“I can’t believe my husband forgot our anniversary again,” lamented a client recently. “We have been married for nearly 12 years and he never remembers.” I asked her how she knew he didn’t remember it. Exasperated she related how there was no gift, no dinner reservation, not even a trifling text to acknowledge their special day. Her relationship expectation that he would remember and celebrate their anniversary was not met and she was livid with frustrated rage.

How many times does this happen to us in our relationships. You expected her to be on time for dinner with your parents, and not um and ah over what shoes matches her new leather jacket. He was meant to take out the garbage, not leave it out for the cats to brawl over in the garden. We all carry conscious or unconscious expectations from our partner, and when these aren’t met we are inevitably disappointed, frustrated and fuming for a name calling fight.

How many times have important dates which should have been celebrated been turned into a nuclear cold war. Instead of giggling over a glass of bubbly, you find yourself in separate rooms trying to cool off from the rage of being overlooked, forgotten and feeling unimportant to your partner. Whilst they are often bewildered, confused and in turn angry at your ‘disproportionate’ reaction to their not celebrating your birthday.

The question we have to ask ourselves before we get cross with our partners is, ‘Is this a fair expectation to have. Did we communicate our expectation so that they could fulfil it?’ This could mean deciding that your birthday celebration is important to you, which means you need to express this to your partner. Don’t just tell them it’s important but outline exactly what you expect with all its requisite specifics. A birthday card, a romantic candlelit dinner and a present that you shop for together. And remind, remind, remind your partner so that it will be done!

I can just see you rolling your eyes. They should know this on their own. If they loved me they’d naturally know how to read my mind and do exactly what I want. However is this true? Do you magically know exactly what your partner wants? A relationship is about being fair and realistic, not about magically getting what we want.

We need to turn around to our partner with love and compassion and help them join us in meeting our expectations. Teach them to treat us how we want to be treated, with kindness and encouragement, rather than judgement and frustration. We readily acknowledge that we are doing the best we can in our relationship. We need to extend this to our partners who are also doing the best they can.

Tips for managing expectations in your marriage

  • Be Aware of Your Expectations – Be honest with yourself about your expectations from your partner. If you’re upset that they didn’t cut the roast beef, it’s because you forgot to tell them. If something is important, spell it out, don’t play guessing games in your relationship.
  • Communicate Your Expectation – If you don’t tell your partner what you want from them, they won’t know. The more specific you are the easier it is for them to come to the party and fulfil your wants. So don’t just say – fetch the dry cleaning, get specific- tell them which dry cleaner, which item, when, and to make sure the item was cleaned.
  • Lower Your Expectations – When you lower your expectations you will be surprised when they do what you love, like organize a fun night out. This is better than stewing over their shortcomings.
  • Take the Pressure Off – If an expectation has become a continual wild dog fight, step back, and take the pressure off. Forget the anniversary if it’s ruining your relationship. Give your partner the space to decide for themselves what they want to do. This will encourage them to do what you want.
  • Model what is Important to You – Buy yourself flowers so your partner knows what you love. Go out with your mates to that concert you’re dying to go to.

It’s your partner’s choice to join you in living the way you want. Show them you’re not waiting for them. You’re going to live your best life right now!

What relationship expectations are you not prepared to let go of? Email me: mlavinpell@gmail.com

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