Many couples I counsel say they are disappointed in their relationship because their partner isn't measuring up in some way. But most of the time, the problem isn’t the partner — it’s the measuring stick. “We should have more sex.” “He should do more housework.”
Expectations are the secret standards we set for self and others. And I say secret not so much because they're private, but because they tend to be buried deep within our subconscious where we can’t get at them. But we should get at them. If left unearthed, these buried barometres breed resentment, which (to borrow my colleague's analogy) is like a venom that infects the entire marriage. The anti-venom is awareness.
Here are four of the main areas in which unconscious expectations tend to fester.
He thinks their sex life is lacking because they only do it once every two weeks. She feels disappointed by the duration.
Unstated ideals about the nature of a couple’s sex life can create conflict and hurt feelings. How frequently? For how long? With how much foreplay? Decide what you both agree is reasonable before resentment creeps into the bedroom.
He feels like the vacuum is like a fifth limb. She is perplexed by his obsessive-compulsive cleaning.
What level of clean is clean enough? One of you might need to raise the bar, and the other might want to lower it a little.
For him, the priority is saving for the future. For her, it's living the good life now.
No wonder you’re frustrated with each other. You both have valid goals. Just get onside.
She wants to lose weight. He wants be more patient. They both want to do something about their libido.
My longtime mentor has a poster in her office that reads, “Everywhere I go, there I am."
We bring ourselves (or our “selfs") into every marital situation. Expectations we subconsciously construct for ourselves can create a self-defeating inner chatter.
When we expect perfection, we set ourselves up to fail.
Ask yourself: When and in what situations am I measuring my partner against standards he didn’t set? And, are those expectations reasonable?
How frequently should you and your partner have sex? How clean should the house be? How much money should there be in the savings account?
Your partner only fails you if you have finite, fixed answers to these questions (and others like them). Indeed, there are no such answers. But, once you accept that you and your partner's expectations differ, you can start to seek alignment.
Are you disappointed in your relationship? Maybe your expectations are too high. Here’s how to manage them.
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