Expectations can ruin relationships – is it true?

Expectations can ruin relationships – is it true?

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There is a lot of interest around expectations, and it is natural to ask if expectations can ruin relationships. The general view is that they can and that we should drop our expectations, but it is really true? Or are we missing something out?

There are three scenarios in a relationship between two people

  1. One person has their expectations met, and the other does not
  2. None of the two has their expectations met
  3. Both have their expectations met

If you are wondering whether expectations can ruin relationships, you are either in situation 1 or 2 and you are not having yours met. The general advice we get from articles and videos on the Internet, is that the relationship would work and we would be happy if only we did not have them. I bet, though, that we only wish to get rid of unmet expectations. So let’s rephrase the problem

When they are not discussed, expectations can ruin relationships

In this sense they are an issue for the whole couple, and not for who expresses the expectation. The way forward is an open dialogue about expectations that involves both parties. When this dialogue does not or cannot happen, then relationships can be ruined.

Feminist writer Susie Orbach states that our culture is built around men’s needs and expectations. When growing up, we receive very different messages based on our gender. If a female-gendered person grows up in the Western society, she learns that her role is to look after a man. The message a male-gendered person receives is that there will be a woman around who looks after his needs.

Letting go of expectations without discussing them can lead to resentment and does not give an opportunity to the couple to work things through together. What ruins relationships is, therefore, not the presence of expectations, but the imbalance between who needs to drop expectations, and who does not.

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UKCP Accredited Psychotherapist and Counsellor

Alessio is a UKCP accredited psychotherapist and counsellor working in Shoreditch (Central London) and on-line specialised mainly in anxiety (GAD, OCD, Panic Attacks, PTSD) and LGBT issues. Educated at Master's level in psychotherapy and other fields, Alessio integrates CBT, Gestalt, mindfulness, motivational interviewing and System's theory in his practice. This is in addition to a personal 15-year-long journey in mental health and wellbeing.

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