In our society, we have a lot of rules, expectations and guidelines which are assumed once we get into relationships. Things like exclusivity, and hetero-sexuality for example, are a few things that are often assumed in the dating world. Such expectations and assumptions also exist in the married world. Thanks to television and media we are often spoon fed what we then expect to be typical and normal, and we often will turn a blind eye to things which may be going on in the relationship.
As a couples, marriage and family therapist, I have seen many couples fall apart, because one or both parties were assuming certain things, either about the other person or about the relationship. We have a tendency to fall into patterns, and routines in relationships, but when something shifts it's like the rug has been pulled out from under us.
Instead of talking about things, and embracing change, we get stuck in old notions and beliefs which at the core are a threat to the foundation. We don't feel supported in our need and desire for change, we don't feel accepted and acknowledged for our differences and we become fearful and threatened when we see changes in our partners. Over time we begin stop being curious about our partner's process and begin to hide things from each other, secrets which can sometimes become too big for the relationship to hold at bay.
Here are 5 assumptions and expectations many couples go into marriage with, which could doom the success of the relationship:
1. The expectation to remain the same. We assume our partner will remain the same person he or she was the day we married them. That very special day when people get married, and are on the same page, hopefully about so many things. Together, looking forward at the future. Many couples falsely expect their partner to continue to hold onto the same beliefs, desires, goals, and interests as the day they were married. We become scared when we notice changes in our partner. By recognizing that our partner will change, daily, monthly, and yearly, that their goals may change, their interests may change and by learning to appreciate and support that growth we set up our relationships for success.
2. We expect them to change. In very much the same way that we expect our partners to stay the same, we also expect our partners to change with us. We expect them to grow towards us, and become more like us as we combine and unite our lives. When our partners fail to change into the person we expected them to become, disappointment and feelings of disillusion pave the way for resentment to build in the relationship.
3. Attraction. We expect and assume that our partner will never be physically or emotionally attracted or drawn to someone else, and that they will only be attracted to us. We expect that they should only fantasize about us. We expect the fairy tale ending of "happily ever after" to be true. We fail to recognize that life goes on, that monogamy is a choice we both made together, but that despite our choices our humanity still exists. Being monogamous and married, doesn't mean (we) or our partner won't be attracted to others, it just means we won't act on our attractions (hopefully.) Having open and honest conversations about attractions can lead to stronger connections, deeper intimacy as it focuses on honesty, and thus builds and supports trust.
4. We fear their reaction. We assume that if we are honest with our partner they might get jealous, angry, hurt or sad. We often rob them of the opportunity of honest discussion because we expect the worst. Having difficult conversations in the relationship is the absolute only way to foster successful growth and change. It's these difficult conversations that bring us closer together, also.
5. The sex will get better. When the relationship gets comfortable the sex may take a nose-dive. This may also happen for other reasons, such as stress, anger, or resentment in the relationship. Many couples falsely assume that the sex will get better, eventually. And, yes, sometimes it does, especially if it's work or stress related, but sometimes it doesn't. Having open, heart-to-hearts about desires, needs and what is going on with each other can be an excellent way to manage the ebbs and flow of sexuality.
Successful relationships are built on admiration and respect, regardless of how long you've been together. Recognizing differences, ebbs and flows in our unique personalities, and paths in life are the secret to a successful relationship, but it's often easier said than done. Being flexible, open and embracing change are at the heart of this success, but most important is communication. Couples who regularly show a curiosity in each other, who ask questions, respect their partner's needs for growth and change especially when they don't align, and choose, everyday, to see their partner as a friend who will evolve and who's journey may take them on a path you may not expect, are more likely to experience the adventure together, if they can.