When you and your significant other became a couple, you both stepped into the relationship with certain expectations, many of which are influenced by past experiences. These influences may be how your parents interacted and dealt with conflict when you were younger, how your parents and other caregivers interacted with you, your past romantic relationships, etc. That last one is largely important, notes Miami-based relationship therapist, Sofia Robirosa.
“These first relationships may affirm or change some of the relationship rules we picked up from our family of origin,” she says. Movies and shows also have a great influence on what to expect in relationships because, according to Robirosa, they set the standard on what relationships are about for the masses. “The culture we live in also creates some of the expectations we individually have for our relationships, because what we see others do and say may become what's ‘normal’ and appealing,” she says.
Expectations are very powerful in a relationship and, like most things in life, they can be two-sided. “The positive side is that research shows that people who have more expectations often get better treatment in their relationships,” explains Paulette Sherman, Psy.D., psychologist, relationship expert and author of Dating from the Inside Out. “The negative side is that attachments to outcomes outside of ourselves often lead to frustration and suffering because we don’t have control over them.” In other words, while we might be able to change a certain behavior or reaction our partner has, we cannot change them as a person. It’s also quite likely that they will have a different set of beliefs and expectations.
When it comes to expectations, the list of things you should expect from your partner—being treated with respect, being loved and cared for, being encouraged and supported, etc.—and vice versa is often a lot longer than the things you should not expect. Still, the things to avoid in a relationship is equally important to realize and recognize.
Here, relationship experts share the 5 things you should never expect from your partner, and things to avoid in your relationship.
To choose between family and friends over the relationship
Even though you are now a couple, and perhaps have created your own little family between the two of you, it’s never fair for your partner to expect you to cut off contact with anyone else you know and love. “Asking you to end relationships is an early sign of insecurity in the relationship, and possibly, control,” says Ili Rivera Walter, PhD, LMFT is a couple therapist, professor, and owner of CityCouples™ Online Therapy. “If your partner exerts pressure on you to end a relationship that is important to you, begin by setting a boundary with your partner letting them know that you appreciate them, while also being clear about your decision.”
To read their minds
You’ve probably heard of the saying “communication is key.” It’s incredibly important, especially when it comes to relationships of any kind. But if your partner is expecting you to read their minds, it’s a sign of poor communication. The problem with this expectation, notes Robin S. Smith, LCMFT, with The Couple and Family Clinic, in Bethesda, Maryland, is that it sets the couple up for disappointment, and neuters their agency and autonomy for assertively expressing their wants and needs to one another. “Without clear, direct, honest conversation, your partner will not be able to guess how to meet your needs,”he says. “You need to take responsibility for communicating, just exactly what it is that you're looking for from your partner.”
To give up your privacy
Privacy is an individual right, and at times, a need, explains Walter. “Your partner should respect your privacy, whether that includes your browser history, social media contacts, or your personal space,” she says. “Together, couples are able to negotiate transparency and communication around privacy, so that trust can be established and maintained.” If, at any point, you notice that your partner is unwilling to give you the space you need or ask for, it may be time for couples therapy, notes Dr. Walter.
To rescue them financially
If you’re in a long-term relationship or, perhaps, married, chances are you do support each other financially. However, when money is a source of manipulation in a relationship, it is a sign of deeper problems warns Dr. Walter. “For example, if your partner has gotten into debt through risky behavior, used your accounts without permission, or otherwise breached trust in the financial system of the relationship, this should be taken seriously,” she says. “Further, if your partner is expecting you to rescue them from a financial crisis, you have the right to set your own terms.”
To be happy all the time
It’s wonderful if you and your partner are happy most of the time, but it’s not human to be happy every single moment of every single day. Life isn’t linear—and things can go wrong that lead to dampened emotions. Therefore, if your partner seems to regularly minimize your needs and wants, it is important to pay attention to this, notes Robirosa.