Don’t “should” all over your chances at happiness.
There are certain requirements that any partner in a healthy relationship should fulfill. Every single one of us deserves to be with someone who loves us, respects us, brings us joy, and supports us in life’s inevitable storms.
However, when we try to set rigid guidelines about how any of these basic human needs are met or, more importantly, how your partner is "supposed" to act while meeting our needs, we not only cheat ourselves out of something wonderful, but we ultimately set ourselves up for disappointment.
I’m not trying to enable bullsh*t and I'm in no way am advocating for lowering the bar for standards in a partner.
For example, if your man’s version of “showing you respect” still involves humiliating or belittling you in private while talking you up in public, then you two have a very serious fundamental problem you either need to fix or walk away from entirely.
All I mean is that putting harsh parameters on your partner is a great way to make both of you miserable at every step of your time together.
If you’ve always dreamed of being with a man who writes you love letters, but he shows his admiration by building you something unique with his hands, for God’s sake don’t complain about it. Or, if he's an introvert whose idea of a great Saturday is to play chess in bed between sexual interludes, expecting him to magically turn into the kind of guy who'll dominate the dance floor at your college roommate's wedding is unfair. (Just to cite a personal example.)
If you don't like what it is about him that makes him who he is, set him free to find someone who does or learn to accept that his "love language" isn't going to look exactly the way you'd planned. And that's wonderful as well.
Here’s the thing: As long as your partner is fulfilling the fundamental expectations of love you require for a relationship, don’t get bogged down in how he’s doing that, because nothing real comes scripted or with rules on it.
If you’re busy focusing on your own expectations of what love “should” look like, you’re not giving yourself a chance to delight in what makes yours unique and beautiful.
This also applies to putting expectations on his reactions to your own actions, by the way. So many people give simple gifts in relationships that come with conditions about how they’re to be received, and then when the gift recipient doesn’t adhere to this plan that the giver has subconsciously concocted, the whole thing is considered a “failure.”
This isn't limited to tangible gifts and being upset that he didn't smile when he opened the box of hand-knit socks you spent a month making him. I'm also referring to the intangible gifts that we exchange, like our time and energy. To cite a common example, almost all of us weigh the decision to first tell our significant other that we love them and wait until a time that we feel like it will be received well or even reciprocated instead of just offering it as a simple, selfless declaration of emotion.
Even worse than that is the unfounded expectation that once you declare your love to someone, he or she should know that means you want to get married, move in, or adopt a dog together. No wonder so many people have anxiety about sharing their feelings!
The truth is, our expectations keep us focused on a narrow part of a bigger picture and, too often, make us feel as though anything outside our perspective isn’t important. When we set expectations of love, we consciously make the decision to ignore any other facets about any given situation — good or bad — and only feel happy if our expectation has been fulfilled, regardless of what else happened.
Conversely, if our expectation isn’t met but everything else is wonderful, we still feel disappointment, which is a great way to miss out on everything wonderful that happens outside what we think should happen.
Don’t “should” all over your chances at happiness. If you allow love to progress without some arbitrary set of hoops to jump through, chances are, you’ll not only give it a chance to blossom further, but you’ll be less stressed and more content along the way.
You owe it to yourself and your partner not to set up imaginary roadblocks in your path to joy.