We all have expectations of our partners. It's a natural part of building a life together. But there's a difference between unfair expectations, and the expectations that accompany shared goals. Sometimes, as a natural part of there being two different types of personalities, an unhealthy power balance occurs. If both partners just go with it, path of least resistance style, it can lead to the kinds of conflict and resentment that end relationships.
As a former Domestic Violence Victim Advocate and Planned Parenthood Certified Responsible Sexuality Educator, I saw, and quite often, the ways expectations lead to unequal, unfair conditions in a relationship. These are often the weak points in relationships, and without addressing the unfair expectations, these issues will only get worse.
A lot of the problems created by unfair expectations can be mitigated with communication and a willingness to compromise. Some of them can't be fixed without one partner seriously changing their thinking or accepting disappointment. Or learning how to be less annoyed with their partner's annoying choices. And sometimes you just have to go your separate ways. Unfortunately that's just sometimes how things go in relationships. But if communication, support, and a goal of equality are at the core of your relationship, you can grow, change, and weather all kinds of disagreements as a team.
1. To Read Your Mind
I get it, I do. It's easy to expect your partner to anticipate your wants and needs, especially when they know you so well. But you can't expect your partner to be a mind reader. If you want a specific gift, a specific Valentine's date, a specific kind of affection, or specific words of support, you need to ask for them instead of getting upset that your partner didn't already know what you wanted.
2. To Always Look Hot
If you're dating a human being and not a sculpture, then you need to accept that you cannot expect them to always look a certain way. You can prefer that they look a certain way, but you don't get to demand or expect it. You also don't get a free pass from seeing their sick hair, crying face, vomit mouth, weight fluxuations, or aging skin changes. It saddens me that I have to say this out loud, but loving someone means you love them just as much in sweatpants on a Sunday morning as you do all dressed up for a fancy date. The way someone looks is only a fraction of who they are.
3. To Be Your Housekeeper
Your partner is your partner, not your employee. And if your partner is your employee, they're your partner first. You cannot expect them to run your entire shared home, even if you work and they stay home for the purpose of running the home. Yes, you heard me correctly. Even if it's your partner's agreed job to take care of the home, you still have to help, and you don't get to set up expectations about when and how that work gets done. You can agree on a plan together, but you're not the housework dictator. And you still have to help out once in a while. Your partner should never have fear about you coming home before the house is spotless.
4. To Never Mess Up
Even really sweet, considerate, fair, reliable partners can (and will) make mistakes. You can't hold your partner to an impossible standard, nor expect them to never make you mad, make a poor decision, mess up your plans, or say the wrong thing. You also can't hold their mistakes over their head, or expect them to pay dearly for their mistakes. Patience and forgiveness is important. You'll be glad you have established patience and forgiveness when you're the one who messes up.
5. To Have Their Life Together
This one is a little tricky. It's totally fine to want a partner with goals and ambitions. It's fine to want a partner with decent credit and a good work ethic. The problem occurs when you expect your partner to be at a different place in their journey than they're ready for. You can support them and help them to reach their goals, but you can't force your plan for their life on them. You can't make them take jobs they don't want or go to school against their will.
6. To Carry Your Weight
You have to do your fair share in any relationship. There will be times when you carry your partner and they carry you, but those times are out of necessity, or out of a mutual agreement to do so. Even if your partner agrees to pay your bills, or do all the housework, it can be more a stress than they let on. Make sure you're both agreed on the fact that you're equally contributing, whatever that means to you.
7. To Always Agree With You
If you expect your partner to always agree with you, you'll be in for quite a shock when they don't. A lot of this problem can be mitigated by not making assumptions or expectations about your partner's opinions, and to communicate about important issues. It's also disrespectful to expect your partner to agree with you, rather than to ask how they think and feel.
8. To Want The Same Things In Life
People grow and change. When you first get together, you can both be super baby crazy. Fast forward a few years, and maybe you're at a place in your career where you don't want to have kids. If you aren't checking in, and you're just assuming you're on the same page (or expecting your partner to want what you want) then you're setting yourself up for some serious disappointment.
9. To Always Be Sexually Available
No one has to have sex with you. Ever. Even if you're married. Even if you paid for the sex. Even if the person agreed at first. You can't force or guilt your partner into having sex with you. If you're not having as much sex as you'd like, there are some serious conversations you need to have, but the bottom line is that you can't expect your partner (or anyone) to be sexually available to you whenever the mood strikes you.
10. To Fight Like You Do
Some people want to stand and fight the second an issue arises. Others need time and space to think, cool off, and decide how they really feel. You can't expect your partner to stand and fight if they need some time. Likewise, you can't expect your partner to wait forever while you contemplate. The key is more comprise and less expectation.
11. To Always Be The Same Person
I've seen this expectation wreck many a relationship. You start dating one person, then 10 years later, you expect them to be the same person. Sometimes they are the same person, for the most part. Sometimes they're completely different. People in healthy relationship support each other as they grow and change, as much as they can. They might not always grow and change in compatible ways, and that's OK, but they don't expect each other to sacrifice their personal growth for the sake of pleasing each other.
12. To Always Handle Problems
Sometimes partners do this in an attempt to be sweet, loving, caregivers. One partner takes on all the trouble, worry, and responsibility in the relationship. It seems romantic or caring on the surface but it's ultimately problematic. It doesn't make for a true partnership, and it doesn't help the partner being cared for to develop the skills to deal with their own problems. It's can be a form of enabling.
13. To Do What You Want Them To Do
This one seems like common sense, but it's actually pretty hard to swallow sometimes. Say for example, your partner is up for a promotion that would bring in a ton more money for your family, but it's a job they would hate. You can't make them take it. You can't rule the roost, so to speak, when it comes to household matters, too. You might be a natural leader, and that might work fine sometimes in your relationship, but you can't just be the boss all the time.
If you can remove these expectations and replace them with some team work and communication, you'll go a long way toward solving or preventing some of the most common relationships problems.
Images: Pixabay; (14)