This week we are talking about expectations -- a force for both good and evil! The expectations we bring to a relationship can have a significant effect on how happy or unhappy we are as the relationship unfolds. In this episode we'll uncover both unhealthy and healthy expectations to have for a relationship or a partner, plus the most effective ways to let go of expectations that may be mismatched with your partner.
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Jase: On this episode of the Multiamory podcast, we're talking about relationship expectations. What is a healthy or an unhealthy relationship expectation? What's the difference between an expectation, a need, and a boundary? How do you let go of expectations that aren't serving you or your partners?
Dedeker: Great expectations, sorry that's just--
Jase: You've been wanting to make that joke since--
Dedeker: When I was writing this episode that was the only thing--
Emily Charlotte Brontë? No.
Dedeker: Is it a Brontë? It's a Brontë. No, was it a Dickens?
Emily Wasnt it a Dickens?
Dedeker: I think it's a Dickens.
Emily It's Dickens.
Jase: Well done.
Jase: [laughs] Charles.
Dedeker: Anyway, this episode has nothing to do with the Great Expectations, I don't even know what that book's about.
Jase: I have never read it, sorry.
Dedeker: I feel very unintelligent and not well-read so sorry. Anyway, expectations in relationships. We got a request quite a while ago to address particularly it was the topic of letting go of expectations or being okay with your expectations changing in a relationship. When I started researching this, it's interesting that there's a lot of competing advice out there about expectations in a relationship. There's definitely some places that will tell you, "Well, you should definitely express your expectations very, very early on in a relationship so that both of you know what's going on", and there's definitely some validity to that. Other places are saying, "No, too many expectations can be toxic to your developing relationship", and there's certainly some validity to that. I wanted to explore, what really is at the bottom of this.
Jase: It's challenging because your personal expectations that you may not even express but that may be going on within your head may be very built on the n-ary that you're feeling at the beginning of a relationship. I don't know, you think, "I'm going to definitely be on the relationship escalator with this person and it's going so well, things are going to happen with this person, I'm going to marry them," and then something crazy changes over time when all that n-ary goes away.
Dedeker: That's definitely something that I found as I was thinking about this, is that it can so change depending on what stage in a relationship you're in or what stage of your life that you happened to be in. That it can often be things that we carry with us our entire lives or that do come up suddenly in the last couple of years in reaction to life events. Expectations really are this kind of fluid thing that's difficult to pin down.
Jase: Yes, I think that point of them changing throughout a relationship is very relevant. Something that I remember hearing years ago was about anytime your relationship changes label, for example, going from dating to calling each other boyfriends or girlfirends, or the transition from that to a fiancee or to being married, that you may previously have not had expectations or not had destructive ones. But as soon as this new label gets put on, if you're not aware of it, you're coming in with this whole host of expectations about what that's going to look like that you may not have even been aware of. Because if this is the first time you've been married, you've never encountered all those unconscious things that you just have in your brain that you've never made yourself aware of.
Dedeker: Yes, definitely. As far as pinning down what expectations can be, and something that the two of you have already hit on is the fact that they can often be unconscious. They can be programmed into us from our upbringing, we can be influenced by the media that we're watching, by the particular culture that we're living in, by our past experiences in relationships. It's funny that you bring up, when the label of the relationship changes, sometimes expectation changes that sometimes you, for instance, maybe you get married and you're not intending that your expectations of your wife or husband or spouse are going to change, but everyone around you their expectations change and that can influence you as well. As far as everyone else's opinion about what you should expect in your married relationship can influence what your actual expectations are.
Emily This may be slightly off topic but that movie 500 Days of Summer, I don't know if either of you seen it, but that amazing scene where Joseph Gordon-Levitt side by side has that expectations versus reality, it made me think of this. That he went into that relationship with the girl, thinking one thing would occur and really building up in his head that that would be the way that his life would go with her and then the reality of the situation was really different.
Jase: That movie is a great example of really unhealthy expectations and unreasonable expectations to go into a relationship with.
Emily Yes it is.
Dedeker: That's funny because I never watched that movie until I broke up with somebody and the person I broke up with was like, "I feel like Joseph Gordon-Levitt in 500 Days of Summer", and I said, "Better watch that movie", and then I was like, "Yes, that's accurate actually."
Emily You're like, "It sucks for you, brother."
Dedeker: No, that sounds about right. [laughs]
Dedeker: That leads us to the next thing which is that expectations can be stifling to a relationship. You can find yourself putting either unconsciously or very consciously, you can find yourself putting a lot of energy and effort toward forcing a relationship into something that it currently isn't or possibly will never be. I think we all have had personal experience with this. We all know people who've done things like this. This is very much tied to all the old adages about not being able to change people and things like that. I think this is a very common experience for people.
