We all have expectations. The ways we expect people to behave in relation to us, to others, and to various situations. Some of those expectations are obvious and culturally relevant; some expectations hide out under the surface of our consciousness, influencing the way we think and interact. This post is about the latter of the two – and how it relates to romantic relationships.
I don’t know what shows you grew up watching, but I had a heavy influence from the Brady Bunch, Growing Pains, Who’s the Boss, Family Matters, and Full House. Add into the mix how I was parented and the real life role models in my home. Mix a little of friends’ parents and outside social influences. Voila! There is the cocktail of expectations about how marraige and family relationships should be run.
Male/female – husband/wife roles.
Who works? Who stays home? Both work?
Balances of power.
Conflict resolution. How do we fight? How do we make amends?
Communication. How to talk about the tough topics? When to keep silent? When to stand your ground? How much praise or verbal affection to give?
Dating and Courtship. How often to talk or text? How often to see each other face to face? When to meet the friends? When to meet family?
Goodness, I could just go on and on with this list, but you get the gist. The interesting thing is that once you sit down and really think about what you believe, you need to go a little deeper. Don’t stop at “I expect to have good communication in my marriage.” What does good communication look like to you? Does it mean that you discuss each topic that comes up that bothers you? Does it mean that you take a day or so to think about a topic before bringing it up? Does communication mean that you rarely disagree or raise your voice? Or does it mean that you feel free enough to get passionate when you need/want to, so if you yell it’s okay? See what I mean? One small topic can be broken down pretty well to understand your certain dialect of the subject.
You can say to your significant other, “I expect fidelity in this relationship.” What does that mean to you? Do you expect your significant other to delete all opposite gender relationships in their social media account (I hope not). Do you expect him/her to maintain the same standard of relationships, but include you in all aspects? Are you okay with your significant other maintaining previous relationships with opposite gender friends, but new friends should be couples-friends (my favorite). What do you consider flirting? Some folks feel like friendliness is akin to flirtatiousness, and where’s the line? If your expectation of fidelity is interpreted one way, and your significant other’s expectation is interpreted in one of the other examples, then you might both be on the same page in expecting fidelity, but still end up arguing and with hurt feelings.
Intimacy and sexuality. Who should be initiating? How do you talk about what you want? How often do you expect to be romantic between the sheets? What are your expectations for erotic satisfaction?
Whether you’re 20 years into your marriage, or you’re just starting out in a new relationship, it’s really important to take time to evaluate what’s important to you and specifically what you expect from your relationship, your significant other, and yourself. Then, open the lines of communication. Show them this blog, ask them to think it over for themselves, and start a dialogue. It’ll just grow you closer together and you begin to understand when the other one is coming from, and you can negotiate ways to either honor each other’s expectations or nix a few that might not be as healthy.
If you need help, we’re here at Chico Creek Counseling. We can sit down for a few couples’ sessions to help guide and steer you into productive communication regarding your romantic expectations.
by Jessica Wilkerson, MFTI #IMF69783
To set an appointment specifically with Jessica, please call her at (530) 921-5122, or use our online scheduling calendar.
Jessica Wilkerson is an MFT Registered Intern #IMF69783
under the clinical supervision of Joe R. Taylor, LMFT #46406 at Chico Creek Counseling