The top three secrets for making sure your relationship expectations are met

May 11,2020

Last week we talked about how to get more clarity on your relationship expectations. (Missed that post? You can find it here!)

We got a ton of responses to that post from people saying it really resonated, especially right now! Seems like expectations are quite the hot button issue!

Today, I want to talk about how you can share your expectations with others, and set yourself up to get your expectations met. 

Today, I’m going to give you three secrets to sharing your expectations with others, and three specific exercises to get you started.

Technique #1: Check your expectations

I got a lot of feedback last week from people saying things like, “How do I know if it’s reasonable for me to have this expectation?”

This is something I’ve struggled with too, and I have a few great tips for you!

When I’m feeling a need, but I’m also feeling unsure about it, the first thing I do is say it out loud. 

Just the act of saying it out loud allows me to get a more objective sense of whether or not it’s reasonable.

Sometimes I feel clear and confident stating it out loud, so I know it’s probably a reasonable expectation. 

And sometimes, I’ll laugh or grimace as I’m saying it, and realize it’s probably something I should keep to myself.

You can also check your expectations directly with your partner!

If I’m still feeling unsure, I’ll ask Xander. I say something like, “This is something I’m wanting, but I’m not sure if it’s reasonable. What do you think?” 

This gives me the opportunity to vocalize my expectation, but also gives us the chance as a team to kindly and gently evaluate the need. 

Technique #2: Be proactive instead of reactive

Set your loved ones up for success when it comes to meeting your expectations, instead of waiting for them to fail.

This is especially important when it comes to big expectations, like expecting your partner to be faithful. You’d be surprised by how many people expect their partner to be faithful, but don’t ever verbalize that expectation!

It also works for smaller expectations. Remember my example from last week of how I got mad at Xander because he didn’t come down for dinner on time? 

The truth was that Xander was actually working on a project for me, and wanting to make sure he was able to deliver what he had promised. It’s not like he was being a jerk, just sitting upstairs, waiting for me to get angrier and angrier! 

I could have been more clear with Xander beforehand, and said something like, “I’m really looking forward to sharing a meal with you at 7:30, especially since I’m working hard to make something extra nice. Can you make sure to be down here right on time?”

(And for the record, he could have been more clear with me too, but that’s a different topic for a different day!)

Technique #3: Share the impact of your expectations

Let’s say your partner wants you to plan a romantic date night for the two of you. 

Which of the following would you respond better to:

Obviously the last one!

When we just share our expectations, without any context, they can come across as demanding or unreasonable. 

But when we share the “why” behind our expectations, that can feel so much softer, more intimate, and more enticing. 

The key to getting another person to do something voluntarily (or even better, happily!) is to give them a reason to want it too. 

If your partner knows that planning a date night for you is going to make you feel loved and special, it may make them feel much more excited to take action. 

So here are some ways to put this into practice…

Exercise #1: Share your big expectations

First, if you’re currently in a romantic relationship, ask your partner to come up with their top 10 relationship expectations. Just like you did last week. 

Then, sit down and have a conversation where you share those expectations with each other. This can open up a deeply intimate conversation between the two of you.

If you really want to dive in, you could write up a “relationship agreement” with your shared expectations. Or even re-write your vows to each other, if you’re married. 

(And don’t worry if your expectations aren’t in perfect alignment. We’ll be talking about that later this month.)

Exercise #2: Share your small expectations

Second, try to be more in tune with your smaller, daily expectations, and see if you can be more active about sharing those expectations with your partner or with other people in your life.

Think about the idea of setting your partner up for success. What can you share with your partner beforehand, to help them meet your expectations?

Exercise #3: Change the language

And finally, I have a bonus tip for you here: see if there’s a different word that you like better than “expect.”

Last week, I told you that I said to Xander, “I expect you to come down to dinner on time.” The word “expect” felt pretty harsh coming out of my mouth because it was such a small expectation. In the scheme of all things, Xander being on time to dinner is not that big of a deal to me. I have no problem saying, “I expect you to be committed to working on our relationship with me”, but for me personally, using the word “expect” for smaller things feels misaligned. 

Instead, I like to use phrases like:

Sometimes just changing the words around like that can make us so much more comfortable sharing our feelings with another person. 

Now the problem of course is that we don’t always know what our expectations are beforehand. And our expectations can change all the time. That’s what we’ll talk about next week!


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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!