If Your Partner isn't Meeting Your Expectations, This is For You.
I was one foot in, one foot out in my new romantic relationship.
On one hand I thought my boyfriend was fun, gregarious, and loving. On the other hand, he really didn’t fit the mold of my expectations of an ideal partner. And what do with those damn habits of his!?
As I was obsessively watching his behaviors from cleaning to keeping the toilet seat down to how much he works out, I kept feeling disappointed. Disappointment brought the worst out of me; I was either pissed or snappy.
“How could he…Why wouldn’t he….” the complaints and disdains flew haphazardly in my mind. I justified this negative internal dialog by comparing him with my past partners, my girlfriends' partners, and obviously what the internet said as the ideal man.
What was more frustrating is we kept talking about changing habits and improving his life. He agreed, only to consistently fail to initiate.
I questioned: “Can I trust this man to be his word?”
I couldn’t reconcile what it is to expect vs to accept.
I didn’t think we were a good match.
These unwanted behaviors were staining my vision, causing me to see him as a different person. I wasn’t seeing all the wonderful characteristics and uniqueness; I had reduced him to a set of desirable and undesirable behaviors.
Luckily, I was somewhat aware of the curse of my expectations, although I didn’t know how to resolve it. Then one day, after a conversation with my coach, Jayson, something in me shifted and created a whole new possibility – as though I received the revelations I was seeking.
Here are the 4 revelations that changed my perspective on relationships profoundly and helped me make up my mind:
1. Meet your partner’s needs first
You think you are giving, but in reality, are you being conditional?
What if you gave your 100% (without any conditions but holding reasonable boundaries) first before expecting to be loved, pleased, etc…?
Tony Robbins has a needs framework: he believes that all human needs can be boiled down to 6 major ones:
My coach Jayson asked me how I was meeting my boyfriend's needs in these 6 areas by rating them 1-10. I was perturbed to see that the ratings were ranging between 3 and 7.
I even went one step further to ask my partner of his ratings on how I met his needs. His honest feedback was parallel to mine, and it hurt. It hurt to see that I was too self-focused.
It hurt to see that this wasn’t about his habits related to the toilet seat, but about my whole approach to relationships. Perhaps, in the past, I involuntarily hurt my relationships with a self-centric approach disguised as standing up for my own needs.
I was too afraid to be the one who gives first, thinking that I would be taken advantage of. Here is the truth about giving though: you can’t run out of love no matter how many people/things you give it to.
Love is the ultimate definition of abundance.
When you tap into this kind of love, you have no reason to restrain it.
You still get to choose who is enjoyable to be with, but your love runs free. It is your ego who is afraid of giving because it thinks there is a limited amount of love and past scars justify the restriction. But, in truth, you will feel love as you give, and as you give you will receive it compounded.
2. Question your expectations
It is good to consistently explore and clarify your boundaries.
What I call a boundary consists of self-respect and love, dignity, and expressing who you are thoroughly.
Anything or anybody that violates (or causes you to violate) this definition is detrimental to your wellbeing – and you probably should walk away from that situation.
When a friction point arises in a relationship, question if their behaviors are crossing your boundaries or if you are having a reaction because their behavior doesn’t fit the mold of your expectation.
If it is a matter of unfilled expectation, consider:
Does it really matter (be honest by assessing how much it affects the quality of your life)?
Can you meet that need/expectation on your own or with another person (so often, we unrealistically expect our partner to meet ALL our needs)?
How is demanding your expectation to be met serving you?
Is this situation a deal-breaker (is it worth letting go of the relationship because of it?)
In my case, my boyfriend wasn’t overstepping my boundaries. They were either small details of life or a call to step into my own power to be a more self-reliant individual: I could just put the damn toilet seat down; I could tidy up more if I liked it like that. I could let him handle his own growth while I focused on mine.
3. Evaluate how your partner responds after you give your 100%
When we give (and live in) love fully – without the fear of losing, hurting, or becoming less, something magical happens: the world responds with equal, if not more, goodness.
Skeptical? I was, too. But, when I gave myself 1-2 months to fully focus on meeting my boyfriend's needs (to my best ability) and releasing expectations to unearth the love in me, his behaviors started changing.
He wasn’t perfect by any means, but he was taking the changes more seriously and trying consistently. He told me he was feeling safer in the relationship since everything he does (or doesn’t) wasn’t a cause to make it or break it. I was meeting his need for certainty and love.
When people feel loved and relaxed, they tend to do better. Their attention can finally shift from defense to acknowledgment and then willingness to improve –if they are ready for it.
My boyfriend was ready. He just needed to feel safe. Having said that, sometimes no matter what you do, you are not aligned because your awareness levels and desires are different. If your partner is still resisting change and you decide that this situation significantly affects your quality of life (or simply you don’t enjoy the partnership), it is perfectly ok to let go of the relationship. But, it is worth at least giving it a shot (showing up and giving 100% first) before writing a person off.
4. Use unmet expectations to grow personally
The truth is I had many expectations. Things like what I thought an ideal partner provides in a relationship like more masculine energy –and anything that goes with it: structure, initiative, direction, inspiration, planning, etc…
I realized that I was passively expecting these qualities to emerge in my life through a partner without me moving a finger. I wanted those things for myself, therefore it was my job to provide them.
We often hear happiness is an inner job. I dare to say many things you think you need from another person can be only found within you.
The more you rely on someone else to give you what you need, the more you disempower yourself to be fulfilled on your own.
You chase people, situations, and power to feel whole (or whatever you need to feel whole) only to find out what you get from them will never be enough.
Once I realized that, I started working on relinquishing my expectations about the traits of an ideal partner, so I could concentrate on being the ideal partner myself (still an ongoing effort).
A year and a half after that conversation with Jayson, I am amazed to see how my boyfriend started stepping up for the things he wanted in his life and getting rid of unhelpful habits.
I am in awe of the genuine love that can emerge even in unexpected matches. What seemed to be a mismatch turned into complementary strengths.
Most importantly, I am humbled to see my partner as the incredible man he is; funny, sweet, smart in the most creative ways- things I would have never seen if I made the decision to let go of my expectations and take responsibility for my own fulfillment.
I am not one step in, one step out now – I am 100% in.
That being said, I don’t want to give the impression that our relationship is flawless and I am perfectly self-reliant. I still expect things from him and get disappointed. We still argue about what we are willing to provide/receive in a relationship.
However, we both come back to self-reflection, taking responsibility, and giving first which makes our relationship healthy and strong. We see this as a lifelong process in which we get to be happier and more independent.
If you are in a similar situation, I hope you don’t let your expectations to be in the driver seat, causing you to miss the precious things in your life. I hope you first turn the mirror to yourself, give first, and use the conflicts to grow.