Written by: Courtney Redman.
Do you ever find yourself in a relationship with someone and all the sudden you’re taken off guard by a new situation with no real sense of how to handle it or what to expect? No? Just me? Ok, well just in case anyone can relate, let’s talk about it.
When I say relationships, this obviously applies to romantic relationships, but it’s also true of platonic and familial experiences. Humans are dynamic and being in close contact with others requires an amount of flexibility and understanding of yourself and the other person to navigate new territory.
Setting expectations about communication, wants, needs, etc. early on in a relationship can help set the stage for re-negotiating as new situations arise. The nature of the relationship will impact what kind of expectations you set, and these may need to evolve in several small ways or in large leaps depending on the situation.
Here are some things to think about when discussing expectations in different kinds of relationships.
Romantic Relationships: Romantic relationships can be broken down into further sub-categories, like dating, long-term committed, engaged, married, parent, grandparent, retirement…you get it. With each stage of the relationship some expectations should be re-negotiated.
Dating: In early stages of dating, discuss what you’re looking for and find out if you have similar goals.
What do you want communication to look like? How much time do you want to spend together or apart? How do you want to approach your sexual relationship? How will you explore transitioning either out of the relationship or into increased commitment?
Committed Relationships: In long-term and committed relationships is where most expectations are set due to the nature of extended time together and the life changes that come with it.
This can look like finding work-life balance together, negotiating an equitable balance of in home and out of home tasks, planning for future steps like marriage, career changes, kids, relocation…again, you get it. Do you want one partner to fulfill a certain role for a set amount of time and then switch roles? How will you address it?
Friendships: Setting expectations with friends can be easily overlooked, but these can be some of the closes and longest relationships any of us ever experience so it’s worth exploring.
Do you and your friend know your boundaries about time spent together? How to handle shared or private information? How you want to handle giving or borrowing money? How you want to prioritize the friendship or balance it with other relationships? How to address conflict so that it doesn’t damage the friendship?
Family: Family relationships have multiple dynamics to manage at once, which can be complicated. Families can also be a great place to help teach good expectation setting for the rest of the relationships people encounter.
Do kids know how to communicate needs and boundaries to parents, or to their siblings? Do parents have a shared understanding of how they are approaching parenting? What are the expectations around roles in the family? How do we decide how time is spent as a family or away from the family?
These expectations also change the most as children grow into different developmental phases. As a teenager, young adult, or middle-age adult, do you know what boundaries and expectations to have with your parents as they transition out of active parenting? What about if you become a parent and they transition into grandparents? What about amongst your adult siblings?
If you find that you would like to talk about setting expectations to support your relationships, counseling can be an amazing option! Check out the links below to see what feels like the best fit for you.
For more information on our services, click here: Couples Therapy
For more information on our services, click here: Premarital Therapy
For more information on our services, click here: Family Therapy
For more information on our services, click here: Individual Therapy