The most common cause of relationship conflict comes from unrealistic and unexpressed expectations. Misguided assumptions pose the biggest danger when each person in a relationship brings their own, and sometimes conflicting, expectations to the relationship.
As we project our viewpoint onto others, we are assuming that they think and feel in a similar way that we would in the same situation, and we expect them to behave accordingly. Unrealistic expectations occur when an individual projects onto their partner what they want or need. Your partner cannot read your mind. When someone close to us does something that seems in deep contrast with the standards we have associated with that person, we often feel hurt, betrayed, angry and /or confused.
Our disappointment gets expressed in the kinds of phrases we’ve heard or spoken: “You’re the last person I ever expected to do that”, “You really let me down”, “This isn’t like you‟.
We cleverly develop a tunnel vision where we only accept information that supports the view we have of who we want that person to be. The truth is that people show us exactly who they are through their everyday behaviors. When we choose to break the illusion and replace assumptions with a truthful evaluation, freedom from expectation is carried with it. The opportunity to begin a more authentic and honest relationship is born.
Relationships end for a variety of reasons. The most common reason being that people enter relationships with certain expectations which, when unmet or unspoken, start and fuel the domino effect which may eventually lead to the eventual unraveling of the relationship.
How one perceives the state of a relationship is altered by various conditions such as age, past experience, and personal background. Differentiating between what is real and what is imagined in a relationship is tailored by these past experiences in life. An example is how many young girls grow up envisioning „happily ever after‟ with their “knight in shining armor‟. No one can live up to that fairy tale image. This unrealistic expectation quickly leads to relationship problems.
Both partners must be free to be themselves, to respectfully express their needs and feelings, and to know they are accepted for who they are.
It is important for both partners in a relationship to take responsibility for mutually expressing their wishes. A challenge for most couples is learning how to meet each other’s desires and needs, which usually requires compromise on each side. An important point to remember is that each partner may choose to cooperate – or not. If not, the relationship faces a difficult future. If the partners agree to compromise, the payoff builds cohesiveness and intimacy. This is the glue that holds the relationship together and allows for more patience and understanding in times of difficulty.