The one thing we can do to experience more happiness in our relationship is to learn how to navigate expectations more skillfully.
The problem with our expectations is that people oftentimes have wildly differing ones. In fact, the more authentic and free our society becomes, the less we can assume that we know what others expect from us.
For instance, a century ago it was much clearer in the Western world how the different genders would interact with each other during courtship and in relationship. It was also clearer how children would behave towards their parents. Nowadays, we are free to find our own way, a freedom that comes at the price of confusion.
While some expectations continue to be widely shared in society—such as the presumption that our partner will not date other people—many others are less apparent.
For instance, a woman may expect that a man who genuinely loves her will explicitly tell her he loves her every day because that is what she observed in her parents when she was growing up. Meanwhile her partner, who grew up in a less emotionally expressive household, expects that she will understand that driving her to the airport in the middle of the night is his way of saying “I love you.”
Our expectations are generally un-spoken, un-expressed, and the person affected by them is often not even aware that we have them (and vice versa). This makes them so difficult to handle.
Meanwhile our culture romanticizes expectations. To prove true love, our significant other is supposed to simply know what we want from them, and act accordingly. Given how different we all are, this would basically require people to develop telepathic skills in order to have a happy relationship.
I believe there is a more mature (and realistic) way of making relationships work. It includes the following steps:
This article first appeared on Elephant Journal here.