We all bring certain expectations to our intimate relationships that we don’t have for anyone else. On the positive side, they usually involve attention total as words and gestures of love. In addition to affection, loyalty, constancy, sex, companionship, agreement, encouragement, friendship , loyalty, honesty, trust, respect and acceptance. We are all very alert to the possibility that we may find their exact opposites instead.
If we are not aware of our own expectations (and how they are affected by our history), there is no hope of expressing them to a partner so that he or she has a chance to meet them. Most of the time, we get involved in mind reading..
Mind reading is often related to a previous disappointing relationship experience. We tend to expect what we have had the opportunity to learn before; we make assumptions based on our history. And when in the personal story there are people or situations that were the source of the headache, resentment or anxiety, then any action by a partner in the present that is similar in any way often serves as a reminder – and triggers an intense emotional reaction.
I call this “emotional allergy”. As with other forms of prior awareness, the result tends to be an explosive reaction – withdrawal, counterattack – and is typically incomprehensible to a current partner.
If I had to summarize how to change the hidden expectations that work to distort a relationship, I would summarize it in a few ground rules:
– If you expect a partner to understand what you need, then you have to tell him or her. This, of course, means you need to find out for yourself what you really need.
– You cannot expect your partner to be sensitive and understand exactly how you feel about something unless you are able to communicate to him/her how you feel in the first place.
– If you don’t understand or don’t like what your partner is doing, ask about it and why he or she is doing it. And vice versa. To explore. Talk. Don’t assume.
Expressing your feelings about a situation and asking your partner to be honest in return is the most significant way to discover the truth in your relationship. Instead, most communication between intimates is nonverbal and relies heavily on mind reading. The only thing you have to follow is your own internal information, which can be easily distorted by a number of factors. This is also why genuine responses are so important. Telling your partner what you think he wants to hear, rather than what is actually happening, complicates and delays a helpful solution to the problem.