Contrary to what most people will tell you, great relationships don’t just “grow naturally.” They require communication.
Think about this statement for a moment: You could have avoided almost all of your relationship problems.
The belief in modern dating is that relationships should happen naturally. Two people meet, and if they are “right” for each other, like magic, everything will fall into place. You make sure not to come on too strong, let things just happen, and avoid talking about or placing any expectations on the relationship. How has this worked out? Successful relationships, at any level, require more communication then the magic “naturally” implies, because the only product of letting a relationship happen “naturally” is ambiguity, disappointment, and heartbreak.
Defining your expectations is the only way they can be met.
You don’t tell your partner directly what you expect from each other because you fear rejection. Instead, you spend countless hours analyzing your interactions and texts, comparing them to your expectations. When you see a conflict between what you expect from your partner and what actually happens, it creates stress, frustration, and insecurity. Without communication, however, the only person that actually knows about this gap, is you.
The only person gaining from you not discussing your expectations is a person who doesn’t want to meet your expectations.
It’s true that if you tell your partner what you expect and they aren’t on the same page, you may end up being turned down, but in that case, rejection is a gift. Screening out partners that don’t want the same type of relationship will save you time, energy, and most importantly, heartache. Why try to be with someone who doesn’t have the same end game?
Once you discuss your expectations, it becomes your partners’ choice to try to meet them—or not. If you and your partner have discussed your expectations and you still feel that they aren’t being met, you must continue to communicate your needs to your partner, or know that it is time to get out. If your partner is having his or her expectations met—getting what he or she wants from you—he or she will not have any reason to end the relationship. Whether or not you see effort and change, and are willing to be patient as the change occurs, should be your deciding factor to end the relationship.
If your expectations are not being met, you are the only person with the motivation to end the relationship.
The majority of dating advice suggests letting things happen “naturally.” Feelings do take time to develop, and that at the start of a relationship feelings are usually not equal. Feelings, however, are very different from expectations. Two people can have very different feelings for each other, yet have the same expectations for the type of relationship they want, and how they should behave in that relationship. Eventually, those feelings can grow, and possibly result in a successful relationship. On the other hand, two people can have the same feelings for each other, with very different expectations for the type of relationship. Regardless of how feelings develop, without the same expectations for the relationship, the result is a very dissatisfying and stressful relationship.
Feelings are not reliable and are independent of expectations.
Have you ever pulled away from a bad relationship, only to be drawn back together through sex, intimacy, a good day together, or even those three little words? No matter how amazing and how strongly you feel during these moments in time, feelings cannot be the main measurement of your relationship. They describe what is happening now, while expectations speak to what is going to happen tomorrow, or even next year. Feelings are malleable, they can make you think things must be ok, or are meant to be, but they don’t represent the actual relationship. Unlike feelings, expectations almost never change drastically within a relationship. Your expectations are part of who you are, what you want in life, and from a partner. Meeting your expectations is the only true way to being happy in your relationships.
The only way to avoid these painful dating and relationship experiences is to choose to only start and stay in relationships with people who have similar expectations. When people decide to not meet your expectations, you have either not communicated them clearly, or your partner is not motivated to be in that type of relationship with you. The longer you stay in a relationship due to temporary feelings or hope, the more frustration and pain you will inevitably experience. You can avoid almost all of your future relationship problems by preventing them from ever happening, and living true to what type of relationship will truly make you happy.
This story was previously published on The Good Men Project.