When you get right down to it, you hear what you expect to hear, you see what you expect to see.

Expectations change the experience.

If you walk into a conversation with a friend and expect it to be a litany of complaints about their job or relationship or the state of the world, more than likely that’s exactly what you’ll get.  Another friend could enter the same conversation more open and interested in connecting with this person, and walk away from the conversation feeling energized and excited.

So what’s the difference?

Expectations change the experience.

And I’ve found this rule applies to relationships.

See, the patterns that infect every important relationship comes from your parents. Like it or not, the way your parents modeled marriage and family influences what you do in your own marriage and family.

If your parents modeled an affectionate relationship, you’ll most likely carry this model forward — or, perhaps go to the other extreme and break the cycle.  Either way, the influence is still there. If your parents were good communicators when it came to the sticky topics:  money, discipline and parenting styles, intimacy, and so forth, then you can most likely handle the tension most people avoid when it comes to talking about the tough things in life.

If this idea gets you down, don’t worry.

You can change this pattern, if you choose. When you understand some of the forces at work in your relationships and life, you allow the possibility of your past no longer dictating your future.

There are two family-of-origin systems fighting to gain control of this newly-formed system called “your marriage.” Couple this with the idea that you see what you expect to see, and hear what you expect to hear, and it’s no wonder there are times of conflict in your relationship.

There are many people I have met in my work as a counselor that are shocked at this fact.  They’ve held on to the fairy tale version of marriage for too long. Maybe you have, too; movies and TV often portray relationships only as an alluring time of romance, love, laughter and joy.

You know what I mean — “And they all lived…”

If you can complete that sentence, you might’ve had that illusion as well.

(photo source)

The onus rests on your shoulders to make the most out of your life.  What do you expect from your relationship and marriage?  If you expect things to be tough, most likely they will be. If you expect your marriage to be rocky, it will.

I’m not advocating that you not examine reality honestly. But you must examine your expectations. After all, expectations are really just planned disappointments.

What if you actually believed this about expectations?  What if you changed your focus and outlook?  I’ll bet many aspects of your life will begin to change.  Problems in life and relationships are inevitable — struggling is optional.

Rather than spending a lot of time trying to change the wind in your life, adjust your sails.

Remember this phrase when it comes to your relationship: “I can only control me.”  When you know this is true, you can spend less time worrying about what he is doing, or why he’s not “in to you,” or whatever — and more time growing and improving yourself.

The next time you have a conversation or encounter with your significant other, go into it thinking, “I can only handle the way I react and interact, and I free him to only handle himself.”  See what happens. I think you may be pleasantly surprised.

What’s your experience with expectations? Are they really just planned disappointments?