You’d probably laugh and call me crazy if I told you I’m expecting to see the sunset in the east. You and I both know this won’t happen.
You may find this example to be silly, and yet I see many couples living in misery because in their relationship they are expecting to see the sunset while looking to the east.
By doing so, they are setting themselves up for perpetual disappointment and frustration. This post covers the 9 most damaging expectations that can break up any relationship and keep you miserable and unhappy for a very long time.
The Most Effective Way to Drive Your Partner Away
Expectation is by definition a construct in our mind. It exists only in our head. It’s an idea of what something should look like, how it should feel and sound, and every other attribute we can think of.
Then we compare what’s in our head to reality. The problem comes if the two don’t match.
Having your pizza delivered later than expected can be disappointing. It can even be outright frustrating, especially if you’re in the middle of a party and you have run out of food. But it’s not earth shattering.
Now, how about if I told you that you’re going to feel miserable and disappointed with your spouse for the rest of your life?
You’d say “Hell, no!” Rightly so.
Still, as an author and a coach I see it happen every day.
When expectations about our marriage and our spouse don’t match the reality, what do we do?
We start fixing things.
We attempt to “change” things. And usually the object of change is our spouse, so they can fit our expectation. The problem is, if our expectation is unrealistic or outright false, our attempts fail over and over again. We feel disappointed. We may not say so out loud, but they sure can feel it. They feel inadequate.
If you’ve ever been on the receiving side of such perpetual “changing attempts,” you know it’s not pretty. It seems like whatever you do, your partner isn’t satisfied. You’re being constantly reminded that you are not enough .
When my wife and I were in a bad place, we were making each other feeling inadequate all the time.
We were both thinking “If only, he/she would change….. (in this or that way), everything would be fine.” We were going completely blind to how we contributed to this mess ourselves. These were dark times for us and I’m so happy we’ve dug ourselves out of it.
That’s why it pays to check whether your expectations about marriage and your life together are realistic.
1. All You Need is Love
It’s what the Beatles sang. Love will do the magic. This is a big myth, and a dangerous one.
Sure, successful couples love each other deeply, but they don’t rely on loving feelings to come naturally. They create them. They create and foster a loving environment every single day. I repeat, every single day, and not only for their anniversary or during vacation.
That’s because successful couples know that love is an act of doing, not having.
Here are a couple ideas how you can make your spouse feel special in 5 minutes or less.
2. There’s a Perfect Person Out There
After the initial in-love phase is gone and the rosy glasses lose their power, even the most die-hard lovers discover that their partner isn’t “perfect” after all.
We’ve all been there.
As people realize their partner is not who they thought they were during the courtship period, they start “changing” that person to fit their idealized image of the perfect partner.
As this doesn’t work, they figure it’s just bad luck. So they move on, believing things will be completely different with another person.
Successful couples have learned to resist the grass is greener elsewhere myth. Here’s why.
3. My Spouse Should Make Me Happy
Many single people believe that their future life mate’s job is to make them happy. They believe that an intimate relationship will somehow heal their troubles, release them from boredom, and bring purpose back to their lives. They even marry for that reason.
4. Our Early Romance Days Should Last Forever
When the early romance days are gone and emotions settle down a bit, many couples realize that the feelings they used to have for their beloved one when they were in love have changed.
Then they figure it must be because they don’t love each other anymore. That’s a just myth, perpetuated by mass media for a long time! Here’s the reason why rosy glasses always wear off.
5. Better Communication Will Save My Marriage
Couples who are in trouble often think that communication is their biggest problem. Most books and seminars I’ve seen, as well as traditional counselling, don’t make it any easier by focusing so relentlessly on couple’s communication.
Learning how to communicate better is a skill, and a very useful one. But it won’t make your troubles go away, because it doesn’t address the underlying reason. If they are not careful, couples can easily get caught up in a much more dangerous habit.
It’s especially dangerous because it resists a cure like the most bad-ass antibiotic-resistant bacteria. And, it’s hard to exterminate. That’s why I call it the silent killer of relationships.
Bottom line: better communication will not make all your troubles go away. You have to feel safe and understood first, in order for communication to be effective. Then, and only then, will you have a chance to get your message across. Then you will have a chance to be heard.
6. If Only He/She Would Change, Everything Would Be Fine
When relationship troubles start, we tend to point a finger in another direction, mainly at our spouse. We know to the last detail what our partner would have to do (and then, everything would be fine). We know exactly how they need to change so then we can get our relationship back on track again.
The problem is, changing other people is a hard job. And it almost never works. Here’s what you can do instead.
7. Kids Should Be My Top Priority
It sounds harsh, but more than anything, your kids need the example of a stable and fulfilling relationship. That’s what makes them feel safe and secure. So the best thing you can do for your family and your kids is to have a happy marriage yourself. Here’s why.
8. Small Gestures Don’t Count
Birthday gifts, dinners, vacations, jewelry… all of these grand gestures sound amazing. But they can never be as valuable as small acts of love.
Showing your partner that you care and that they are special to you does not need to be complicated. Here’s what you can do.
9. Things Will Never Change
If you are in a bad place right now, you might be discouraged by failed attempts to repair your relationship. You might be tempted to think your current relationship and marriage will never change.
We all do that from time to time. We generalize experiences we’ve had in the past and project them into the future. But the fact is, our future hasn’t been written yet. Our life is full of opportunities, and they lie ahead, in the future.
While this is obvious, we frequently forget it.
Just imagine what life would be like if the future was only a repetition of past experiences? What a sad, sad world that would be. Not to mention the fact that by doing so, we would still be living in caves, and eating raw meat and bitter roots.
Just because you’ve been fighting with your partner all the time, that doesn’t mean things will stay that way forever. But it does mean you should try some new things as, obviously, the stuff that you’ve been doing up until now hasn’t worked so well.
Here’s how you can start changing things for the better today.