Jase: Yes, and not even just about changing people but also by going in with very limiting expectations, very specific expectations, you might also miss out on an opportunity to have some kind of a really cool, unique, enlightening, self-growing relationship that you would've been able to have, but you can't because you tried so hard to force it into these other expectations that it didn't fit.
I definitely have some relationships in my life before being polyamorous that my partner didn't want to have that kind of a monogamous relationship, escalatory type of relationship but I did, that was my expectation because I had strong feelings for them and I thought the only way you can show these strong feelings is by having this kind of relationship. So ended up either ending it or trying so hard to force that that they had to end it. Looking back now, I'm like, "Man, that could've been a really cool relationship to have if I'd been more willing to let the relationship be what it was going to be instead of trying to force it into something specific."
Dedeker: I wanted to point out that this can work on the opposite side as well. Even if you carry maybe more negative or more neutral expectations for a relationship, maybe you want to keep a relationship super casual or I don't know, maybe you've just got into-- I know I've gone through this many times in my life or maybe you've just gotten through a breakup and so to you any potential new relationship is going to be a horrible well of doom and gloom. [laughs] Even coming to a relationship with that expectation can also stifle it and put it within these particular borders I guess, that don't actually exist.
Emily Jase, right before I met you I remember you had dated a person and ended up knowing eventually towards the end of it like, "Well, this just isn't going to work out, we're more going to break up." It's always interesting to me thinking about had we been polyamorous at the time, maybe you could've still been dating that person and it would've been fine and exactly what it was at the time and that would've been okay.
Jase: Yes, definitely. There is so many possibilities that I think were not options for me in the past, yes.
Dedeker: The last thing that I have here is that, you can tell its an expectation that you're holding if it's something that is mostly focused on the future, as in if you're holding on to a particular image of how you want a particular relationship to go, or how you want a partner to act or to be, that's in the future. That's definitely tied to what your expectations may be. This can look any number of ways, right? It can look really positive, it can look really traditional, it can look really non-traditional. It can look any number of ways but if it's very much focused on like, "This is going to be a thing that has to happen in the future or that we're going to get to in the future," that's probably some kind of expectation that you're holding on to.
Jase: Yes, great. Let's move on to differentiating between expectations and something that's a boundary or a need. Because as we've been talking so far about expectations that these are about how you want a situation to turn out, how you want a partner to act, maybe what you want your relationship to look like. These are, I guess I would put them more in the category of desires, which is different from needs or boundaries.
Dedeker: Yes, it starts to get a little bit fuzzy I suppose, it's a little bit more subtle.
Jase: Especially when we think, "I have to find someone who's going to fit this particular model for my life and if that's not going to work out, then why waste my time?"
Jase: Yes. I guess people can treat those expectations a little bit more like a need. How would you propose that we would differentiate between those?
Dedeker: The way that I've come to think about it is that expectations concern how you want a situation to turn out in the future, how you want a partner to act in the future. Boundaries reflect what your own conduct is going to be in the light of something that goes counter to your values. We've covered boundaries a lot on this show, definitely please go back and listen to all our stuff on boundaries. Please use the right terminology around boundaries. Whenever somebody says, "This person broke a boundary," I'm like, "What?". That makes no sense, but I'll rant about that later.
Boundaries are something that for instance, may be in your relationship, maybe you have something that could be a healthy expectation like I expect to feel safe in my relationship, for instance, let's say that. Then something happens that goes counter to that. Maybe your partner is really nasty to unify, uses name-calling or some other kind of abusive tactic, your boundary is, my boundary is that if this happens, I'm not going to be in a relationship like this anymore. Some people call it deal breakers things like that where it concerns your own behavior, as in, "I cannot let myself be in a relationship where someone calling me names," for instance and then you leave.
Jase: The important part of that is that you would then leave that situation. It's not they didn't break a boundary. The boundary is something that you own yourself. It's about what action you will take if this boundary is crossed. So these are pretty serious things if you think, "If someone crossed this, would I stay with them?" And you say yes, then that's not a boundary.
Emily I think that people need to make those boundaries aware. They need to talk to their partner about them and their relationship because if somebody breaks that and then you're like, "Peace, I'm out," all of a sudden I get that might be a boundary but it's challenging if it's not spoken about in a relationship beforehand.
Dedeker: But it does get challenging also because people use boundaries incorrectly in trying to control their partner's behavior like let's say their partner calls them a name and they say, "Well if you call me a name again then I'm leaving."
