Among the couples we work with – all genders and sexual orientation – there seems to be a common theme when it comes to conflict in the relationship. Can you take a wild guess? It is expectations. We all have expectations, but it is the expectations that are hidden, assumed, and not expressed that lead to the most conflict.
There is a fantasy narrative in relationships that we have all bought into since we were young. Think about all the romcoms that Hollywood produces or the Disney princess stories we grew up with. But it all comes down to the same narrative, that love is measured by how well someone knows you and that when you’re in love you’re supposed to know and anticipate all the needs and wants of the person you love. THIS IS A LIE!!
That’s not real life, in real life we are human. We are humans who constantly change their minds, wants and needs. Have you ever found yourself undecided on what to eat for dinner? So how exactly can any human being know all the things about you when you don’t even know what you want to eat!But there is a way out of this conflict. Break up with the Hollywood narrative that sets every single relationship up for failure. No one can live up to that romance story!! We need to create a new relationship narrative that encompasses a clear communication of needs and wants to our partners. We need to frame the communication of our needs, wants, and desires as a strength in the relationship rather than a weakness.
“When we hold on to hidden expectations and we don’t express them to our partners; we set the relationship up to fail.”Cecilia Mannella
Framing love within this narrow fantasy story, where each partner has to know what the other one wants and needs, we set limitations on love. Love is meant to grow and evolve over time, it will feel different, and it will ebb and flow through the history of the relationship. So, when we put a narrow definition on it (love = you must know all my needs, wants, and desires) we only constrain it and prevent it from growing.
If you haven’t heard about Brene Brown and her research on vulnerability, you must go look her up now! Brene says ‘clear is kind’ and for ANY relationship to grow and flourish, there needs to be clear communication of each others needs and wants. You do not have to agree with those needs and wants, but you do need to communicate them and allow the other person an opportunity to respond.
Imagine how freeing it would feel to be in a relationship that openly shares needs, wants, and desires – it would take the pressure away from having to guess all the time!! This is the type of relationship we can all aspire to have (#relationshipgoals). It takes a leap of faith in yourself and leaning into vulnerability to share your hear with someone else – but it is worth it.
My motto, if you are not willing to ask or share your assumptions to double check that your assumption was right, than you’re not allowed to make the assumption. And if you haven’t expressed your expectations and wants, then you don’t get to be mad at someone for guessing them wrong.