Facts for Living: Great expectations! Have you discussed them?

By Rebecca McFarland
Frontier Extension District Agent

Expectations, whether minor things or common issues, play a crucial role in how happy a marriage will be. When expectations are unstated, unreasonable, or unmet, this can become a source of major conflict in the relationship. No matter how big or small the issue, we shouldn’t assume our partner will “just know” what we expect. Remember, he or she can’t read your mind. Expectations need to be shared and discussed.

080714-facts-for-living1We develop our expectations from what we have seen, heard, experienced in our family of origin (parents, grandparents), our previous relationships and marriages (friendships, dating partners, prior marriages), and our culture (media, religion, ethnic background). We soak up images of marital and family life and learn how couples should act in a marriage. Some expectations are so engrained that we don’t even realize it.

For most people, expectations about the way things should be in a relationship are focused on three major areas:

  • Boundaries: How much independence is okay between the two partners? Where does the line around the couple go? Who is in it and who is not?
  • Investment: How much time and effort does each partner feel the other should be putting in to the relationship?
  • Control and power: Who makes which decisions? Is power shared? How?

It’s important for couples to openly and honestly discuss their expectations. And once is not enough. You should regularly plan time to share and discuss them. In order to positively handle expectations, keep these tips in mind:

  • Be aware of what you expect. We bring a host of expectations into a marriage that are never made clear. Does your partner know yours? Do you know his or hers?
  • Be reasonable in what you expect. Just because you have an expectation doesn’t mean it’s reasonable or realistic. Is it an expectation you as a couple can meet, or does it need to be changed?
  • Be clear about what you expect. Expectations must be expressed verbally. We are not mind-readers. Be willing to express your expectations in a respectful manner and be willing to evaluate, discuss and adjust them. Expectations will change over time.
  • Be motivated to meet your partner’s expectations. Make a conscious effort to know and meet your partner’s expectations. Relationships in the early stages flourish because partners are attentive to knowing and meeting each other’s needs. As time passes and our lives become busy with other things, we sometimes forget to pay attention to those needs.

I challenge you to set aside some time within this next week to discuss your expectations with your partner. Here are a few topics to get you started:

  • Romance – What is romantic for you?
  • Your sexual relationship – frequency, practices, taboos?
  • Children – do you want (more) children? When and how far apart?
  • Household tasks – who does what?
  • Handling problems – do you want to talk them out? If so, when and how?

Being aware and agreeing about expectations reduces the chances for arguments and increases the chances for understanding each other.


McFarland_RebeccaRebecca McFarland is the Frontier Extension District family and child development agent. For more information, she can be contacted at Frontier Extension’s Ottawa office, 1418 S. Main, Suite 2, Ottawa, KS 66067, or call 785-229-3520, or email [email protected].


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