There was a time in your life when all you wanted was to fall in love. And you did one day, luckily.
You didn’t just fall in love, though. You got consumed by it. Every morning you woke up with a thousand-watt smile that lit up the room. Your voice reverberated with electrifying excitement, and your energy was intoxicating.
Everything in the world seemed dreamlike. It felt great to love, to be loved and to be alive as a living, breathing human being. But like any other journey, you started to bounce over uncomfortable bumps along the way.
You noticed a few cracks and some glitches here and there but remained silent. You ignored them, expecting them to fade away with time. But then you felt more and more of them — and that’s when your castle of love started to crumble.
Is your dreamland turning into a nightmare?
Probably after getting committed, you gradually started experiencing a downward spiral in your relationship. You might never have expected things to change this rapidly. But much to your shock they did. You started taking each other for granted, fought over silly things, complained recklessly, and before you knew it, your relationship started to crumble.
How can a near-perfect dreamland turn into a nightmare all of a sudden?
It seems like something sneaked into your love life secretly and started untying the knots that kept you together: expectations.
To understand how expectations work, picture this: you met this beautiful girl with long, black hair in a cafe and asked her out on a date. Luckily, she liked you too and agreed to see you. Then, after dating for a while and enjoying each other’s company, you decided to move in together.
Only, you both didn’t expect what was about to happen.
You both started noticing and over-analyzing the little things: how she dresses, what she talks about with her friends, how she cries while watching films. You noticed everything, and she did too. And from there emerged expectations.
You expected her to wake up early every morning, and she expected you to take the trash out. You expected her to watch TV with you, and she expected you to stay home every Sunday. You expected her to sit quietly, and she expected you to talk.
The Nature of Expectations
The mysterious thing about expectations is that we don’t realize they exist until they start creating problems. And often, by that time, it’s too late. You’re too angry, too sad, too irritated, and almost convinced that you want to break up.
You don’t realize this initially because expectations have a slow and steady but gradual growth.
Where do expectations come from?
The answer is simple: you.
Expectations come from a place within you that’s searching for significance in the world. They come from an inner desire to be relevant in others’ lives and feel important in the world.
This is why couples end up fighting after moving in together. The inner need to feel important increases when they become a part of each other’s lives. So when that desire is not met, people suffer in anguish.
How to know your expectations?
One simple way of understanding expectations is this: check your ‘shoulds.’
“My husband should come on time.”
“My boyfriend should not smoke.”
“My son should call me every day.”
When the ‘shoulds’ are not met, you feel unimportant, almost like no one’s hearing you. You feel bad at first and don’t take it seriously. But gradually this develops into a form of hatred for the other.
And before you know it, you’re already thinking about ending the relationship.
Can we get rid of our expectations?
We are flawed beings, not enlightened souls. So it’s almost impossible for us to get rid of our expectations.
We get jealous, angry, irritated, worried, sad and anxious — sometimes all of these things together. It won’t be fair to put yourself under the pressure of eliminating all your expectations in one go. In fact, don’t even think about it.
What you need to do is manage your expectations. That’s a more practical approach, and there are simple ways to do that.
Managing your Expectations
Begin by identifying them.
To eliminate problems caused by expectations, first identify them. Make an effort to write them down when you spot them and rationalize them. This is important because most of our expectations are unrealistic. Expecting an introvert to do the talking during dinner, for instance, isn’t fair. Identify such unjust expectations, rationalize them and get rid of them.
Share your expectations.
Expectations are just thoughts, like any other. You create them in your head and keep them there. You don’t share them with others and expect them to come true by themselves. That’s the whole problem.
Don’t keep your expectations festering up in the head. Instead, share them with your partner. There could be some expectations that you can’t compromise on. For instance, you may not want your girlfriend smoking ten cigarettes a day. Such realistic expectations must be shared so that you can find closure in them.
Keeping them inside forever will only cause more problems.
Put yourself in her shoes.
It’s natural for us only to think about ourselves. We’re caught in our own web of desires and problems. So whenever there’s a disagreement, we don’t understand our partner’s point of view.
We fight when we’re not being understood.
But if you put yourself in the other person’s shoes, you’ll know where your partner’s coming from. You’ll see things from her perspective too. You’ll see valid reasons for her disagreement. You’ll understand why she’s angry.
Most problems would then seem avoidable.
Understand her love language.
Relationship counselor and author Gary Chapman spoke about the five love languages: words of affirmation, acts of service, quality time, gifts, and physical touch.
His main idea was that everyone expresses love uniquely. Some like to express love through words of affirmation, like saying “I love you” several times a day, while others express their love by giving gifts. Some others prefer to express their love by spending quality time with their partners. There’s no standard way of expressing your love.
So when your partner, for instance, is spending quality time with you but doesn’t prefer to give gifts, you tend to think that they don’t care about you. At that time, you fail to see that spending quality time is their way of expressing love naturally. If you can wrap your head around this idea, you wouldn’t feel so bad after all.
Find out what your partner’s love language is, and let her know yours. You’ll soon start seeing your relationship brimming with love again.
So here’s the key takeaway. Relationships fail because of expectations. The key to sustaining them lies in managing your expectations well. Only then would you be able to wake up to who your partner really is. And then, your smile will begin to light up the room again, just like before.