Emily Yes, that's like an ultimatum and that's not good either.
Dedeker: All these things can be so subtle and both can be used for good and for evil.
Jase: The boundaries and ultimatums especially.
Dedeker: They live very close together. To go on to describing needs for instance, which are different from expectations, the way that I think about is that need is something that you will ask your partner for and will communicate to your partner, "Hey,I need this, I need honest communication from you or I need to be able to vent to you about this particular thing." I think that again, the line between needs and expectations can be very subtle but I think that it does come down to how much communication there is around it. Also the thing is that like if you communicate a need to a partner, your partner may say no and then it starts to go into boundary territory as well of like, "Well, I cannot be in a relationship with this person where I don't get my needs met or not, do I need to reexamine my needs," and then you continue to flowchart from there.
Jase: If I may offer just a slightly different view on this, I actually have a little bit of an issue of the way that the term need is used in dating. I find it especially with non-monogamous people that this idea of having my needs met or I'm not getting my needs met. The reason why it rubs me the wrong way is because of the word need, that need is a requirement. This isn't just something that I want, it's not something I desire, but its something that I need.
To me if it truly is something that's a non-negotiable, I need this or else I can't function, then to me that's a boundary and then you should just call it that and don't be in that and if you're not getting that and that truly is a boundary for you, then you need to actually enforce your boundary and leave that situation. I feel like people will use needs as just-- It can be leveraged into this way of making rules or just trying to force their partner to give them something that they might not want to give which to me then comes back to expectations. I feel like needs is this slippery chameleon that tries to disguise itself as something else to allow to get in there, but I actually don't encourage using needs and I know a ton of people are going to jump all over me and disagree. I love that.
Dedeker: You are being jumped on.
Jase: I love when people have opinions about that.
Dedeker: Would you call a need though?
Jase: No, I wouldn't. that's exactly my point.
Emily Well, that's what I mean like would you propose calling it something else entirely like you said a want because I think a lot of people will look at a need and say, "I really need some love and care right now or I really need like some cuddles or I need a back rub or something." That's entirely different than saying, "You're not meeting my needs." It's just expressing a want exactly, do you think it's okay to say that instead? Because I've had partners ask me what are your needs right now, how can I fulfill your needs, but they're asking for something specific like that, like, do you want love or do you want reassurance or anything along those lines?
Jase: It's a tricky thing because of the way we use language that its like you said that you could say, "I need a hug right now." Is one thing to say versus, "My needs aren't being met," or, "These are my needs," or, "I need a partner who can meet my needs."
Dedeker: Yes, there seems to be a difference here between what's happening in a particular situation versus zooming out to look at the entire relationship.
Jase: Well, that's my point as that we're using the same word so it's a little bit tricky and what I mean is when we're using the need as a way of saying, "My partner has to behave a certain way," that's what I'm getting at. I think often when people are saying, "My needs aren't being met," that's the way they're using it. Because, in example of saying, "I need a hug right now," you could just as easily replace that with, "I could really use a hug right now, I would like to have great now."
Dedeker: -help right now.
Jase: We understand as English speakers that those are essentially synonymous with each other, but this kind of like, "I need you to to be this way for me," do you know what I mean?
Emily "I need you to make me feel better because I'm going--" That I agree is unhealthy of course.
Jase: But needing someone else to change you, that's a whole other thing but I just mean even saying, "I need you to spend this much amount of time with me or I need you to do these sorts of things with me," to me that's where this using this word need gets unhealthy. That's why I generally discourage the use of it at all when talking about navigating your relationship needs. I know a lot of people disagree like I said.
Dedeker: Now makes sense. It does still come down to language, it starts to get slippery. Let's get back to expectations, shall we?
Dedeker: I wanted to go through the most common unhealthy expectations that crop up in relationships and then later on we'll also address what are some healthier reasonable expectations to have because I don't want people to get the impression that I think all expectations are bad and actually to go the route of being so zen that you have no expectations, it's great, it's really hard to do. I do think it's a great thing to aspire to be just like so economist that you can let go of every expectation, and it's a good pursuit but realistically not all of us can hit that on a daily basis at least. We can have moments of that, but sometimes it's hard to maintain that day in and day out through new relationships, old relationships, breakups, all that stuff.
