So you and your partner are struggling to communicate. Healthy and effective communication in your relationship requires willingness and vulnerability. A willingness to understand your partner is a large part of the work. If you are committed to misunderstanding your partner, you will continue to misunderstand them. On the other hand, if you approach your partner with an open mind and heart, you might find it easier to hear and see your partner. Having the courage to be vulnerable with your partner will help them understand where you are coming from, and it may even help them to find their own vulnerability. As you and your partner strive to be more vulnerable and willing to understand one another, try voicing your expectations and assumptions.
What are expectations? An expectation is the assumption that, in the future, something will take place or be true. Expectations can show up as unspoken or clearly defined rules. Expectations can be conscious or subconscious. Do you expect your partner to interact with you in the same way as a former partner? What are your beliefs about people and the world around you? Your beliefs can influence your expectations whether you are aware of them or not.
There is nothing wrong with having expectations- everyone has them! You and your partner may struggle to communicate and understand each other if you are not discussing your expectations. Communicating your expectations can manifest in different, beneficial ways. Try letting your partner know about what your needs are. If you do not know what you need, take some time to explore what you want your life and your relationship to look like- this may help you define your individual and relational needs. It is also important to be mindful that some expectations may be difficult for your partner to meet. Check in with yourself and your partner about how realistic your expectations are. For instance, it might not be realistic to expect your partner to know what you need without letting them know- your partner is not a mind reader after all!
It can also be helpful to share your assumptions about relationships, parenting, trust, love, etc. to help your partner understand your internal world. As you and your partner are exploring your inner worlds, be careful not to assume that your partner will carry the same attitudes and beliefs forever. We are constantly changing! You and your partner have a unique way of seeing the world and will have different expectations of how the upcoming week, a vacation, a holiday, or a date night might look. It is okay to talk about how you are expecting an event or time to be- this may even help you and your partner navigate conflict more effectively if it comes up.
It may be helpful to ask yourself the following questions- What are you assuming that your partner is thinking or feeling? What are you assuming that your partner needs? What are you expecting your partner to know about your thoughts, feelings, and needs? What are you missing out on understanding about your partner based on the story you are telling yourself about them in your mind?
Effective communication is an ongoing process. When you tell your partner about your assumptions and expectations, you are helping them understand you better and simultaneously, you are helping yourself to experience your relationship in a less confusing and more open way. When you ask for what you need, you are much more likely to have your needs met.