Relationship/Marriage Expectations/Problems: Why?

A new study has revealed that the number one reason for marriages breaking up is disappointment from expectations. We get married (or get into relationships) to have needs met that we can’t fulfill on our own. Yes? Of course….if we are in a marriage/relationship for the right reasons to begin with!

Here is one common expectation issue:

You think you’re normal. You think everyone who acts and behaves and reacts as you do is “normal”. When someone doesn’t act or behave or react as you do, you think they are “abnormal”, and so you try to change who they are – you want them to be “normal” like you. One man said about his wife, “I thought my wife was so beautiful, and still do, but I also thought she was emotionally dramatic and crazy- totally unlike myself or anyone I had ever dated. I wanted to make her normal like me…but I wasn’t respecting HER normal.” This resonated with me because I realized that a few fights I’ve had with ex’s stem from this line of thinking – I think the way they do something or react to me is weird or abnormal, because it’s not the way *I* would behave, and I call them on that and it causes a fight. But here I was, doing the same thing as the man above discussing his wife…I wasn’t respecting my boyfriend’s normal way of being – I can’t…we can’t…go around expecting people to be like us! As soon as you start respecting someone else’s normal, there is a change..suddenly, they’re acting “weird”, and you just laugh to yourself and maybe say, “There he is….doing THAT thing again…okay, this’ll be over in a few.” Or you just ignore them for a little while, come back, gently rub his/her back and say, “Baby- I love you.” Guess what? No fighting! And one thing I have to say to women that is going to make them upset with me – but we are so guilty of this: STOP trying to win every fight with your husband/boyfriend/significant other. We always want to be able to say, “I told you!” Just let some things go…give him a mulligan! If you keep trying to win fights, you are going to LOSE the man!
Another expectation:
Many men/women expect their partner to do something for them or behave in a particular way out of duty or obligation. Outside of a marriage, duty really has no place. But what about obligations? Do you really want someone to do things for you out of obligation as opposed to their feelings? Because that’s not healthy. You should want someone to be faithful – because they only desire and want to be with you. Spends as much time with you as they do because they enjoy your company more than any other man/woman’s company. Make you a part of their life because they want you to be completely in it as a result of their love for you, not because it’s what’s expected. If you allow yourself to accept anything at all from your mate because you expect them to out of their relationship obligation to you, you may be needy; wouldn’t it feel much better to know they do all that they do because of YOU and not because of the “relationship”? Or are you impinging on your personal dignity and integrity to hold on to the relationship at all costs? To the other partner: if you are the person doing what is “expected” of you because you’re “in a relationship” or “married” (I am NOT speaking of duty here) and not solely because of the PERSON you’re married to or in a relationship with, your relationship/marriage may be doomed to failure because you are thinking “outside” of the relationship/marriage and not “inside” the relationship/marriage – being inside of the relationship/marriage allows you to do things because of your FEELINGS OF LOVE and/or CARE, not your feelings of guilt, obligation, or…because you’re expected to. Or maybe, like your mate, you are holding onto the relationship at all costs because you fear failure – another type of expectation…the societal pressure kind.

But I want to get to the root of WHY we have these expectations, and why we have problems…

Expectations can come from your parents’ marriage, likely; your own ethnic-cultural tradition, certainly; stories you read and popular movies you saw, perhaps; and finally, from the specific historical details of the making of the relationship itself – for example, did you bring baggage from the old relationship into the new relationship? Were you completely over and healed from your previous relationship? Did you begin a new relationship that was not based on 100% truth?

