Many people who come to therapy cite frustration with their partner as one of the major issues they face. This frustration almost always stems from unmet expectations.
Expectations play a huge role in relationship satisfaction – and in life. Couples who are frustrated say things like, “You weren’t very supportive of me when I quit my job to freelance“ or “You didn’t plan any special activity for our anniversary.“
Persistent frustration can lead to resentment and a disconnected, unhappy relationship.
Here are some practical tips to help you reduce frustration in your relationship (and in life!)
This sounds so simple, yet it is so hard for so many people. You need to inform your partner of your expectations ahead of time because they can’t read your mind. In my experience as a therapist, the more time couples spend together, the more often they assume the other person knows what they need, what they’re thinking, or feeling.
“You’ve been with me for 10 years, you should know what I need at the end of a long week at work.”
Should being the keyword here. Should gets us into a lot of trouble in relationships – and in life for that matter! Steer clear of assumptions and actually say what you want and need.
Manage your expectations
Expectations are one of the most dangerous things in life. Beyond the basic things that are necessary for a happy relationship, decide what’s really important to you and let go of the frivolous things. Remember that your happiness is directly related to your level of expectations. Preferences, wishes, and hopes are absolutely fine because these can to disappointment – which is perfectly normal (and expected!) in a healthy relationship! Expectations on the other hand lead to resentment, defensiveness and contempt – all of which are kryptonite to a healthy relationship.
Be grateful for everything that your partner does for you. Appreciate your similarities and differences, and your gratitude will help you connect on a deeper level leading to more satisfaction in your relationship. Acknowledge your appreciation to your partner on a regular basis. Don’t assume your partner knows you appreciate them making dinner every night. Tell them – every night.
Don’t Keep Score
Keeping a mental scorecard of what your partner does and doesn’t do will only cause hurt and frustration. Disregard the mental scorecard and remember that if they aren’t aware of your wishes, they can’t possibly grant them. And remember, it’s not about tit for tat. It’s a fluctuating seesaw that will never be equal.
Accept your partner
Acceptance is the key to a happy life and relationship. Refusing to accept the reality our our situation is a superhighway to misery. Love your partner for who they are, not who you imagine or want them to be. Accepting your partner’s differences and quirks, helps them feel safe and respected. Judgment causes them to feel blamed and become defensive.
Understand your partner
Understanding your partner’s personality and motivations will help you feel less frustrated when things don’t go your way. For example, if they hate sports they’re probably not going to take the initiative to buy you tickets to see your favorite team play unless you have told them how important it is to you. Aim to understand your partner’s way of seeing the world, rather than try to get them to see yours.
Learn to Calm Yourself Down
Controlling your emotions and responses when you’re upset can be the difference between a happy relationship and an emotionally abusive one. This means you need to take time-outs to calm down before talking things through.
Decide what what’s important to you, and communicate it clearly and concisely to your partner. Use active and assertive communication to be sure they understand you and that you understand their needs. If you are able to appreciate and accept your differences, then you still have a shot at having a loving and fulfilling relationship.
Life is too short to feel frustrated and angry in your marriage or relationship. If you feel like you’ve done everything you can to try to communicate and connect with your partner and it’s not working, it’s time to find an awesome therapist you like and trust that can help you
James Killian, LPC is the Principal Therapist & Owner of Arcadian Counseling in New Haven, CT where they specialize in helping over-thinkers, high achievers, and perfectionists reduce stress, increase fulfillment and enhance performance so they can move From Surviving to Thriving.