Know BEFORE you get in too deep.
When a relationship is shifting from casual to serious, there comes a moment when it’s necessary to discuss each person’s expectations for the future.
Expectations are reflections of your closely-held beliefs about where your life is going. When they're not met, it can cause a disappointment that often surpasses the grief of not achieving a dream. Because they are SO important, every couple should get to know each other’s expectations before getting down on one knee.
Below are four ways you can get the expectation conversation started — and for getting it back on track if you stumble upon something unexpected:
1. Start by asking open-ended questions.
Many couples have discussed the nut-and-bolts of their future — where they want to live, whether or not they want to have kids — but just as many gloss over the more subtle expectations embedded in these topics. To get at these more subtle expectations, ask open-ended questions, such as:
- How would you want to raise your kid?
- How would you expect us to handle our finances?
- How do you want me to support you when you’re going through a hard time?
2. Put a numerical value on your expectations.
Once you start asking open-ended questions, you’ll probably discover you and your partner have some differing expectations about the future. Hopefully the conversation won’t unearth polar opposite opinions, but some variance is inevitable.
So what should you do if your partner expects something from the future you disagree with? Put a value on it.
Rate on a scale of 1-10 how much you really care that this expectation works out the way you envisioned it — “1” meaning you actually don’t care at all and “10” meaning it’s absolutely essential. Have your partner do the same. Then share your ratings and discuss.
You’ll find that it’s actually pretty rare for both partners to find the same expectation essentially important, so by putting a value on it, you've uncovered that this issue matters to you much more than it does to him, allowing your vision to take precedence.
3. Then search for the overlap.
If you find that you both really do care strongly about a certain expectation, it’s time to find the overlap. This means shelving the aspects where you disagree (for the moment) and building upon the aspects where you agree. There’s almost always some aspect of an issue that two people can agree on.
For example, let’s say a couple is planning a wedding. He has always expected to have a rustic wedding and she has always envisioned an elegant affair. While these expectations may seem contradictory at first, if they dig in there’s surely something they can find in common.
Maybe he pictures “rustic” to mean outside and she can see “simple elegance” in a starry sky. The two of them just stumbled upon the perfect “Night Under the Stars” wedding theme by finding the overlap.
4. Lastly, shift your focus to each of your dreams.
If you find yourselves at a major stand-still in regards to expectations, shift the conversation to dreams. Expectations are about what you assume will happen in the future, but dreams are about what you would secretly want to have happen in the future. Shifting the focus to dreams can provide great perspective.
For example, if you’ve both always had a dream of sailing all seven seas of the world — and can recognize the deep emotional bond you two share over this dream — it doesn't matter too much who’s expected to do the dishes, does it?
Try out these simple tips and you’ll find that the conversations that flow from them are always valuable. You may discover something you definitely need to know before jumping too fast into an engagement, or you’ll find even more evidence that you’re a perfect fit!
Kira Asatryan is a certified relationship coach and author of Stop Being Lonely: Three Simple Steps to Developing Close Friendships and Deep Relationships. For more relationship tips, visit kiraasatryan.com and follow her on Twitter @KiraAsatryan.
This article was originally published at Psychology Today. Reprinted with permission from the author.