Great Expectations I: Awareness
In this article, you’ll learn three things that might be keeping you from sharing your expectations with your spouse, and what you can do instead! Many of the proposed solutions can help you, no matter which pitfalls you might slip into in your unique relationship.
Potential Pitfall #1: Sometimes we’re not aware of our expectations.
You are probably aware of many of your expectations, for instance, how tidy you like the house to be or how you want to be consulted first on big purchases. However, there could be other expectations working below the surface that you are less aware of. Perhaps you internalised messages growing up or in past relationships that have shaped your expectations now. If an area of your relationship is particularly frustrating, you could have unmet expectations around that topic you need to explore.
What You Can Do: Be more aware of the spoken and unspoken expectations you bring to the relationship.
Example: Your spouse has been spending a lot of time with a co-worker or friend of the opposite gender. While your spouse has been transparent about their discussions, and the exchanges appear completely platonic, you don’t feel comfortable about it. When your spouse asks why you’re so upset, you aren’t really sure. You trust your spouse, but you can’t shake the negative feelings.
Identify the Expectation: What is your expectation around communication with co-workers or friends of the opposite gender? When did you form this expectation, and how did it come about? You may find messages from parents, friends, or co-workers helped establish this expectation, or past relationship experiences.
Great Expectations II: Mind-Reading
We are happy when our expectations match up with our reality. When reality falls short of what we expected, we can feel frustrated or disappointed.
Potential Pitfall #2: Sometimes we expect our spouse to read our mind.
Do you ever find yourself making comments like these?
“If you really love me, you will know why I’m upset!”
“You should have known I wanted a big celebration for my birthday!”
“I can’t believe you thought I wanted to give that much money to your parents!”
While your spouse has many great talents, mindreading is not likely to be one of them. While you may have a spouse who knows you well, there are still a lot of personal thoughts and feelings your spouse will not know about unless you express them.
What You Can Do:
Check to see if the expectations you have are reasonable. If not, it will be especially hard for your spouse to meet them, and perhaps unfair to even ask them to.
Communicate your expectations. Share the reasonable expectations you have with your spouse, and help them understand why the topic/issue matters so much to you.
When we verbalise our unspoken expectations, we’re more likely to get the things we want and need from our spouses. We also minimise our frustrations with each other when we are clear about our expectations and aren’t left guessing how our spouse thinks, or what they need from us.
Great Expectations III: Fear of Rejection
Whether the issue in question relates to physical intimacy with your spouse, your bank account, or your in-laws, certain topics can feel especially vulnerable or sensitive to discuss. If we worry our spouse won’t value our opinions or take our needs seriously, we might keep our expectations to ourselves, and resentment will build up.
Potential Pitfall #3: Sometimes we fear rejection.
Example: Your spouse prefers having physical intimacy once a week, but you always hope the frequency will tick up when things get less busy or stressful. But, once a week has become the default, and you find yourself feeling frustrated and disconnected. You’re afraid to talk about it, because if your spouse says they’re not interested in more physical intimacy, it will feel like a personal rejection.
What You Can Do:
Be willing to adjust your expectations, and work towards meeting one of your spouse’s most important and reasonable expectations. To avoid ongoing frustration around your differing needs, you will need to adjust your expectations. If your spouse shares they are not interested in more frequent physical intimacy, and they feel like romance has disappeared from the relationship, take the opportunity to discuss other ways to boost sensuality and intimacy in your relationship.
Try to incorporate more romantic talk. Many couples are so stressed and starved for time that sensual activities (e.g., massage or hand holding) fall by the wayside. In fact, sensual talk and touch throughout the week help to set the stage for a closer and happier relationship with your spouse in the long run!
Check out other Mini Marriage PREP tips here.