Expectations can be both maker and breaker of our most intimate and precious relationships. It’s important to understand how much power they can have over our connection. Their power arises out of their place in our subconscious. In the fact that they are most often untested and un-scrutinized.
All too often, we acquire them rather than choose them ourselves. Added to that, our implicit belief that if we love each other, we must both share the same expectations is where the damage is most often done. It is essential that we bring them out into the light and find out if they belong to us or to someone else’s story that we carry about love.
There are two areas where they hold this power. One is over the relationship itself, the US. The other is over the individuals, the ME and YOU.
The Relationship Itself….US
In the first thrill of relationship we tend to share our dreams and our hopes, but often with little detail of how we will achieve them. The how doesn’t matter, the excitement carries us along and it feels as if it will last forever.
Whilst we might have identified our dreams, our expectations have often not been aired between us or agreed upon clearly. Without realizing, we draw them from our role models, the media, our friends and our fantasies. Perhaps our story of love is not even ours, but belongs to others we have encountered and respected along the way. Sometimes, we are completely unaware of our own expectations and how they drive our behaviour daily.
Some say that if you lower your expectations, you won’t be so disappointed but love is far too important to risk ending up with second best. Not only is it too important, but it can also be pretty tricky at times and we need our best resources and strength to manage those times.
Research has found that people do get what they expect in their relationships. People with low expectations tend to be in relationships where they’re treated poorly, whereas people with high expectations find themselves in relationships where they’re treated well.
The reason why Hollywood films are so successful is that they address our hope to love and be loved. Unfortunately, they also raise our expectations based on pure fantasy. And here lies one key to how expectations can make or break your love.
Hope and expectation must be based on reality –they are the motivator for us to continually keep going back around and trying again. If our expectations are based purely in fantasy, hope can’t flourish and we’ll meet nothing but disappointment. Our energy simply seeps out, and we come back around and try again less and less often.
So, to turn breaker into maker here, air and share your expectations for your relationship.
- What expectations have you inherited/taken on from elsewhere?
- Which belong to you?
- Which are the most important?
- Which ones do you both have in common?
- Which ones are different?
- How can you navigate the differences without feeling threatened?
- How can your expectations inspire hope and energy?
Agree on what is realistic for you both and be prepared to go back and revisit them over and over again. This is especially important because setting them in stone makes for trouble. Growth is the air that breathes life and health into our love.
Two Individuals…. ME and YOU
Another maker or breaker is when we place all our expectations for our personal fulfilment on our partner. In my experience with the couples I work with, this is often our new norm now that we have moved beyond the marriage ideals of our parents’ generation with their predefined duties and roles. We are looking for self-expression and personal fulfilment. Great if we’re prepared to take responsibility for them first, but when we lay the responsibility at our lover’s feet, we put them in an impossible situation.
Our demands increase so gradually over time that they are barely noticeable. Slowly but surely, these demands are tolerated more and more without realising it and resentment starts to set in on both sides – one because they feel they can never get it right, and the other because they’re constantly disappointed. Without realising it, we become consumers of love, focussing on our unmet needs, ever more disappointed and ever more ‘hungry’.
This subconscious pattern feeds itself with its own energy until we suddenly wake up and realise how bad it has become. Small arguments have turned into big arguments, unfulfilled expectations are dropped, and one, or both of you stop caring. This is the breaker.
To turn breaker into maker here, the solution is to turn your expectations onto yourself.
- What is my story about love?
- What am I expecting and how realistic is it?
- What can I provide for myself before I ask it of my lover?
- What am I actually getting that has been previously overshadowed by my disappointments?
- What can I understand and accept?
- How can I help my lover give me what I desire?
- What can I give him/her?
If you would like to hear more from us, sign up for our regular Insights to Intimacy here