Happy Relationships: Expectations

It can be said that what destroys or seriously damages all happy relationships is the expectations one partner places on the other. This is so common that most couples accept that they should be part of a relationship, and that relationships can't survive without a degree of fulfillment of them. The thinking is 'after all, why am I in a relationship if I'm not getting what I need?'

The whole idea that an intimate relationship is about fulfilling your needs is at the core of the issue. Mostly, this is an artifact of the business relationships we form for exactly that purpose. We form a relationship with the grocer, banker or car mechanic on the foundation of getting what we need in exchange for giving them what they need, but it must be clear that we don't form intimate life partner and friendship relationships on the basis of this exchange.

Love is a necessary foundation for happy relationships, but the difficulty is that love is defined according to our personal experience and level of maturity, and so what that looks like in a particular relationship can mean being taken care of, supported, commiserated with, appreciated, unconditionally loved, or it can mean to love without conditions.

While unconditional loving is the gold standard for happy relationships, it's also extremely rare and so we'll devote another article to that topic. Very powerful, fulfilling and enduring relationships can be experienced by removing the relationship from the realm of fantasy and simply appreciating what the partner brings into your life.

Fantasies include the fairytale love romance which, while offering a taste of unconditional love, inevitably encounters the reality of your own needs. Attraction based on sexual attraction can play havoc with our hormones for a time but will not sustain a lasting relationship. More obviously, attraction based on the promise of security, image, vanity, status or the absence of loneliness are all about expectations.

When we base a relationship on these needs, we place a burden on the partner that he or she will experience in many subtle ways, and will naturally push against. In addition, by placing expectations we give the other the implied power to control our happiness. As both partners increasingly place the focus on both fulfilling the expectations of the other, and receiving fulfillment of his/her own, judgment, manipulation, anger, disappointment and other conflicts arise, which only get worse as we seek solutions to our unhappiness.

The solution, of course, is to realize it was never your job, or your partner's job, to play some role in which expectations could be reliably fulfilled. Everyone enters a relationship with the hope of being loved, accepted and appreciated for what they are rather than what another may want them to be, and ironically, this is the key to your own satisfaction and happiness as well.

And so the focus is never on what I can get in a relationship, nor is it really on what I can give, but rather on genuinely encountering another human being, and experiencing that person as they actually are, while being free to be what you actually are. In this open space there is love, gratitude, appreciation, acceptance, honesty, integrity, harmony, and fulfilling relationships.

Phil Beaumont

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Other 'Happy Relationship' Articles:


Love and Happiness

Self Love

Freedom of Expression

Life is an Intimate Relationship