The Problem with Letting Your Partner Feel Like He Is Predictable

predictability in relationshipsWhen you first start dating someone, everything is new and exciting. When he does something romantic, it feels special. But the longer you are with a partner, the more trapped you both become by the assumptions and expectations you both develop for what “should” happen.

I might have certain expectations about the relationship I’m in. For example, I might think my partner:

  •  Should understand where I’m coming from when I talk.
  •  Should greet me enthusiastically every time we meet.
  •  Should understand why it’s important not to leave wrappers or other trash in my car.

What happens when my partner violates one of these expectations I unconsciously hold? I feel irritated. I feel like she has not acted like a good partner. Of course, these are just my idiosyncratic expectations. My expectations create the potential for hurt feelings, especially when my partner does not know about them.

It’s easy to fail someone who has a lot of expectations. The solution is to become aware of my expectations and not allow them to define the quality of my relationship.

Even positive expectations can become a trap over time. I’ll give you an example so you can see the problem with it.

Let’s say your partner enjoys bringing you flowers. At first, it seems special, a surprise that delights you. The delight shows on your face, and he experiences the reward of that positive reaction each time he shows up with a bundle of roses.

But over time, you begin to expect the roses every other week on a Friday. Now, the best he can do is meet your expectations. If he doesn’t bring you the flowers on Friday, you feel disappointed, wondering if something is wrong.

This is the trap of expectations. We have plenty of positive expectations, but once they become routine and predictable they rob our partner of the ability to impress us. If they fail to meet our expectations, we feel frustrated with them. So it’s only a matter of time until all the good things become predictable routines we expected, and the few failures become the only things we react to in our relationship.

If expectations are the problem, what’s the solution? Well, the solution is more of a process than a one-time fix. I’m talking about the process of continuously challenging ourselves to throw expectations aside so that we can give our partner room to affect our emotions in positive, fresh ways.

It might look something like this. Rather than assuming he is going to bring you flowers; you make a conscious effort to appreciate the fact that he brought them today, and decide not to expect them for the following week (even if you have noticed the pattern). A simple shift in your mentality can help you to genuinely appreciate any romantic gesture he makes, which keeps the passion alive in your relationship.

Expectations create traps for a relationship, and gradually erode the excitement and fun of being in a relationship. Again, this happens because positive actions become expected and routine, while failure to meet expectations creates arguments or hurt feelings. So the only thing expectations can really do is gradually diminish the vibrant energy in a relationship and gradually push a couple apart.

predictability in relationshipsHere is what I should strive for. When my partner shows up to spend some time with me, I should try to be aware of any expectation that she will make me feel happy and meet all of my needs. I should try to minimize those expectations so that I leave room for her to impress me with her warmth, attentiveness, and choice to spend time with me (when she could be spending time with someone else).

In this way, I have bypassed the trap of expectations. I have given her back the power to bring up the positive feelings that come from being in a relationship. We both get back a little bit of that new appreciation that is so common during the first few weeks of a brand-new relationship.

Is there a way you could use this concept in your relationship? This is one small part of what it means to invest in a relationship, the kind that keeps getting better. Experiment with this idea, and see if you can get your partner interested in this as well.

James


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27 thoughts on “The Problem with Letting Your Partner Feel Like He Is Predictable

  1. sharon said:

    oh wow that opened my eyes!!

  2. Cathy said:

    I find myself slipping into the trap of having expectations in many areas of my life. This is good advice that applies to all of those things – not just my relationships. Thank you!

  3. Celesha said:

    thanks James …. ^_^ as always very helpful

  4. Melissa said:

    Thank you for another great article James! I believe that appreciation, on a daily basis, for the people we love and all the blessings in our life, creates a lovely vibration and energy which just attracts and creates more of the same in our lives. And there’s self appreciation too, which I think comes first, so that when we feel disappointed by others or by life, we can bounce out of it quickly. When we love and appreciate ourselves, when we reach out from our inner being, there is love and a knowing of how to navigate life’s issues with compassion and an empowered sense of being. Most of us, I think, don’t have great relationship models, so it’s wonderful to have people like you to raise our awareness about these issues and show us how to respond with respect and kindness, as opposed to reacting angrily and as disempowered victims. Thanks!

    • Anna said:

      This all resonates with me. My new partner is so much more respectful than any previous, and when he thanks me for things that I think should almost be a given if you are with someone, it can sound a bit stiff and formal, but I soooo appreciate the continual care that he brings to the relationship, and the lack of expectation or assumption. I think it will keep a strong and vibrant energy between us for a long time.

  5. Faith said:

    This is for me. Thanks james.. Faith.

  6. josaphine said:

    I think that this is a key issue james has raised. But honestly u have to check out nd role play ahead of yr next visit together. Right now I have a gf with whom we had a big row a break then now we’re back hanging out a lot again. Not leso..lol. I’m actually just starting another relationship w a guy. But the potential is there to abuse or loose respect act accordingly so u gotta b mindful!!!

