Expectations and Disappointment
We all have expectations — which is probably why we get disappointed. We have to expect things from other people, don’t we? Probably the most disappointing thing about expectations is that they often do not come true.
Couples research into marriage therapy has indicated that one of the best ways to safeguard your relationship against infidelity is to have realistic expectations. Long-term relationships are often more loving than exciting, so if someone is expecting a lot of ongoing excitement, they may be disappointed.
Having expectations is accepted in our culture, but when our expectations get too big, we may be setting ourselves up for disappointment. An even bigger problem occurs when we are unclear or do not speak what are expectations are and yet are disappointed when those expectation aren’t met. Mahatma Gandhi said, “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.”
In a relationship, needs must be communicated, needs being a simply way of saying expectations. We often expect our love partner to make the correct choices on how to treat us. When they do not, we sometimes get angry or disappointed. In a way, the problem has been created by our unclear or unspoken expectations.
Couples Therapy and Adjusting Expectations
Research by the famed Gottman team has suggested that contempt — also known as resentment — may be the number one killer of a marriage.
Resentment a poison that often starts as something small and builds up into something big. Resentment is dangerous because it often flies under our radar, so that we don’t even notice we have the resentment, and our partner doesn’t realize that there’s anything wrong.
If you ever notice yourself having resentment with regards to your relationship, you need to address this immediately, before it gets worse. Fix it off while it’s small. This is the point when couples therapy can be the most effective.
Preventing and Reversing Resentment
Resentment threatens the health of many marriages without the couples even knowing about it, usually because of denial and conflict avoidance. A person typically builds on their resentment by becoming less interested in aspects of the relationship.
There are two good ways to deal with resentment: 1) Accept your partner for who he or she is, and 2) talk to your partner about what you would like from them. Try to talk to them in a non-confrontational way, but in a way that expresses how you feel without being accusatory.
Asking Your Partner to Change
Sometime I think that relationships are a series of negotiations during which each person asks the other to change something. This usually looks one of three ways in that one partner wants the other to: 1) stop doing something, 2) start doing something, or 3) modify an existing behavior.
By considering a new point of view, by changing our thinking about expectations, we open ourselves up to the other person. Once we learn to identify our own individual needs, it also helps if we can be detached from our expectation of how those needs get fulfilled. If you need help getting this process started, consider trying a few couples therapy sessions.
It can takes some time to loosen the grip of long-term resentment. If the feelings go back in a ways in time and there have been more than one incidents of betrayal, both people must be willing to forgive. Fortunately, couples therapy combined with consistent kindness and loving behavior can work magic.