At some point in our relationship we ask ourselves: Do I expect too much from my partner?
We all wish to have a manual clearly saying what is asking for too much and what is reasonable.
There are things you should and shouldn’t expect from your partner. And it’s vital to know the difference; because it can really raise the bar in your relationship and happiness, or deplete whatever love or joy is left.
First, answer this: are the following myths or truths?
—You shouldn’t expect your partner to be your friend.
—You shouldn’t expect passion in your relationship if you have a friendship.
—Your relationship/marriage is not a place to self-actualize or become the person you want to be.
You may have read some articles, especially recently, saying one of these or some sort of combination of these statements.
The message is that “enough is never enough,” and perfection is not attainable. Which sounds true, right? And it’s a reasonable message that makes sense.
But these specific examples are…myths.
Of course, we can’t expect our partner to be everything.
Yet we still can’t ignore that there are some expectations we should have for a fulfilling relationship, and it’s absolutely humanly possible!
Knowing the differences between what should and shouldn’t be expected may bring you the passionate and loving relationship you desire.
Let focus on these specific examples that are used by many pop psychology authors as truths, and see what research says about them.
The basic reason for an expectation is to fulfill a need or desire.
Parents have some sort of expectation for their children, especially in school, like learning basic math or reading. It’s not even a debate of: should our child learn to read?
These are common expectations that go unquestioned, but are part of a need, and part of a positive expectation: they believe in their child, they believe they’re capable of it.
So, to know if you’re really expecting too much or if it’s fair game (even necessary), let’s discuss the infamous expectations that often go unmet.
“I want more help around the house.”
“I wish my partner would show me they love me.”
“My partner doesn’t understand why ____ is important to me.”
These sound like polite ways to say what you wish your partner would do, but in reality and in privacy, we make demands.
We’re more likely to make comments like: “Here comes Mr. Lazy,” and “Can you at least act like you care!”
And no partner ever responded with, “Gee, I wonder why he/she wants this so much. It must be important to them. I’ll make sure they get what they need.”
Why is that? Well, it depends on the demand or expectation or request.
Here’s what you should and shouldn’t expect:
1. You can’t change personality.
If you want your partner to show you love by taking you out because you’re an outdoorsy person and like to get out of the house, but that’s not your partner’s personality, then you may face some challenges.
You may both be knee-deep in effort to change, because one of you is feeling unfulfilled, but it will be a tough journey and a difficult process with lots of resistance.
Some people do grow, but personality is something that doesn’t change, no matter how much the person grows.
Keep in mind that some couples have had to learn to accept their partner as who they are above the need they longed for (a clean house, an outgoing and social partner, an organized partner that can keep a calendar, etc.).
A couple I worked with that have been married for more than 30 years had the battle of house cleanliness, and she was attending a class about how to be clutter-free just before he shared a realization at a class we taught, on the topic of expectations.
He said after years of trying he realized, he couldn’t change her, and that was only making her feel worse, so he decided that he preferred “to have a marriage over a clean house.”
Forgetting your anniversary is not a personality trait. Wanting them to serenade you on your anniversary when they are the quiet type, is trying to change their personality.
Asking your partner to buy you flowers has nothing to do with trying to change their personality.
2. If you’re not friends, then you’re not lovers.
There are some therapists that have authored books to say they believe, or claim true, that emotional distance creates long-term sexual intimacy.
The message is familiarity kills passion, and therefore you must look your best and ditch the flannel nightgown. No cuddling, no friendship.
But there is also abounding research showing that emotional connection creates trust and intimacy.
In The Science of Trust, Dr. John Gottman shares his research study with couples having their first baby, and found those whose sex life was well even 3 years after the baby’s birth were the ones that were cuddling, having intimate conversations, an emotional connection, and even wearing the flannel nightgown.
In another study by Bernie Zilbergeld, found that 45 year-old couples had better sex lives when they maintained a trusted friendship and made sex a priority.
Basically, you can have both.
It’s easier to separate and create emotional distance when a baby arrives (life gets busy, or work is demanding). It’s much harder to expand your conversations and teamwork from to-do lists, to more play, adventure, and intimate conversations—a friendship!
3. You can become your best self through your relationship.
Although, it’s difficult to find the ideal partner that’s best for you, you can sort of figure it out.
There are goals and ambitions you have in life, which should be encouraged and validated. Sometimes, you’ll have the opportunity to help your partner become their best self.
In psychology, we call that the Michelangelo Effect.
Coined after Michelangelo’s explanation of creating his statues, by chiseling away the excess pieces and revealing what was already there.
A partner, that is also your friend, will know you… truly know you!
We each have the desire to reach our personal goals and assist our partner to reach theirs. In our personal experience, this has always ended benefiting everyone.
Expectations are sometimes necessary to feel fulfilled. Knowing what you should expect can make the difference between a passionate love life or a dull relationship.
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