partner getting his needs met?
Just by putting your relationship in the third person you will be closer to it and get the answers you need. This is the growth process and the challenges that comes along with you growing. You have to identify the challenges in order to be able to change things around.
Trust and honesty.
Honesty is the foundation for trust in a relationship and trust is necessary for a relationship to function and thrive. When you are always honest with someone, it tells them that they can trust you in the things you say and do. It helps them know they can believe your promises and commitments. Being honest with your partner also facilitates healthy communication, which is also necessary for a functional relationship.
Couples need to be able to talk openly to one another and be real with each other; that is what true communication is all about. That commitment to being honest also means that both people will be proactive about addressing any tension and conflicts within the relationship as well as bringing them up to each other for discussion.
There are several ways to become more trustworthy and honest within your relationship. I will name 3 here.
- Be consistent. Do the things you say you are going to do and be someone your partner can rely on. Building trust happens with actions not just words. Words are empty without the actions to back them up.
- Prioritize communication. Make communicating with each other an open priority in your relationship. Have a conversation and agree that you will both be open with one another about what you are feeling, what you need, what is working, what is not working as well as some of the solutions to change these areas that are not working. By establishing this, you make honesty easier to practice for the both of you.
- Avoid judging one another. Within your relationship there will be things that your spouse does to you that will make you say “oh my goodness.” I did not know you believe such things or is this the way you think? You want to keep it a safe environment because the more you condemn, the more you make him feel bad about himself or his thoughts and even his fantasies, the more you are heightening your chances of your spouse closing down on you, either right away or slowly . . . but surely. Sometimes my clients do not understand why their spouse has shut down on them nor shares anything with them like they used too. This happens because you have taken away the safety zone within the relationship. It may not be that your spouse is no longer speaking about the things that keep him awake at night. He is just no longer sharing these things with you. If someone is honest with their partner about how they feel and then gets shut down or yelled at for what they say, they are less likely to want to be honest in the future. So when your spouse is being honest and vulnerable, avoid judging them or punishing them for their honesty. This means avoid calling what they say stupid or immediately telling them why they are wrong to feel the way that they feel. You want to create a space with your partner to feel safe expressing himself. This is what breeds honesty. If someone expresses something that hurts you, tell them you appreciate their honesty and then discuss why your feelings are hurt. If your partner says something that you really wish they had not said, you can let them know that that is information you would prefer not to hear from them. Just remember that your partner should be able to tell you difficult things. This is a part of being in a relationship. This does not mean you are going to like everything your partner says to you but you have to keep it a safe space in order for the honesty and trustworthiness to continue to grow.
How are you handling your expectations? Have you verbalized what your expectations are to your partner? Do not fall into the trap of believing your partner should just know what your expectations are. You must speak your needs or write them in order to have them met for the future.
If you need help with your expectations, your communication or any other relationship question, reach out and let us have a free 30 minute coaching conversation.
Keep speaking your truth!
Life & Relationship Strategist