Wisdom//

Why Successful Couples Set Expectations Early in the Relationship

Be aware of each other’s “must haves” before you both say “I do”.

Photo by Andre Furtado from Pexels
Photo by Andre Furtado from Pexels

This happened a few years ago. Ria (28), living in India, met Raj (34), living in America, on an online matchmaking platform—a new experience for both of them. While Raj was coming out of an unsuccessful relationship and wanted to meet someone new, Ria signed up because she felt ready to invest in a relationship.

Raj had been on the platform for over two months and for Ria it was day three when Raj and she connected. The relationship interface, which started with text messaging, was followed by four months of consistent calls and video chats. They finally decided to meet in person and picked Singapore as the venue, because it was midway for Raj and not far for Ria either. Upon meeting, it seemed that they had met their ‘special one’ and set a date to get married. Their courtship, where they were in regular contact, lasted less than a year including three face-to-face meetings.  

Fast-forward six months into the marriage, and Raj and Ria were battling incompatibility over issues they wish they had discussed before committing to get married.

Setting expectations and discussing them is critical, whether it is a casual or committed relationship. Having a conversation around expectations can help reduce heartburn to a large extent.

It is true that when we are in a relationship or getting comfortable in one, we are blinded by the euphoria of the new relationship. Not only that, we also assume that our behaviours and mannerisms should be acceptable to the partner because we are in love. And when this assumption is not discussed ahead, the cookie starts to crumble, leads to the possible souring of the relationship.

But this can be prevented if the couple can manage the following:

  • Before you start investing in a relationship, discuss your deal-breakers. It could be around starting a family, career aspirations, co-living with parents etc. It is also important to be honest and share episodes from your life which you think can cause friction later: for example a health issue or fake college degree.
  • Once you’re in a relationship and understanding each other better, there will be things that both inspire and annoy you in the person. It is important at these times to be patient and to observe instead of react. It is important to convey to your partner the things that bother you, and the secret sauce is how well you communicate. And keep in mind that you shouldn’t necessarily expect the change and transformation to happen as per your requirements or preferences.
  • Sourness also creeps in due to external factors, like loss of a job, an unwell or dependent family member, or interference from extended family or friends. During this time, it is important for the couple to be strong and patient and keep communicating with each other.

Committed relationships are not a given. They need to nurtured with conscious effort to make them work. It involves sometimes overlooking the sweet nothings, and at other times, standing with and for each other. No cookie-cutter formula can make a relationship work for a day or two or for eternity, but setting expectations even before an emotional investment is made can be a huge assurance that the couple shares common priorities and are aware of each other’s “must haves”.

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