  7. kathrina commy hebzubah izobs said:

    Thank you james,its an eye opener for me,no more expectations,wanting nothing but time and being present..be thankful for all,i suppose” wow easy but still sounds different not expecting…be glad for him with me!!!

  8. Anna said:

    excellent, excellent!!!

  9. Lily said:

    Hi James,
    Thank you for your amazing work, your newsletter is always very inspiring. I have a question about this article. I think I should definitely work with my own expectations (big time) but I also have the feeling I am constantly disappointing my boyfriend’s expectations. A problem for us is that he always expects me to take the initiative when it comes to sex, if I don’t start then nothing happens and I feel a bit forced, I would like him to seduce me sometimes. He told me he wants to have more sex but he blames me for going to bed too early (I’m tired because I’m caring day and night for our 10-month old son). I have tried talking to him about this, but since we are both rather intellectual types we usually end up with hyper-complicated discussions in which we are both defending our positions like lawyers and where at some point we completely lose track of what we were actually talking about and in the end we both just feel frustrated. So I guess that was actually more like three or four questions, but I hope you understand and can give me some helpful advice. Thank you so much.

    • James Bauer said:

      Hi Lily. Good question. My guess is your man has a particular belief that makes it difficult for him to initiate physical intimacy. He may have gotten his belief from movies, from friends, who knows. He may also feel insecure about initiating sex because it can be extremely painful if someone is not “in the mood” for whatever reason. It feels like rejection to a man and some men just can’t stand it.

      Here’s what I recommend. Find out what he believes about initiating. Ignore all discussions about solutions. Focus exclusively on what he believes. Then drop the subject.

      This approach may help overcome the tendency to spiral off into discussions about who’s fault it is. Don’t discuss fault or solutions at this point. Just find out what he believes about initiating sex himself. That will reveal the next step.

      • Lily said:

        Ok that sounds like a good idea I will give it a try! Thank you!

        • Lena said:

          Lily,
          Thank you for shearing with us your situation here. I decided to give my 5 cents to what I’ve just learned from you. I am in my early 50s and have two grown up boys and two marriages behind me. So I feel, I may advise you to what I see is wrong here. First you are saying that your boyfriend is not initiating the sex, but expecting it from you. Then you said you are tired and go to sleep early because you have to take care of your 10 m.o. son.
          Here what does not feel right to me. Your boyfriend lives with you, making love to you and got you pregnant and raising a baby now, but he did not manage to make it official and propose you a marriage, so in the eyes of God and society you both would look good and appropriate. He realizes it, I am sure, and it bothers him a lot, but he wants to put this blame on you and make you responsible for problems in the relationship. Why you are not married him yet? Is this something you would like to have done? Think about it and hear the answer from your heart. It may lead you to much deeper arguments with your boyfriend, but be strong and kind with him, don’t make him wrong.
          My best wishes to you, dear.

          • Lorna (LaLa) said:

            Oh dear, Lily, this is such a difficult subject, isn’t it? And also one that so many people find very difficult to discuss, even in these enlightened times. Just as something to put “in the mix” for you to think about, I would like you to know that my man has been quite “funny” about me initiating sex. He seems to have lots of hang-ups about sex (he is 64), and although I thought it was me who was completely green and inexperienced when we first got together, I was surprised to find that he has these strange ideas. Initially we found each other very excitng and loved to be together intimately, even just kissing and cuddling and caressing, but he has never been able to get an erection and penetrate. I have my own problems, so that was not such a worry for me. However, when I tried to get him interested one time, he turned on me angrily and said I was “abusing” him – treating him like a piece of meat, as he was not interested. I was absolutely horrified. To me sex should be the culmination of loving feelings between two people. I have always been lead to understand that men really are quite flattered when a woman shows an interest in him. So, you see, there are lots and lots of different view-points on this subject – but it is good that we can be open and discuss it here. James is right – you need to discuss this, in a loving way. Being open and honest with each other is the only way forward. I suffered for almost 40 years before this in a loveless, almost sexless marriage, before divorcing. My husband had Aspergers syndrome and was unemotional. Sex was just a mechanical act to him, and we eventually ended up in separate bedrooms – never able to discuss the problems. Now I have gone from having a cold, unemotional man to an extremely emotional man, and it makes it hard to understand. Talking, without blame, is the only way forward – I firmly believe that. Also, I believe it is extremely important to go to bed at the same time, together. Formulate a ritual, and have a goodnight kiss and cuddle, even without sex, before falling asleep. I think you should insist on this. You cannot have a good relationship if he is watching telly in the sitting room and you are fast asleep in bed. Then, if he is awake too early, he could get up earlier in the morning and help you to get your son up, dressed and breakfasted – maybe even bring you a cup of tea in bed first. That is one thing my husband DID do every day, and very nice, too. And my boyfriend likes to do that for me, too, now (his idea). There has to be give and take. And Lena may be right about some feelings of resentment and guilt floating around. You start off saying you have to work on your “expectations” – what are they? Be honest with yourself and see if this is what is getting in the way of your relationship. You have a right to have “expectations”. If you do not resolve this problem, it will not go away on it’s own. I wish you lots of luck and send you love and hugs. Lorna x