Problems that lead to divorce or breaking up usually comes from one of the following theories, – in no particular order:

1. Affective Disorder. Divorce/Break-up is caused by the inability of the parties to separate their unresolved childhood issues from their relationship with their spouses. They are not getting what they expected their spouses ought to give them: “Make it all better Mommy/Daddy.” Usually this expectation is unconscious. Failure to resolve such childhood issues in the marriage causes break-ups/divorce.
2. The Knight in Shining Armour or The Perfect Woman Syndrome. According to the poet W.H. Auden, people end relationships when they discover, to their shock, that this person who they thought was perfect for them/their life is….flawed and/or boring.
3. Women’s Re-Engineering. Women created divorce -they want to be married to a woman, not a man. Or they aren’t interested in being “submissive”, they are only interested in “equality”. Marriage is a “patriarchal institution”.
4. Social Plague. They realize that even “saving face” to society isn’t worth being miserable or “content”.
5. Structural Incompatibility. According to Johns Hopkins sex-researcher John Money, as many as 80% of all couples are fundamentally unhappy with each other because they are structurally and emotionally incompatible. Real compromise is impossible. Every person has a unique set of sexual, emotional, and habit-needs, and such needs cannot change, no matter how hard one may try to change. Finding the right person, the needle in the haystack with the same eye and point as you (e.g., someone who likes sex at dawn and/or as often as you, you share the same/similar type of upbringing), is extremely difficult, but critical to relationship success.

The best one?
6. It’s someone in the relationship/marriage’s fault. Let’s examine that: if you’re divorcing or breaking up, you certainly don’t want anyone to think it was your fault. You tried your best. You’ll do whatever you can to defend yourself from the shameful charge that you caused the divorce.

This is exactly what the law (in a marriage) wants you to do. Unlike social theorists, the law has this very peculiar idea that everything unpleasant that ever happens in the world is somebody’s fault. Accidents, mine disasters, drowning, rotten hamburgers, and marriages ending are all someone else’s fault! That’s why the law has these great complicated and expensive procedures –called trials and inquiries and commissions –to look into the whole history of some event, isolate its causes, and then attribute the blame to some human agency. Why do we subscribe to this? And which theory is the one that REALLY causes break-ups?

To answer that, look at your own marriage or relationship- both the present and the past. Can you honestly tell anyone that you invested all your hopes, time, money and effort into your marriage/relationship just so that you could go and smash it up later –like some careless drunk doing 150 on the freeway? That you were recklessly negligent, or full of wanton disregard, or careless and indifferent? If you had to do it all again, is there anything you would have done differently? Could have done differently?

Greek philosophers would say that all of the above theories are right, and none of them are. You simply give your marriage, your divorce –and whatever else happens to you in life –your best shot. The only thing to regret is not giving it your best shot. All the more glory if you struggle on, in the knowledge that it might be entirely futile. Risk. It’s always there when dealing with relationships. So, I ask you this question if you are married or in a relationship that is struggling or you are unsure of…deep in your heart, and not talking about the “marriage” or “relationship” itself…do you love this person enough to throw caution to the wind? Does the happiness you experience when you’re with this person make it worth the risk? If you’re playing it safe, that isn’t real love…true love is ALWAYS risky. Nothing in a genuine loving and romantic marriage/relationship is ever….EXPECTED. It just IS.

In other words, consciousness and acceptance of the risk is everything –and this is what makes you a whole person.

*Some of this post is excerpted from “Splitting Up: Divorce, Culture, and the Search for a Real Life” by Larry Frolick


2 Responses to “Relationship/Marriage Expectations/Problems: Why?”

  1. There’s a wonderful way to compromise when you and your partner don’t have matching needs in the relationship. I call it, “Relationship Values.”
    What are the top four reasons why YOU are in a relationship or marriage? What are the top four reasons your PARTNER is in the relationship?
    You’d be surprised to know that most couples’ list of Relationship Values are completely different. And that’s OK!
    It doesn’t mean you’re incompatible, it means you’re different. Which is one of the reasons you were attracted to your partner.
    If you can both identify your top Relationship Values, and then get clear on exactly what those mean, you can easily put your attention on giving your partner what they need and they can do the same for you. Just going through this simple exercise can make all the difference in the happiness generated within your daily relating.
    I’ve written more about Relationship Values here:

    • Hi, Susan!
      Loved reading your posts and I agree with most of what you say.

      I also appreciated how you teach men how to revive/renew their sex lives with their wives.I’ll comment on what I think about sex over on your side of the world, but I’ll say this in the interim: I don’t know what happens to some women when it comes to sex…I’d be in heaven if I could meet my male sexual equal! 🙂

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