When you marry, you and your partner each bring a trunk load of childhood fantasies, marriage myths, unmet needs, and cultural beliefs, and unload them onto the relationship. This is where assumptions, expectations, and shoulds originate. False notions and beliefs about how your relationship should be or who you assume your partner to be is rooted in your past, not reality.

Would you be willing to challenge those assumptions, expectations, and shoulds from your family of origin or your belief systems that may have served you as a single or in past relationships but do not serve you in your marriage.

Be willing to negotiate a new plan, new goals, and a new outline for your marriage together. Represent your needs, and then represent your partner’s needs. Don’t assume or expect anything unless you ask for it. Let’s look at the following three relationship destroyers that, when addressed with a simple shift, lead to relationship harmony.

1) Assumptions- You oftentimes presume you are going to live a certain lifestyle when you marry or move in together, keep the home a certain form of functionality, raise the kids with certain values. You may presume you will celebrate and uphold certain traditions; you presume you will have children, spend x amount of dollars; presume you will have certain sexual rituals; presume your parents will come for dinner every weekend or holiday, etc.

You bring these ideas in from your childhood traditions or from your own visions of what married life will be. But what about your partner, did you sit down and discuss all these functional details? Any lifestyle differences that you both bring into the marriage from family or past relationships that you assume your partner will automatically adapt into your joint lifestyle is a potential hot point. Such differences could include:

His definition of savings and your definition of disposable income
His childhood holiday traditions with his parents and your holiday traditions that does not include family
His idea of strict discipline for the kids and your idea of liberal discipline
His idea of what domestic responsibilities are and your assumption that he will contribute to domestic duties
Assumptions are not something we put on ourselves, we assign them to situations. This sets us up for disappointment when they are not met.

Try this: What am I assuming that my partner has agreed to that he/she has never agreed to? Sit down and co create a new agreement about your combined life, holidays, spending, domestic chores, children, etc. Remember this is not your parents’ home, your spouse’s parents’ home, it’s yours. What will realistically work for your marriage, yourself, and your partner?

2) Expectations: It’s human nature to adapt unrealistic expectations, some conscious, and some unconscious, of your partner in an attempt to get your own needs met. This sets you up for disappointment. Often the tendency is to put the expectations of deficits that were not met in childhood on your partner. For instance, if you were not heard as a child, you may automatically expect an unrealistic amount of attention from your partner. If your childhood deficit was not being appreciated, you may expect unlimited praise from your partner for every act of service you perform. If you were impoverished as a child, you may believe it is your right to have nice things provided for you by your partner.

Try this: Release expectations and make a small shift. With men you want to use the word “shift” instead of “change.” If you release your expectations, then you don’t set yourself up for disappointment. What’s a more realistic expectation based on your partner’s strengths? Is it realistic to expect your partner to discipline four kids if he is quiet and reserved? Is it realistic to expect your partner to clean the bathroom to your specifications if the man you fell in love with is naturally disorganized and a free spirit? Is it realistic to expect your partner to be home more if he is in a very demanding career and you enjoy spending money?

Try exchanging expectations for noticing each others’ strengths. What can you realistically expect based upon your partner’s strengths? Make a request using the phrases “I need” or “how it makes you happy.” Most men love to do something they can get credit for. Use the reward system.

3) Should / Should Nots / Suppose To: Should, should not, or suppose to is actually behind most anger. Assumptions and expectations culminate into shoulds and should nots. When we are angry or disappointed with our beloved, almost always the thinking is “he should” or “he shouldn’t” or “he was supposed to.”

“Should” is a judgment and a comparing term. “My husband should be more romantic.” Compared to whom? Be careful not to compare your partner to the neighbor’s partner, your sister’s partner, a character in a movie.

Try this: shifting from “Should” to “How”
and from “He/She” to “We.”

Let me give you an example.

“My husband should make more money.”

Shift to How: “How can my husband make more money?”

Shift to We: “How can we make more money?”


“My wife should lose weight.”

Shift to How: “How can my wife lose weight?”

Shift to We: “How can we lose weight together or adapt a healthy lifestyle?”


“My partner is not supposed to look at Porn.”

Shift to How: “How can he stop looking at Porn?”

Shift to We: “How can we adapt a more fulfilling sex life that will satisfy us both?”


Think of a source of recurring conflict or contention in your relationship.
Now what irritates you or hurts you about this?
What is the Should/ Should Not behind this?

Where is the Should/ Should Not coming from? Self? Your childhood? Television? Media? Girlfriends? Religion? School? Workplace? Parents? Whose rules are they anyway?

Most assumptions, expectations, and shoulds are actually our own unmet needs surfacing. Ask yourself, did I honestly ask for my need to be met or did I just assume this person should know?

Where are you expecting your partner, in this situation, to make you happy that your relationship would be better served by making yourself happy? Shift to “I need” instead of “he doesn’t” or “she won’t” or “he should.” Remember the key to relationship harmony and self empowerment is having realistic expectations based upon your partner’s strengths, and thinking in terms of “we”, not “he.”

Fantasy is who you want your partner to be.
Intention is who you think you are.
Expectation is who you think your partner is.
Reality is who you both are.

Author's Bio: 

Denise Wade Ph.D. CMRC is a Dating Mentor, Transformational Educator, Author, Researcher, and Relationship Expert. Denise empowers, teaches, and inspires women to release emotional baggage, heal past pains, identify unhealthy relationship patterns and triggers, and be seen and heard in all their relationships. She is passionate about helping women create positive, loving, long lasting relationships. Receive Relationship Tips and Advice

Copyright © 2011 by Denise Wade, Ph.D. All rights reserved in all media. Used with permission.