Expectations are a killer for relationships. They set us up for failure and disappointment as no one is likely to meet all of our expectations, even if we feel they are reasonable. Expectations make our happiness contingent on outside circumstances while true happiness is generated from within and never dictated by the performance of others. Ridding your marriage of expectations is a must if you're looking to create a lasting and loving relationship.
Here are three ways you can shift your attitude and enjoy your spouse again:
1) Get a reality check- One of the biggest shocks for young couples is when they wake up one day and realize that their marriage is not as perfect as they thought it to be. While ideally it's best to have no expectations, if you are going to have any, make sure they are realistic. Couples who enter marriage with realistic expectations of what a marriage looks like fare much better and are prepared to navigate the occasional rough patches. Those that expect eternal bliss are fooling themselves. Unrealistic expectations explain why divorce rates are highest among couples in their 20's (Office for National Statistics, 2012). Educate yourself about what is "normal" and you will realize that your situation may be a lot more common than you think. You will feel validated and instead of pointing fingers at your spouse as the problem and feeling helpless, you'll join hand-in-hand to find a healthy solution.
2) Communicate- Expectations are premeditated resentments. If you have expectations about how your spouse should behave or what roles he/she should assume at home and you don't articulate them, you are creating your own misery. So many couples silently harbor bitter feelings towards their spouse, simply because their expectations are not being met. If your spouse doesn't know what you want, how can he/she do it? You may not even be clear about your own expectations. Start thinking about the frustration you are experiencing in your marriage. How much of it is rooted in your expectations? If you didn't have those expectations, would you still be annoyed? Once you gain clarity, have a safe conversation with your spouse and articulate what you would like from him/her, how you see your roles at home, etc... Getting it out in the open allows for both of you to know what the other wants and needs instead of keeping it inside and stewing in your own self-induced resentment.
3) Stay present- Learn how to show up in your relationship and be present with whatever is going on at the moment. Yes, you may have had the expectation to leave the house at a certain time, but your toddler is throwing a tantrum. You can get angry but the source of your frustration is not your child acting out; rather your expectation that is not being met. If you had no self-imposed pressure to leave at that time, you would not feel the anxiety of not being able to have your wishes met. You would actually be able to be present with your child and he/she would probably calm down sooner. Our mind is so focused on the story we have created inside of our head about what we need to be doing, that we are unable to be present. Stay present and truly experience life. You'll be much happier and more connected when you no longer need to evaluate your spouse based on whether or not he/she lives up to your expectations.
There is nothing wrong with having hopes and dreams for your life and relationship. Things go sour when they turn into expectations. By educating yourself about what a relationship really looks like, learning how to safely articulate what you want and need, and focusing on staying in the present, you can rid yourself of expectation and set yourself up for relationship success instead of failure.
If your marriage requires more immediate assistance, download your free copy of Rabbi Slatkin's new book, The 5 Step Action Plan to a Happy & Healthy Marriage.