Let's talk about some of these unhealthy expectations. These unhealthy expectations to me they can sometimes also get wrapped up in a sense of entitlement that we may carry into our relationships and I think that's what also makes them a little bit toxic. Just to start out on this list is we can start having unhealthy expectations from day one. From the first day, from before the first day. Even sometimes especially if that someone that we find we're attracted to, there's chemistry. We're really excited about the idea of getting to know this person, there are all those brain chemicals, those NRE chemicals are flowing through your body and through your mind that you can right away start building this expectation of like, "It's going to be magical, perfect, excellent, this is the person I've been looking for who's going to fit X Y Z needs or fit this particular slot that's in my life. I would make the argument and I actually I hope that you guys hold a different opinion because I would love to debate this a little bit, but I would make the argument that I think that at the beginning of a relationship is the time that you need to do the most work to let go of expectations.
Emily I would ideally especially if I'm polyamorous going into a situation with the first date, I would want to let go of any expectations of what that date or what that person is going to represent to me at a later time.
Dedeker: Just speaking from my personal experience, that's what I tend to do because I find that if I do start dating someone or start being really intrigued by someone in particular that in the absence of knowing more information about that person, my mind is more likely to fill in expectations. I find that at the beginning of a relationship is when I need to do the most personal work of trying to be more zen, of trying to really intentionally let go of expectations in order to let myself be open to it developing however it's going to develop.
Jase: I feel like the counter-argument that I wanted to make was to just say, well, it's one thing to go in with a hope which is very similar to an expectation of, "I really hope this person--"
Dedeker: Hope is always the first thing to die.
Jase: Just kidding. No, but there's one thing going with hope which could also look like an expectation of, "Man, I want this to be this type of relationship because that's the type of relationship I'd like to have." At first, I want to say that's fine because then if your on a date and it seems different from that as long as you're able to adapt and change with that it's okay. But, I feel like where it does still become a problem is if it does start to seem like it's going to be that thing, right? If you go right into the first stage and immediately you see, "This isn't going to meet my expectation but that's okay I'm going to see where this takes me to." But if it does seem like your expectation that's when you start locking it down and start limiting it.
Dedeker: You start crystallizing it.
Jase: It's like it reinforces it and then it's much harder to get out of that mind set, out of that idea of what you thought this relationship could be.
Dedeker: That's right.
Jase: I guess I do agree. I wanted to disagree, I wanted really badly to. But I think you might be right. I would say also to keep in mind anytime your relationship is changing a label. If you're going to use labels, if you're getting engage ,or you're getting married, or you're going steady or whatever it is.
Dedeker: It's hard going steady. I should say. How old are you.
Emily Whatever I got.[chuckle]
Jase: Not that old.
Dedeker: How old are you?
Jase: Whatever label it is, I would say that's also a moment to really be aware of letting go of the expectations that might come along with that or living with someone actually is a big one.
Dedeker: Yes, definitely
Jase: That's something that when Emily and I moved in together we spent a lot of time talking about what our expectations were for that, and how to manage that. It was still a difficult transition even though Emily and I have always gotten along very well, that living together all of a sudden has these other expectations about what living with someone looks like and what sharing a house with someone looks like. I think that's even worse with romantic partners than it is just with room mates. It can still be bad with them too though. Maybe still let go of your expectations a little.
Dedeker: The next one that I want to bring up is a quite insidious one that I think is usually an unconscious expectation that people hold going into relationships. It's the expectation that in being with this person I'm never going to have to feel hurt, or lonely, or angry, or frustrated ,or horny ever again. I know that when we're caught up in the throws of NRE, it can really feel that way of like, "Oh my God. This person is so amazing and literally every second I spend with him I feel so good and so high and they seem so great for me and we communicate so well. It's like they know what I'm thinking." I think it can really perpetuate this toxic thing that then when NRE starts to wear off ,or maybe when the first time you have a disagreement or the first incompatibility comes up, if on this unconscious level we're carrying the sense that like, "Oh, I'm meeting this person I'm falling in love with them, I'm never going to feel negative ever again," it can be really devastating to us I think.
Emily Yes, I wanted to go back to the sense of entitlement that you spoke about earlier because I think especially something like sex. If you are having sex -- in the first few months, even six months to a year, however long those chemicals are occurring in your brain. Then it does wear off, one could feel a sense of entitlement surrounding that like, "I should still have sex as much as I was once like, why is that not happening anymore?" That's a weird. It screwed up expectation potentially.
Jase: Well, to continue my setbacks about needs that I would say that's another one too like having your sexual needs met by someone. Again using the word needs then does put this pressure on like, "Here's something you need to do for me in order to be in this relationship with me," which starts to sound like that unhealthy ultimatum version of boundaries that we talked about before.
