How Unmet Expectations Can Negatively Affect Relationships

imageThe 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.

Mindfulness and Relationships


What is mindfulness and what does it mean to be “mindful”? How can it help our relationships?


The term “mindfulness” originates from philosophical and meditative traditions. Mindfulness has two important parts. The first part is defined as attentiveness and awareness of the present moment, both internally (what is happening inside of you) and externally (what is happening outside of you – i.e. with others). The second part involves not judging, comparing, or evaluating the present experience as you observe it.


So how can this help your love life? If you think back to the beginning of your relationship, there were probably many moments of blissful unison. You may remember spending hours together and losing all concept of time. It may have flown by or stood still, but either way you were so involved with each other that time didn’t matter. And you probably weren’t thinking about things like laundry, shopping, paying bills and work. It was strictly you, your partner and your love.


Mindfulness can help you recapture some of those feelings since you are exclusively concentrating on your partner and the moment. If any other thoughts like laundry and work come up, mindfulness teaches you to not to ignore them, but to recognize them, dismiss them and move on. Then you gently go back to being with your partner. No judgments, no penalties, no harm, no foul.


Taking the concept one level deeper, the practice of mindfulness can allow us to develop some distance between ourselves and our emotions so that we don’t cling to the thoughts and emotions as being something we identify with. It doesn’t become ‘my anger’ anymore; instead we see it as just ‘being angry’. So we no longer think ‘I am so angry!’ instead we can say to ourselves more calmly, ‘I am just experiencing some momentary anger and I know this will soon pass.’


Mindfulness also helps us to understand and accept that no one is perfect. No one. Start to learn how to accept your imperfections. If you are not fully aware of your mistakes, you may not only miss what is most significant in your life, but also fail to recognize your true potential in terms of your relationship with your partner and yourself. Instead of suppressing your mistakes, review them mindfully. A successful person accepts and learns from those moments when we are not our best. So, highlight your weak points and start working on them. If you can’t solve your problem, ask for some assistance from trustworthy people. You will not become small by asking. Share your problems with your partner and truly open yourself up to their support and advice.


While it may not be possible to be mindful all day long, the power of a mindful moment each day shared with someone you love can make a relationship strong and more loving. And a mindful moment with yourself can keep you peaceful and capable of developing those parts of yourself that you might have neglected or minimized. Either way, you’ll learn more about being kinder to yourself as well deepening your connection with your partner so that your relationship can grow.

Empty Nest Syndrome – Is It Real?



This fall, as colleges around the country have filled their Freshman dormitories with a fresh group of in-coming students, there are parents who are experiencing many bittersweet emotions. These emotions are felt more deeply and profoundly by parents whose last child has picked up and left home for college leaving behind an empty room. Gradually, these quiet moments spent between two partners who have yet to adjust to the transition of the “empty nest” begin to notice its affect on them and their marriage.

You may find the communication patterns that seemed to work during the first half of your marriage to be inadequate and lacking in the second half. With the children absent, there may be more silent spaces between you, with less to say to each other. You may ask yourself, “We made it this far, why is it now so difficult to have a really personal conversation?”. When you begin to talk about really personal matters, it’s easy to feel threatened. Midlife is a time when it is vitally important to develop interpersonal competence-the ability to converse on a personal level by sharing your deepest feelings, joys, and concerns.
Consider the top ten issues listed by couples experiencing the empty nest syndrome, number one being the most severe problem area, number two, the next most severe problem, and so on:

Top Issues in the Empty Nest Years
1. Unresolved Conflict
2. Communication
3. Sex
4. Health
5. Fun
6. Recreation
7. Money
8. Aging parents
9. Retirement planning
10. Lack of mutual goals

It’s interesting to note that the top three issues in the empty nest-conflict, communication, and sex-are also among the major problem areas for younger couples. People take their issues along with them as they transition through the different stages of a marriage. At this stage of life, money issues are not rated as high as for younger couples, but health issues are rated higher. The fact that fun and recreation are rated so high indicates that perhaps couples are having trouble figuring out what to do together that’s enjoyable for both or finding fun things that both will take time out for. For years their shared recreational activities may have been centered around their children, and now they don’t know what to do to have fun together.

So, what’s the solution? Begin to transform your relationship to adapt to this new stage of life. If you haven’t already, start to create a partner-focused marriage. In the past you may have focused on your children and your job. Now is your opportunity to focus on your marriage. You can build a closer more personal relationship in the second half of life. Keep in mind that in the first half of marriage we tend to live our lives in response to circumstances such as parenting and career demands. In the second half of marriage you aren’t as controlled by your circumstances and have the freedom to reinvest in your relationship. Accept this transition as being an opportunity to explore and strengthen those qualities in your partner and your relationship that drew you both together to begin with. Go on dates, plan a romantic get-a-away or just spend more time talking about your dreams and concerns.

It’s important to note that not all parents face the Empty Nest Syndrome. In fact, there is a line of research, which suggests that once children leave home, some parents experience a sense of freedom and an improvement in their marriage and other relationships. Research studies by Karen Fingerman from the Purdue University reveal that parents may experience greater satisfaction once their children leave home. Seeing their children as successful adults gives them a sense of pride. They also have more time to pursue their own activities and hobbies.

If you are facing the empty nest syndrome and find yourself feeling lost or sad and unable to find the support you need from your partner or close friends and family members, it might be helpful to reach out to a mental health professional with whom you can share your concerns in a neutral setting. Many colleges also offer resources for parents who are struggling with the transition of sending their child off to college. The important thing to remember is that you are not alone and there are people and places you can turn to that can help ease the pain and offer suggestions for how to reconnect with your spouse and reinvest in yourself.