Have you ever discussed your expectations or needs with your spouse? Did you discuss them before you got married? Most couples don’t have this conversation until they are deep into the relationship. We wouldn’t accept a job position without knowing the company’s expectations and reviewing the job description. Why should it be any different in a marriage? It’s good to know ahead of time whether our significant other can meet our needs and if our expectations are aligned. Maybe physical intimacy is very important to one person while security and compassion are at the top of the other person’s list. The issues that most couple have conflict over are children, money, work, chores, and sex, not necessarily in that order. All relationships have conflict, but how you handle it determines the outcome.
Marriage is about giving and receiving, about “you scratch my back, I scratch yours,” but it’s important to know where each person’s itch is. People tend to scratch the place that itches them without asking their partner what their they need, assuming that they both have the same needs. Recognize that we all have different needs and expectations that should be shared openly so that our spouse can work at meeting those needs. Ideally, before marriage we’ve established realistic and agreed upon expectations. Better yet, healthy couples discuss their shared values, priorities, and provide each other with mutual respect. The key is communicating directly, assertively, and honestly so that your partner doesn’t have to read between the lines and guess at your expectations. Ask your partner “what are your needs or expectations in this relationship” or “describe the elements of a good relationship.”
Listen and pay attention to your spouse’s needs since meeting each other’s legitimate expectations creates connection. Accept that we are different people and can have different needs. What’s important to you may not be important to your spouse, but remember that marriage requires sacrifice and compromise. Often I encourage couples to select a need from their partner’s list and work on meeting it without telling them which one and see if they can identify the need you selected. Lastly, discuss where your expectations came from and healthy ways to meet them. Remember don’t expect what you can’t deliver.