  10. sashalee said:

    Beautifully written James… thanks so much!
    What you’ve said reminds me how important it is to practice “mindful detachment” from expectations and to monitor my thinking, not only my thoughts about things, but also within all kinds of relationships. I think it’s such a wonderful gift to strive to remain open, and to be able to enjoy each moment with a fresh eyes, ears, and heart, rather than to anticipate every outcome (good or bad). People really can feel this kind of gift of open energy (no expectations) and I find that when it is offered to me, it’s such a surprise and welcome relief! Sometimes in that knee-jerk process of listening to our own constantly chattering mind we forget all the innocence and joy of loving and appreciating someone for good or bad, and always “in the moment”… =)

    • James Bauer said:

      Exactly. I agree that people can sense that kind of open energy.

  11. Tina Kurrels said:

    Nice….So, yesterday I experimented with imagining that I had only one year to live. I really let myself imagine this, quietly, and I started to sense which things I would pay attention to , and which I would let go of. Anything that would waste my precious time, would go. The theme that came to me as the guiding light for my year that was left, was to see how I could love most beautifully, every day in every way. This had the sense of what I could do for others to give love….what an exciting way to do life. Then, if loving gestures come my way, it is a bonus, but not the heart of my efforts. Loving others in and of itself is a beautiful gift, and could be a legacy of a life well lived. I also thought of the pieces that I would step away from as a way to not waste time, and feeling hurt, sad, resentful…well they all finally appeared to me as obstacles to experiencing what I want to experience….in this mortal journey. How does this relate..? Well, it just does….loving well, for me is what it is all about, and you do indeed have wonderful thoughts on the matter James….thank you!

    • James Bauer said:

      Wow, that’s a powerful mental exercise. I like that concept as a way of gaining clarity about what is most important. Thanks for sharing that, Tina.

  12. Wilma said:

    Thank you James for a wonderful reminder, its true in my situatuation.
    Let go of your expectatios… “Enjoy the moment when he is with you, because he chose you, he could be spending time with somebody else” ….

  13. carol butt n.z. said:

    Hi James, thank you that has been a very refreshing and interesting email, as not only applies to relationships but the relationship between a boss and an employee. It also reminds me that we can only live one day at a time and enjoy the day and deal with only the day. Another great article of awareness. Thank you. Carol. N.Z Ps… I love you articles as they are feet on the ground stuff not pie in the sky.

    • James Bauer said:

      Thanks for the encouragement, Carol

  14. Sandy said:

    So how do I say out of the trap of not having expectations, but everyone treating me like crap and I accept it as normal?

    • James Bauer said:

      Hi Sandy. Being treated like crap is not normal. You stay out of that trap by not accepting that kind of treatment at all. Don’t stay in a toxic relationship. There are good people out there who want to treat you right for no reason other than that they simply like you.

  15. Katie said:

    Thank you James!! This is exactly what I needed to be reminded of today! My expectations are getting in the way and are hurting myself and my relationship. I will shift my mindset. You are truly a wise and kind person. I learn from each and every post you write.
    Thank you

  16. Lana said:

    Hi James,
    Thank you for bringing up this topic for discussions. The examples you are giving in the article are quite simple and easy to understand and follow.
    What if the expectations for relationship are more serious than those you mentioned here? I am talking about a really turning point in the relationship with the man I am experiencing now. Let me give you some details on my situation.
    I was dating a man for a year by now. We are leaving in the same area and spent many weekends and week night together. However we did not move together or spent nights at each other houses because we both, my man and I, have grown up kids that still live in each households. My 27y.o. son lives with me, and my man’s 23 y.o. daughter is living in his house.
    Time passed and the man I am dating almost a year got a new job in the different state, several hours away from our current location. He accepted a job without discussing his decision with me. I was kind of expecting him to accept this job and hoped that this situation can move our relationship on the upper level. I was expecting to be included in his plan to move with him to another state and so forth.
    However the man I spent the whole year with still did not mentioned anything like moving together and for now he continues living in both states (on weekdays in the North and on weekends in the South, where I live too).

    What would you suggest in my situation, James? I was not asking my man about what would be with me in his decision to move to another state. But I mentioned a while ago, that if he moves to another state without inviting me to join him, our relationship will be over, since I do not believe in long distance relationship and it was never worked for me before.
    Do I need to wait until he is ready to propose something for me? Or do I just give up all my hopes and expectations and move on with my life and leave the man behind.
    Please advise me, if you can.

    Sincerely,

    Svetlana.

    • James Bauer said:

      Hi Svetlana. This is the kind of question that requires a bit of back-and-forth dialogue. For questions like, this please bring it up in our private forum.

      • Svetlana said:

        James,
        I did that before, and went to the private forum and asked my question there, but the answer came from one of your assistants, and it did not really help me in my situation at that time. Please, give me Your answer, I appreciate your knowledge and professionalism as a coach for couples.

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