Love isn't always easy, but it shouldn't be a burden.
By Jordan Grey
Every person comes into relationships with some sort of expectations.
Expectations around how they want to be loved. Expectations around how frequently they will communicate with each other. Expectations around what their sex lives will look like.
Truly, the potential number of expectations is endless.
There are reasonable expectations, and unreasonable expectations when it comes to relationships (and what is reasonable for one couple might be different for another).
Examples of reasonable expectations would be:
I expect my partner to remain faithful to me, since we agreed to a monogamous partnership.
I expect my partner to not physically strike me in any context, unless it has been mutually agreed upon in a sexual play scenario.
I expect my partner to voice any concerns they have when it comes to the emotional health and overall connection in our relationship.
As for unreasonable expectations … I have heard hundreds, if not thousands, of unreasonable relationship expectations over the years as a relationship coach. Some more subtle than others, and some painfully overt.
Unreasonable expectations block intimacy. By consciously or unconsciously writing up a laundry list of what your partner should be and how they should behave in order to make you happy, you set the relationship up to fail. This is especially true when those relationship expectations are nearly impossible for any person to fulfill.
Here are the three most damaging and widespread expectations that kill relationships.
1. “If they really loved me they would know what I needed.”
People are not mind readers. No one can know what you want from them in every moment without you expressing your desires. When you withhold your needs or desires from your partner you are abandoning yourself.
If you want to be in a highly functioning relationship, learn to communicate your personal desires. Some people think that it’s easy to tell their partner what they want … but it’s often not. It can be the most terrifying thing in the world to tell someone (that you care so deeply about) the truth of what you’re feeling … or be the one to initiate sex after a week-long dry spell.
And if it feels too scary to tell them what you want … start by telling them where you’re at.
If you want to ask for something new or different in bed but you’re nervous to bring it up, you could start by saying “I want to ask you for something right now, but I’m feeling really nervous about it … and it might be silly once it comes out, but I’m still worried about what you’ll think of me for wanting it.”
Communicate your honest desires. Be as forthcoming as possible. And if you’re nervous or apprehensive for any reason, simply tell them where you’re at.
2. “I should love my partner unconditionally.”
No, you absolutely should not. Healthy love between consenting intimate partners is not unconditional.
While you should absolutely make a concerted effort to have a deep and resilient love for your intimate partner, there are certain conditions that, if broken, are going to have an impact on your love for them (or on the relationship itself).
Maybe they hit you. Maybe they have come home drunk every night for weeks on end, and it’s affecting the relationship. Maybe they haven’t said a word to you in over a week, despite living together. Would your love not become conditional if any of these were to occur?
Healthy love is conditional. If you are expecting reasonable things to be occurring (“treating me like a king/queen every single day” doesn’t count) and they aren’t occurring, that can be grounds for the love/relationship to end.
3. “It shouldn’t take work.”
I hear this one quite often just because of what my line of work is … but I’ve heard it from clients, non-clients, friends, family members and people from all walks of life.
There’s this romantic notion that if a relationship is destined to work out, then it should work out … with no effort or intentionality from the partners involved. It should function on autopilot. It should be effortless. And there should never be anything that feels like “work.”
Every couple that I know that have an abnormally high functioning relationship all put in the work.
They are brilliantly effective communicators, because they have read books, attended seminars and put in the work in order to find out how their partner uniquely needs to be communicated to/with. They have sizzling sex lives, because they have put in the time to get to know their bodies and their own unique turn-ons. They go on week long re-connecting vacations in order to explore each other’s bodies and talk about their dreams for the future.
Whenever a conflict arises between them, either subtly or obviously, they tackle it head on and see if they can come to an amicable solution that sees both of their emotional needs being met. Whatever comes up as a problem for them, they have a mutually agreed-upon pact that it won’t stay a problem for long.
The bottom line is … people in high functioning relationships put in the work. And it pays off.
All relationships are for healing. And yours is no different.
So, if you think that the idea of scheduling date nights in your calendar is unromantic, then you might want to question that belief and ask if it’s serving you and your relationship.
An intentional love life is a thriving love life. If you ignore the little things, your relationship will eventually suffer. If you prioritize the little things, your relationship will eventually thrive.
Your committed intimacy is either stagnating or deepening. There is no middle ground.
This article was originally published at The Good Men Project . Reprinted with permission from the author.