Expectations from Relationships - What are Yours?

One thing I've come to realize as my marriage progresses is that relationships are all about expectations, even as they are about communication. A lot of us have very high expectations of relationships and even much more of marriages. These expectations follow us from childhood, and what we see our parents and other married couples do. We read them in books, watch them in movies and TV and play-act them in the little mummy and daddy drama we take part in with other children.

We also pick some up as adults as we begin to negotiate life on our terms and mix up with different kinds of individuals, at work and at play. When some of these expectations are picked up from broken relationships that are not properly healed, they are known as baggage. I read an excerpt from Timaya's interview in a magazine where he said,

“My bride must be very intelligent, outspoken, caring and loving. Her strongest quality is, she must be God-fearing. A woman that is God-fearing will not jump around and she will be submissive to her man. I’m not searching for a perfect woman. I’m not yet married because I haven’t found a God-fearing woman who will pamper me and our would-be children. A woman that cooks very well and who will stay my side in time of trials. A woman who loves me from the depth of her heart, in spite of my shortcomings.” [Source]

These are indeed some of the expectations we have of relationships, and the people we get into them with. Sometimes we're lucky and we meet the people who fit into our wishes up to an extent that we can live with, and all things being equal, and when there's mutual attraction and love, we get together either in short or long-term relationships. It is actually good to know what you want and expect from the person you want to enter a relationship. And as one gets older, we begin to add to those expectations that we prefer a long-term relationship, that is, marriage.

One thing to bear in mind though is that there are no guarantees in life. Also life is ever changing, and never static. Just as we keep growing and maturing as individuals, so also our expectations, new ones keep cropping up over time, and they can change too. So it is imperative to come to a relationship with a realistic and practical mindset. Are you looking for a perfect person, is that possible? And what about yourself, are you meeting up to expectations? Are you flexible and willing to adjust when new things materialize?

I remember that Atala and I did not go through much marriage counseling because we were living 6000miles apart. I attended the classes through my church back then and we would discuss them over the phone, email and webcam. The pastor gave me workbooks to help us to talk over things like how to address conflict, and what we wanted our marriage to look like. We certainly discussed these issues but not necessarily based on the workbooks, rather as and when the need came up.

But I don't think there was stuff about expectations, or maybe I was not paying enough attention. You see, some of the seminars were filled with pages and pages of stuff to do and because our relationship was going swimmingly, I often dumped them by the side. When we arrived Asaba for the wedding proper, my parent's priest who was to officiate the marriage planned a couple of meetings with us. He went over some of the same things with us, sprinkled with his own experiences of marriage.

One day, after we had gotten married and were living together, we had a disagreement. Atala asked me what kinds of expectations I really had of him. “I don’t have any expectations you don't already know,” I think I said then. I can't remember exactly what the topic was that we were disagreeing on, but my mindset was like, just be yourself. However, as we continued talking, it became clearer to me that I did have an expectation, maybe even several expectations.

When I had said I didn't have expectations, I meant the usual stuff. I didn't expect him to provide for me (which he actually does, bless him), I didn't expect him to take out the trash, I didn't expect him to be Mr DIY, I didn't expect him to fight for me, or any of those manly stuff. And we had talked about these before then and so I felt he shouldn't have asked as he already knew.

Let me provide some background. I am a pretty straight forward person. I don't know how to play games. My nose might be buried in a book or something and so I miss the little cues that others use in their little social strategies. If you don't spell things out, it may just go over my head. Yeah, I can be nerdy - read socially awkward - like that.

Fast forward to that day in the reality of my married life. I was upset over something Atala had done or hadn’t done. As our conversation continued, I realized how many expectations I had that I had not really thought would become an issue.

For instance, I had expected that we would eat dinner together. This was not something we had discussed prior to when I moved in, and it came as a rude shock that he would think of just dishing his food and eating in front of the TV or going back to the book he was reading. For me, meal times, especially dinner, are a time to sit around a table and talk about the day, bond and catch up on stuff.

So as we continued our conversation, we did the following;

- We discussed some of the expectations of mine and some of his and how they were affecting our relationship.
- We decided on ways we could integrate the expectations that would make us better, as individuals and as a couple.
- We also agreed to jettison some others that would not work for us.
- We planned that this would be an ongoing conversation. And they have remained so.

So what are your own expectations about relationships? Do you think they're realistic? Have they changed over time? Has any of your expectations come to bite you in the butt in a past or current relationship? How have you learnt to deal with them?