Curated from: Learn - shy
“So I hope he gives me flowers every week”, “I hope we have sex 6 times a week”, “I kind of just hope she’s not a serial killer in disguise”. Everybody has their own checklist of requirements when it comes to seeking out the perfect partner. But while we’re caught up in the butterflies and excitement of having that new special someone in your life, an essential — if not most important, element in the equation is often forgotten. That is, the art of good communication to set the groundwork for a relationship.
We often choose to ignore this step for fear of coming on too strong, or in hopes that the issues will iron out themselves as time goes by.
However, you need to remember that your new partner is not a mind reader. In order for both parties to be happy in a relationship, communicating your expectations of it should be done so that you are both on the same page. This can help to reduce the number of disagreements with each other, and help you both understand what turns you on — and off.
So, how do we set expectations for a new relationship?
1. Have a deeper understanding of YOURSELF
This may sound counterproductive since this whole exercise is for you to find out about YOUR PARTNER, but in order to properly know and communicate what you expect out of a relationship, it is extremely helpful to understand the internalised expectations you might have around dating and sex and where they arised from. Being self-aware allows you to show up more entirely, and gives other people in your life the chance to do the same.
Maybe you think you need certain things from a partner because it was mirrored in your parents’ relationship or a couple you looked up to when you were young, but try looking deeper in and you might realise that contentment comes in a different shape and size at this point in your life. Whatever works for your body, pleasure, and emotional needs is unique to you, and that is perfectly fine!
Ask yourself what makes you feel seen, safe, and appreciated, and as a start, in the contexts of sex, dates, and bigger events like your birthday.
2. Collaborate with your partner
Sometimes, hearing the opinions of others allows us to form new opinions or invite meaningful discussions. The same can be said about the conversation where you discuss your expectations with your partner. A big hindrance to setting expectations is that you do not want to feel like a burden and come off too pushy or demanding, especially in the early stages of a relationship where you both try to impress each other. However, not setting a direction for how both your needs can be met will only lead to unresolved conflict later on.
That’s why it would be good to start this conversation as a collaborative effort. You and your partner could discuss some of the important categories that are important to both of you, and then give yourselves ample time to ponder over your needs and expectations in that department before having the follow up conversation. This ensures that your partner would not be blindsided, while giving you both the opportunity to make yourselves heard and seen in the relationship.
Approach the conversation with curiosity and by offering something about yourself first to not come across as too intense. Instead of outrightly stating your needs, you could say something like: “It turns me on when a partner talks dirty to me”, or “I’d love to know what your least favourite part of being in a relationship is”.
Here’s a very comprehensive checklist that you can reference: Relationship Expectations Worksheet
3. Have timely check-ins on the expectations you previously set
As time goes by, there is no guarantee that the expectations you previously agreed upon would still make you as happy as they once did, given changing priorities or personal growth that has taken place. As such, it would be good to revisit the expectations that you previously set at certain junctures. As a guide, the check-ins can be every 6 months or 1 year — whatever you feel works best for you! Subsequently, you can then plan ahead for the future.
What are some realistic expectations to have?
1. Being equals in the relationship regardless of external achievements
It’s easy to bring the imbalance of one’s external achievements into the relationship dynamic, be it a partner that earns more, or one that has a higher position of power in society. Regardless of this, a romantic relationship should always be a partnership of equals, and that is a perfectly reasonable expectation to have. This form of equality can be seen in areas such as splitting expenses or who picks up the tab every time you dine out to more emotional areas, such as not using this imbalance to win over or belittle you in arguments.
2. Spending time together
For you to grow as a couple, it would be a given that you have to spend some quality time together, so remember to agree upon a minimum number of dates to have per week. Strike a balance between spending time with each other, while also not forcing your partner to give up on their personal time and time spent socialising with other friends.
3. Being flexible and considerate
It’s another given that in all relationships, disagreements and fights would take place, and that’s where this expectation comes in. Being considerate on how certain actions might affect your partner, and also being flexible to understanding and accepting differing opinions from yours that your partner might possess. By having these two qualities, you can then expect reasonable conversations to happen in light of disagreements, without it escalating to large-scale fights.
And here are some unrealistic ones that you should not hold on to:
1. Expecting your partner to always take your side
We all have the occasional rant about something someone did that made you angry, but there is a difference in wanting your partner to be there to support you vs always agreeing with you.
Sometimes, we need someone to help us see from a different perspective, or call us out if we’re displaying selfish, irrational behaviour. And having the understanding that this person can be your partner would do you both more good than harm. This can help you learn to be more self-aware of your own shortcomings, and what better way to learn about this than from a person you know that loves and cares for you, and genuinely wants you to grow and be better.
Try reframing your expectation to sound more like this: “While I expect my partner to take my side, I also expect that they will feel safe enough to let know if I’m in the wrong”
2. Expecting your partner to fill every void in your life
While the initial excitement and happiness of being in a new relationship can spill over to all other aspects of your life, what happens when this fades — and trust us, it eventually does — and the same problems you had before getting into a relationship start creeping back into your life? Hence, which is why, one of the most important expectations to have about being in a relationship is that having a partner does not magically wash away all the previous avenues and sources of unhappiness that were once in your life.
This can also be linked to an earlier expectation about having a life outside of your relationship, and that it would not be healthy to spend ALL your time together. It’s certainly not realistic to expect your partner to fulfil the roles of all the different people in your life, so by making time and space for them and also the other extra-curricular activities that enriched your life, you allow yourself to live a more balanced and fulfilling life.
To sum up, remember that it’s ok to have needs — the problem is when we do not express them articulately enough. The sooner we express those needs, the closer we get to feeling safe, secure, and loved the way we want to in our relationships. Try to spend less time expecting your new mate to read your mind and more time validating your wants collaboratively. You deserve a fulfilling emotional and sexual relationship both emotionally and sexually, and setting the stage with clarity and communication early on is one way to get it!