Once you have both made your lists, read your partner’s list, and discuss the differences, similarities, and surprises. Doing this exercise together can help you prevent needless disappointments. It can also raise awareness about your own beliefs about love and the origins of these beliefs. The statement, “If you really loved me, you would stop communicating with your ex,” can now be looked at together—without the hidden assumption that you are not loved or that your partner should automatically change. It is an expectation--one person’s belief about how life should be. It is not necessarily how life is. The exercise is designed to help you get a healthy distance or detachment from your expectations and beliefs. Maybe, after reading your list, you’ll even be able to see that while some of your expectations come from genuine core needs, many of your expectations are based on your own unconscious programming about love. They may even come from an unwillingness to tolerate the normal discomforts of being in relationship with a person whose needs are different from yours.
Susan Campbell, Ph.D.
1. Gwyneth Paltrow + Madonna: These two faux British accent users were BFFs for a while but reportedly had some sort of falling out. Gwynnie moved on to BFFing with Beyonce and Jay Z, since The Hova has worked with Paltrow's uncoupled ex Chris Martin of Coldplay.