Problematic issues in a relationship are often not as clear cut as they seem because both genders view aspects of the relationship differently. Women appear to have more complaints about their spouses and the state of their marriages, compared to men (Brehm 1985). This could be because women’s expectations of the union have risen over the years. They are now more critical and want much more, while men are tending to retreat and to give less. In recent years, women have initiated the break-up of more dating and marriages than men. Although the underlying causes for break-ups are unknown, there are some common issues which cause the most conflict, affecting the partners in different ways. The main one is unrealistic expectations of partners or situations.
Expectations are transmitted directly by what we hear and indirectly by what we see. A new relationship in the same space brings expectations to life and will develop problems when those expectations are unreasonable. Our desire for security and perfection breeds the most unrealistic expectations which we then wait, in vain, to be fulfilled by our partners. Of course, they won't, and the first stirrings of dissatisfaction begins. Conflicts caused by unexpressed and unfulfilled expectations are very common and can lead to great disappointment and frustration. It is a good habit to stop for a moment when you’re disappointed, ask yourself what you expected and compare it to what you actually received. The difference in fulfilment and expectation will reveal the gap in perception between the two of you. Noting the degree of discrepancy, which may be unconsciously affecting your relationship, will help you to adjust future expectations. Always try to be reasonable in what you expect – that way you will sometimes get a pleasant surprise, rather than being unreasonable and disappointed.
Discuss Innermost Feelings
Partners cannot read minds so be clear about what you expect, otherwise you’ll both have trouble working as a team. You have to share your perspectives with each other, which means being totally honest and discussing innermost feelings, hopes, strengths and weaknesses long before marrying or setting up home. Our partners cannot fulfil all our needs and so personal expectations cannot be too selfish or unreal.
In order to have a good relationship, the positives must outweigh the negatives by a large percentage. If negativity is creeping into your relationship it also crowds out the positive. It is like water seeping through walls, eventually weakening the structure. People usually feel motivated around others who are positive and energising, as well as those who help them to feel good about themselves. However, pushing aside or neglecting to address real problems is not the answer either, and can be just as harmful to the relationship.
So if you find yourself increasingly nitpicking, nagging, criticising or withdrawing, you need to stop and really reflect for a while on the effects of those actions, which could be counter-productive. Instead, strive to communicate effectively, to praise much more and to practise balanced negotiation to get what you hope for or truly desire.
ELAINE SIHERA (Ms Cyprah - http://www.myspace.com/elaineone and http://www.elainesihera.co.uk ) is an expert author, public speaker, media contributor and columnist. The first Black graduate of the OU and a post-graduate of Cambridge University. Elaine is a CONFIDENCE guru and a consultant for Diversity Management, Personal Empowerment and Relationships. Author of: 10 Easy Steps to Growing Older Disgracefully; 10 Easy Steps to Finding Your Ideal Soulmate!; Money, Sex & Compromise and Managing the Diversity Maze, among others (available on http://www.amazon.co.uk as well as her personal website). Also the founder of the British Diversity Awards and the Windrush Men and Women of the Year Achievement Awards. She describes herself as, “Fit, Fabulous, Over-fifty and Ready to Fly!"