If you are in a committed relationship, you obviously love your partner, but that doesn’t mean you don’t face issues or shy away from arguments. Have you ever taken the time to consider if you are communicating with your partner well? Do you take each other’s problems seriously? Do you have diplomatic discussions or blown out of proportion meltdowns?
 
How well you communicate is often linked to feeling connected to each other, and that your needs are being met. Directly related to communication are expectations, you cannot have one without the other.
 
Communication and expectations within your relationship can be difficult concepts to grasp. Chances are no one has ever sat you down to talk about the most effective way to communicate with your partner. There are times our expectations are not in line with what our partner is willing or able to meet, this can cause problems that ripple throughout the relationship. I honestly do not think a lot of people see communication and expectations as fundamental pillars that the two of you can build together.
 
Almost every relationship problem I have encountered has to do with either not understanding each other or expecting unrealistic things. The good news is that these are both items you can work on to improve. If you are wondering how to navigate the waters of effective communication and expectations, fear not, all you have to do is keep reading!
 

What are Expectations?

I see a lot of people today who do not treat their relationships well. Any relationship you are a part of requires work for both parties to grow, be successful and happy. This means that you not only have respect for your partner but you are holding yourself accountable and as a responsible individual.
 
You might be wondering what I mean by this, and thinking that it doesn’t sound all that romantic. I agree it’s not, but just like you as an individual are made up of different layers, so is your relationship. The more layers you have compatible with your person, the better off both of you will be.
 
Each layer of your relationship is made up of expectations, you know the things you expect your partner to do. Expectations are tricky, but they are ultimately the factors that feed into your happiness and the overall success of the relationship. They range from small to large. Picking up cat food after work, letting the other person know when you are out of toilet paper. Often we expect that if we are willing to do a specific thing, the person will too, but that can easily get us into trouble.

Expectations Rules

#1 You cannot have expectations in a relationship that the other person doesn’t know about or agree with. 

Being in a relationship means it is no longer just about you, it is a joint effort to be together.  That means you have to agree on what you are expecting from each other. Take a step back from your relationship and look at is as a partnership or a business. In order to complete goals and successful, you need to agree on the goal, resources, and a plan.

Imagine you and your partner are co-managing the goal of creating a healthy household. How do you do that?  What are the resources you are willing to put towards this goal (money, time..)? What is the definition of a healthy household? It will probably have a different meaning to each of you, and talking about those differences will help you better understand your partner’s needs.  You will have to adapt, compromise, and work together to figure this out. This is a forever adapting goal.

Items to Consider 
 
Here is where you come in as being a responsible partner, are your expectations balanced? Is one person stuck with all the cleaning or cooking? If your initial expectations are not being met are there other things your partner does for you that you never thought of wanting? I don’t think my fiance will ever notice when the bathroom or litterbox needs to be cleaned, but he does do 90% of the cooking. That is a fair trade-off for me.

TV and social media can color how we view our relationship. Some couples buy each other gifts like candy, flowers or clothes.  Others might go on trips or out to expensive dinners. Just because that is what other people are doing, doesn’t mean it is what you have to do. Doing nice things for each other goes far beyond some flowers or a night out. Reframe the way you think about the little things.

For example, when I work late my fiance always has dinner on the table when I get home. I don’t ask him, or expect him to wait for me to eat but he does.  Sometimes when he goes grocery shopping he will pick me up a chocolate covered pretzel because he knows I love them. Anytime I call him and ask him to pick up something on the way home from work because I am already home and refuse to put pants back on, he does.

I also frequently deal with anxiety. He doesn’t get mad or annoyed no matter how many times I ask or reask him things, because he understands me. He also knows that if he is upset about something that he needs to tell me when it happens, or it will cause additional anxiety issues. Our communication has evolved as we better understand ourselves and each other.

#2 There are plenty of expectations you can ditch

There are only two things needed to make an expectation, you and your partner’s approval. Don’t worry about what other people are doing or how they run their relationships. Every relationship is different but I do have a pet peeve that applies to all… when I ask to hang out with a friend and they show up with their SO.

Feeling the need to spend all your time together

Having friendships, hobbies and interests outside of your relationship are important for personal and shared growth. They allow you to blow off steam, get some alone time or discover something you are passionate about.
 
There are probably already things that you enjoy that your SO doesn’t. Do they tend to tag along, but then ask to leave halfway through because they are bored?  I know first hand that this can cause resentment and sour feelings about time spent together.
 
