Why Your Expectations Are Silently Killing Your Relationship

by Andrew Gelwicks

Breakups are tricky and painful. They are a time of not only ending a relationship with someone you used to care for, but also a period of self-reflection.

It’s when you look back on your time with that other person, remembering the very good, the very bad and how all of those moments molded and defined you.

During this time, when your thoughts moved from the past into what your future will now hold, there's a shift.

There's a change of tune from perhaps the sadness or bitterness about ending the relationship to thinking about what went wrong and how you may have played into the final transgressions.

Never is it black and white, so the decoding of the varying shades of gray is confusing, frustrating and ultimately, a waste of time.

In the movie theaters, where romances are played out on Hollywood stages, it’s easy and often enjoyable to look at the characters’ affairs and point out their flaws and mistakes.

The ease at which we can pinpoint others’ blunders and the glaringly obvious screw-ups that ultimately led to the relationships’ demise is not difficult, making it easy for the audience to choose a side.

Outside of those studio lots, it’s often less stark.

In my own relationships, whenever one comes to an end, without fail, I go back and analyze. I think about what went wrong, who said what and what could have played out differently.

My immediate reaction is to point my finger at the other person and blame. My emotions reign.

Cognitively, though, I contemplate whether I, or anyone else, can truly distinguish the victim and the culprit in our own relationships.

We all want to be the shining, do-no-wrong protagonists in our own stories, and I would say the majority of people do try to do just that.

But, at the same time, I think those same people would also agree those lofty goals are rarely met.

So, when a romance of ours does end, where do we go from there? How do we take the knowledge we’ve gained from that relationship and use it to protect ourselves in the next one we enter? How do we ensure whatever went wrong in the past does not happen again?

By the same token, how can we be sure not to inflict that same pain yet again?

We’re supposed to learn from our mistakes, but it seems that’s hardly the case when it comes to dating.

These thoughts have long been at the forefront of my mind, as I personally experience and see many others experience heartbreak, time and time again.

In salacious affairs or foul play, one person is always at the brunt of another’s actions.

What it comes down to, as I’ve realized, is expectations and obligations — the should haves and could haves.

If she paid more attention to me, maybe we would have lasted longer. Or, he should have known I wanted him to propose. One’s expectations become the other person’s obligations.

These are all easy traps on which to lose one's emotional footing. An obligation or expectation we hold for someone may not meet his or hers and perhaps, is not even on his or her radar.

You begin questioning yourself, your worth and why someone thought you would allow yourself to be treated in such a way. These thoughts easily lead to lowering your self-worth.

Perhaps, what we need to say to both our exes and ourselves is that while we don’t forgive them, we do see the fault in where our expectations of them – or us – may not have been in sync.

The treatment we expected, perhaps, was just not something they were willing to offer. And, that's a lesson learned.