When you get involved in anything, there are always expectations that you have about the situation or person. Here are some examples:

„X The college I¡¦ve chosen to go to is going to be really difficult.
„X The project I¡¦ve just done may not meet the standards of the committee.
„X My blind date is likely to be a real loser.
„X My friend is going to be really happy with the gift I¡¦m surprising her with.
„X The restaurant they¡¦ve selected for this party is going to be fabulous.

There are many sources from which your expectations come about. They can be the result of what you were taught by your parents, the observations you made of how others behaved, the media, or your own needs. These expectations act as filtering systems; that is to say, they color the way you perceive things that happen in your life. You will make assessments and adjust your feelings and behaviors according to the expectations you have.

Let me give you a concrete example: You may expect that a good friend will change his or her plans to be with you when you¡¦re ¡§in need.¡¨ You¡¦ve come to have that expectation because you saw how your family handled similar situations. That is, if someone had a crisis, that person¡¦s needs came above anything else. And if someone did not respond in kind, your family expressed a sense of hurt. If your friend does meet your expectation, you¡¦re pleased and feel good about him or her. If, however, your friend was brought up to value loyalty to commitment, he or she may not change plans even if you are in a personal crisis. No doubt you¡¦ll feel, and probably act, hurt. Perhaps, you¡¦ll also feel like you¡¦re unimportant to this person.

The problem with expectations is that they are very egocentric. You behave according to them without regard to who the other person is. Furthermore, you react based on your views without challenging them and without regard to the concept that someone may just be different - not bad.

There are three expectations that I have heard repeated through the many years of my practice that work against a couple:

Perhaps one of the biggest issues that I have consistently heard in marriages is the expectation that the other person will be just like me, or very close to it. Even more damaging is the idea that if the mate isn¡¦t like me and cannot understand my needs, they don¡¦t care about or love me.

An additional concept that is often not recognized is that the person you marry will be able to, and should be able to, meet all your needs. After all, this is your one true love. Though when challenged, most people will acknowledge that this is unrealistic, there is an unspoken emotion that does seem to harbor this expectation. Perhaps, because women are raised to be caretakers, they tend to be more vulnerable to this expectation.

The other major expectation which I have seen experienced by each partner is that you get married and ¡§will live happily ever after.¡¨ A good portion of this thinking is the product of how love is portrayed in the media. You read books, watch movies, and listen to songs that all portray happiness when you are with someone and feel a sense of desperation when you are not. When you¡¦re in love, everything is right in the world so all you need is love. Prince Charming comes along and carries his love off on his white horse - they go galloping into the sunset and live happily ever after. These nice endings make you feel good, but you forget that they are the products of someone¡¦s imagination. They are fantasies and present an image that could not be any further from the truth. ¡§Happily ever after¡¨ is not something that you can expect to just happen.

I really do believe that one of the main difficulties in marriage is that couples begin their relationship with many unrealistic expectations. If they had a good foundation of knowledge about the realities of what a committed relationship looks like, there would be far less disappointment.

Here¡¦s the good news: Once you realize that you are doing this kind of thinking, you have the opportunity to challenge it. So much of having a good marriage is your perception and the only one who controls your perception is you!

Author's Bio: 

Finally, a psychologist who goes that extra mile and cares about the people with whom she works. Whether Dr. Karen Sherman (www.ChoiceRelationships.com or www.drkarensherman.com ) is giving a speech, offering a teleseminar, or doing a workshop - she's helping people connect to their potential and becoming aware of their choices. Let Dr. Karen help you learn to make life choices both personally and in your relationships by signing up for her free newsletter at www.drkarensherman.com/newsletter.htm.

You can find more of her tools in her newest book, "Mindfulness and The Art of Choice: Transform Your Life" or the one she previously co-authored, "Marriage Magic! Find It, Keep It, and Make It Last." She's also a contributor to "101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life," a featured writer on Yahoo Personals, a blogger at ThirdAge.com, and a columnist for Hitchedmag.com.