Allow each other the freedom to do things alone or with friends. To do this without resentment takes some communication. Get into the habit of asking, or running it by your partner before the plans are made. You both should be on the same page about what you are comfortable with. Bottom line, you should trust each other enough to spend time apart.
 

#3 Sharing experiences equally

 Spending time apart is important but as a couple, there will be experiences you want to share with each other even when one of your isn’t all that interested. When you are doing these activities make sure the other person knows you want to spend time with them, even if the activity isn’t your preferred choice so at a later date they will be more willing to return the favor.

 This has happened to me a few times. I would agree to do something with my SO because I wanted to spend time with him and he was excited about it. It became a problem when he would not do things with me he was not interested in. After explaining this to him, we have struck a balance.
 

#4 Figure out how to manage their annoying habits

 I hate to break it to you but bae is going to have some quirks that drive you insane, but it is not your job to try to change them or fix their habits. Now I will make a side note here, there is a difference about things that annoy you, (like can you PLEASE PICK UP YOUR SOCKS) and a self-destructive or abusive behavior. Here I am talking about socks, and toilet seats, anything else should be handled by a professional.

So how do you handle those annoying habits without destroying your relationship? It is pretty simple, communicate nicely. Another thing I see all too often is people being rude or mean to their partner because they assume they will be forgiven. This is again a talk of personal responsibility. Don’t be a brat because you didn’t get your way, be an adult and use your words.
 
For example, my fiance has a PS3 and around 100 PS3 games that he intends on keeping for the rest of his life. I have only seen him play these old games once or twice in the last three years, however, he insists on keeping them all. I am the opposite and if I don’t use or need it anymore I don’t want it in my space. It really used to bother me every time I walked into the living room there they were on the tv stand, it looked cluttered.
 
The first time I brought it up he got really defensive because they are important to him. Once I realized how he felt about his games and that it was unlikely to change anytime soon, I knew I needed to change my approach. I brought it up again but this time asked if we could only keep current games and gaming equipment under the tv stand so we could store other things there (like my collection of 8 DVDs) as well. He agreed and moved them into the spare room.

#5 Figuring out how to communicate

I was never taught relationship communication skills growing up and often fell into the habit of suppressing my real feelings about a subject and blowing up later about something seemingly insignificant. I also have anxiety, which when thrown into the mix of emotions can make things messy.
 
Would you be willing to…
 
Taking the right approach when communicating is the best way to come to a compromise. The PlayStation compromise worked because I understood that his games have value, and he understood that the tv stand is shared space. I also approached it in a non-confrontational way with a potential solution. 
 
Asking “Would you be willing to move your old games in the spare room to make room for some of my DVDs?” takes some of the pressure off of whatever the issue is and allows you explain your want or need.  Remember you are phrasing it as a question to which the other person is allowed to say no.
 
Tell the truth about everything
 
It is important to be honest with your person if they are truly in support of you and the relationship there shouldn’t be anything you cannot say to them. This is also another place that personal responsibility comes into play. If you are about to do something that could potentially upset partner, rethink it.
 
This also applies to money. Money, just like time is a limited resource for most of us. Being on the same page with your spending and saving will make the two of you unstoppable. For example, if you want to buy something but it is outside of the budget the two of you agreed on, try this:  think about how purchasing the item will affect the goals the two of you created together and if it is really worth delaying.
 
If you are always honest with each other than you will be more likely to reach the goals you set. It also sets the precedent that you are not hiding anything, and are actively working on yourself as well as your relationship. Being honest isn’t always easy if you have difficulty with this try writing out what you want to say.
 
Listen
 
Listening can be hard, but it is an essential part of any relationship. It makes your partners thoughts and feelings valid, and can also help you better understand them. You don’t need to agree with everything they say, but you do need to give them the opportunity to talk to express themselves. This is especially true if there is an argument. It is important for both you to voice your opinions and to feel you have been heard.
 
Having conversations like this can be difficult, and they are even harder when one of you is upset. So caution should be used when broaching a controversial subject, and if you need to cool down beforehand take that time to get your words in order.

Final Thoughts

Communicating well with others is a skill that takes time and effort to improve. There are a multitude of ways to communicate so don’t give up if it takes more than one try. When I first moved in with my Fiance we had a serious cleaning problem. I tried apps, lists, charts, and a whiteboard before we found a solution that worked. Our solution was to assign specific tasks to the person who was better suited to do them and decided on specific days to clean. This process took place over 6 months and had many frustrating moments until we figured out how we best work together.
 
Good luck!
Written by: Chanel Barber
 

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