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6 Steps to Dealing with Expectations in Relationships

Everyone is guilty of having certain expectations in relationships. It’s natural. What you don’t want is to keep those expectations to yourself, because you’ll only set yourself up for disappointment. After all, if your partner doesn’t know what your wants and needs are, how can he or she fulfill them? Greg and Erin Smalley, authors of BEFORE YOU PLAN YOUR WEDDING…PLAN YOUR MARRIAGE, give their insight into the 6-step process of evaluating these feelings to ensure your relationship is a happy and successful one.

#1. Claim them.

First, assume total responsibility for your own happiness. Understand that people cannot fulfill your life or make you happy. Regardless of your dreams or excitement about your upcoming marriage, your future spouse is not responsible for making you happy or your honeymoon a success according to your criteria

#2. Feel them.

Recognize the feelings connected with unmet expectations—emotions such as disappointment, frustration, hurt, and fear. How can you tell if you have an unmet expectation? Disappointment. When you feel disappointment in your relationship, then most likely some expectation hasn’t been met. When expectations get met, partners feel satisfied, happy, fulfilled, gratified, contented, respected, cared for, and loved. On the other hand, when expectations are not met or are in conflict, other less-pleasant emotions emerge. These feelings are an indication that expectations are not meshing.

It is important to understand what you’re feeling, validate the feeling, and then move to uncover the expectation on which it is based. In some cases, your partner won’t even know of the expectation; in fact, the only indication of its existence is its emotional effect.

#3. Recognize them.

Once you’re aware of the feelings associated with unmet or unfulfilled expectations, then you can gain the awareness necessary to make the needed adjustment. Awareness answers questions like: What was I expecting should happen? What was I wishing or hoping would take place?

What were my assumptions about my partner and his or her behavior? Push yourself to take a hard look at your expectations. The point of these questions is to consider whether the answers to the questions are realistic, productive, and workable. It’s not that they are true or false, or right or wrong; instead, the answers are preferences, likes, or disbeliefs. We want to help you to identify the distortions, enabling you to change your way of thinking.

#4. Understand them.

Where are the expectations coming from? Do they have their source in dreams, wishes, assumptions, hopes, standards, your family of origin, past relationships, TV, culture, or somewhere else?

#5. Evaluate them.

Are your expectations reasonable or unreasonable? Are they realistic or unrealistic? Challenge your expectations within yourself. Evaluation means that you determine if the expectations seem to be supported by objective reality.

#6. Express them.

Remember, the ultimate goal of expectations is to make them clear. In other words, make your unspoken desires spoken. Clearly express your expectations. Sharing your expectations allows you to define a mutual vision of how you want your future marriage to be. The best part is that when you express your expectations, you allow your partner to decide if he or she can satisfy that need. He or she gets the opportunity to decide if the expectation can be met most of the time, some of the time, or none of the time.

Debunk some more myths about marriage by checking out BEFORE YOU PLAN YOUR WEDDING…PLAN YOUR MARRIAGE by Dr. Greg Smalley and Erin Smalley.

For more on dealing with dating expectations, check out this video with 5 Dating Hacks…


Also from Tips on Life & Love: 7 Myths About Marriage–and the Reality


Excerpted from Before You Plan Your Wedding…Plan Your Marriage by Dr. Greg Smalley and Erin Smalley with Steve Halliday. Copyright © 2008 by Dr. Greg and Erin Smalley. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

Photo by Matthew Fassancht on Unsplash


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