The #1 technique for meeting changing expectations (pandemic or not)

May 19,2020

My relationship expectations are all over the place these days.

One day I want Xander to make me laugh and forget about all the craziness going on around us. 

The next day, I want him to be comforting and soothing. 

In one moment, I want him to be pessimistic with me. 

The next moment, I want him to sweep me off my feet for a sexy date night. 

Plus, my expectations of others are shifting too. Some days I get bummed out when my friends don’t want to hang out on a video chat. Other days, I feel burdened by them wanting to connect. 

I don’t think I’m alone in this. We’re all experiencing a real rollercoaster of emotions these days, and this pandemic has wreaked havoc on our relationship expectations. 

Our needs are shifting so quickly, on a daily, or even hourly basis.

We have so many new responsibilities than we’ve ever had before, and our roles have changed in major ways. 

Earlier this month, I mentioned that I’ve become the primary cook in our household, even though Xander had previously held that title for our entire 12+ year relationship. If you had asked me in January if I could ever picture myself cooking the majority of our meals, I would have laughed in your face. Yet here I am, doing it (and surprisingly loving it!).

Cooking is a fun example, but many of the changes these days are much more challenging.

Maybe in your house, you’re having to deal with childcare in a completely new way. Maybe your partner has the expectation that you’ll be the primary caregiver since your work hours are more flexible than theirs. 

Or maybe your partner is wanting sex more often, because sex is a good stress relief for them, but you’re finding yourself with very little desire.

It’s not all the pandemic’s fault. 

Expectations change over the course of our lifetimes.

Xander and I started our relationship contributing equally to our household finances. But then I went back to school, and he supported me financially. Then he wanted to take some time away from the corporate world, and I supported him financially. Those were some pretty massive shifts for us. 

So what do you do if your needs and expectations are shifting constantly? 

You have to keep checking in with yourself, and each other, about your expectations.

It’s simple in theory, but it’s challenging in practice!

That’s why I started this month encouraging you to dig into your own relationship with expectations. I wanted you to get more familiar with tuning in to your own needs.

Now, we want to add on the extra layer of anticipating that those needs are going to shift a lot as we all weather this crisis. 

To make this practical, here are two things that you can do:

For your solo check-in, spend a few minutes every morning asking yourself, “What do I need to get through this day?” You can even try journaling about this. 

Try to be open to whatever is getting stirred up for you in that moment, even if it feels new or surprising. 

You can also ask yourself that same question throughout the day. “What do I need to get through this day?” Or maybe sometimes it’s, “What do I need to get through this hour?”

When it comes to checking in with your partner, you could do that after your solo morning check-in, or you could do it at the end of the day. 

A few weeks back, I shared a free guide with you, The Simple Daily Check In That All Couples Should Be Doing Right Now. (If you missed it, just click that link to download it.) You can add another question to your daily check in: “Which of your needs got met today, and which did not?”

When it comes to relationship expectations, there’s an important question that we have yet to examine: are your expectations reasonable or not? Next week I’ll be back to share some common mistakes we all make when it comes to relationship expectations!


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I'm Vanessa Marin, a sex therapist and writer specializing in helping you have more fun in the bedroom.

I have bachelor’s degrees in human sexuality and sociology from Brown University, and a master’s degree in counseling psychology from the California Institute of Integral Studies. I’m also a licensed psychotherapist. I’ve been working in the sex therapy field since 2002 and have been featured by The New York Times, O: The Oprah Magazine, Real Simple, and many more.

If you’re interested in improving your sex life, you can work with me via my online courses or personal coaching sessions. I look forward to supporting you in creating the sex life you’ve always wanted!