Uncover your hidden marriage expectations
“You expect very little, you feel great, and you’re spending a lot of time trying to please each other. But as the relationship deepens, expectations change. And when you’re not getting those needs met, suddenly your partner can do little that pleases you — everything seems annoying. Every frustration just proves that your relationship’s not right, not good. You may start arguing, but not about the real issues that are bothering you.”
Often that’s because you don’t even realize what the real issues are — or are afraid to speak up because you don’t want to rock the boat. Your first step? Uncover your hidden expectations about marriage — a set of sometimes shocking, sometimes humorous, often very vulnerable beliefs. They range from who should perk the morning coffee to when you’ll have children, from who makes the investments to how often you’ll make love, from what your spouse should say about your new haircut to how you’ll greet each other in the morning.
New expectations can arise at crucial turning points in marriage, such as when you buy a home, plant your first garden together, become parents, deal with a major illness, enter the empty-nest stage, or even in the later years of a long relationship. Building good exploration skills now will help you uncover what’s really on your mind at any stage in your relationship.
Don’t get us wrong. Not all expectations are unreasonable. And you shouldn’t write off your expectations, either. Once you’ve got a handle on your personal expectations — and hopefully, your partner’s done the same — compare notes with your partner. Discuss them as a way of getting to know each other more deeply, using the assertive speaking and empathetic listening skills you’ll learn about later in this chapter.
Decide which expectations you can meet for each other. It’s important to make an effort to please your spouse by taking actions that meet his or her needs, even if they aren’t part of your personal view of the perfect marriage. And use other expectations as the starting point for personal discovery and growth: Maybe you expected your mate and your marriage to bring new excitement and adventure into your life, but things are more staid than you expected.