Dedeker: Right. Well, it can't get into this weird in between space where it's like maybe you feel lonely someday, even though you're in a relationship and it can be very easy to be like, "Hey, I'm not supposed to feel lonely, there must be something wrong with my partner. There must be something that my partner is not doing that's making me feel lonely," or even with the sex thing like, "Hey, I feel horny. I'm not supposed to feel horny. I'm in a relationship. Clearly my partner is not having enough sex with me." Yes. I think this one can really be deeply buried and it's really important to be able to have this self awareness to examine if you're holding on to that kind of expectation.
Jase: Yes, and the next one we have here goes along with that a little bit. That's the idea that I'm always going to come first. This is in both monogamous relationships as well as non-monogamous ones that just because you're someone's romantic partner doesn't mean you're always going to be the top priority in their life. That expectation is one that we're told is good to have. We're told, "You should expect it."
Dedeker: The word BAE which I hate.
Emily What does that mean?
Dedeker: It stands for before all-- before anything else?
Jase: Before all else, I've heard it a couple of different ways.
Dedeker: Before all else, it's a couple different ways. Yes, that's BAE stands for. I'm always just like blech--
Jase: Yes, totally. No, but that's what were sold by the movies and the romantic stories and all of that is that, that's what you should expect. When you find someone who will prioritize you above everything else including their family, their health, their career and anything, then that's the one you should be with. As we talked about in our love episode I would argue it's the opposite that it's, if you find someone who has other things going on in their life besides just being in love, then that's when you actually get to experience the best relationships because they are a whole person that you're getting to interact with instead of being someone who's just morphing to follow you around I guess.
Dedeker: There's a line from more than two that's always stuck with me which is that, "Every human being at some point wants to feel like a priority in their relationships." It doesn't mean that they want to feel like the priority all the time but everyone needs to feel prioritized at some point. Regardless of what kind of relationship, in romantic relationships, in family relationships, anyone who has multiple kids knows that at some point, every kid is going to want to feel like a priority at some point.
That's the thing is even in monogamous relationships I think this is the case. There's that truth over there that everyone at some point wants to feel prioritize. Then there's other truth that human beings always have multiple priorities and these priorities do shift and change depending on context. That does mean that even if you're in a monogamous relationship with somebody, but that somebody is currently studying to pass the bar exam, and this is the dream they had for many many years and it's very important to them, then expecting them to cancel all their study plans to come hang out with you may not be realistic. Even though they love you like crazy, and you're i a great relationship. Again this is another one that sometimes people more conscious of, "I do expect that I'm going to come first always." Sometimes people are a little bit more unconscious and it can crop up later on.
Emily The next one is duze, but oh my Goodness this just happens a lot of time. I think it tends to be more on the unconscious side, but then when it comes to light, this is not necessarily something that one should expect, it becomes surprising and sad and all of that. But, it's the idea that your partner should know you so well that they should know what you need or what you want.
Dedeker: Serious duze.
Emily Yes, they're not going to probably in a lot of situations just simply because of your partner is not supposed to be a mind reader. All the little nuisances of yourself they may not know and what you want of any given time.
Jase: For anyone out there thinking, "I'm not sure what that means like what is that look like. This is the thing that shows up in pouting in the silent treatment.
Emily Or the thing that we see so often in the movies or the sitcoms of like, "You know what you did." And it's like, "I don't. I have to guess," or like, "You know, you should know, if you don't know then we have a bigger problem." It's this idea that it should be so obvious to you whatever my problem is or whatever it is I'm upset about without me having to tell you.
Dedeker: It sounds really insidious we're describing it ,but to flip it a little bit I've been in an experience where like, I had a partner who came home he'd had a bad day at work. I was asking, I was like, "How can I help you? What do you need right now?" Will this help? Would that help? Spoiler alert; the relationship is no longer in existence. But his position was always like, "If I just tell you that's not so genuine. If I just tell you what to do or what to say, and then you do it or say it then it's not genuine." The people who are very resistance to this, like there's a part he was like, "Okay, I guess I get that, but it's not like we're going to tell someone what to say then they're just like robot parrot it back you and then it's all going to be okay. Things are obviously more organic, but I think that that's part of what make this so prevalent in relationships. it's not only do we have all our socialization around how romantic it is the idea that a partner could read your mind or just knows you so freaking well, that they can provide all your wants and needs.
Jase: Finishing each other's sentences.
Dedeker: Right, but I think there's that side we feel like it's unromantic to have to actually express our needs or have to actually ask for what we want. It's both vulnerable and it's been painted to be unromantic because it's like, "Well, if you don't surprise me with a hug, then how can I appreciate that hug?
Jase: I think it's also worth pointing out that this is one that when your partner does do something for you that you didn't ask for, of course that's a great thing.
Dedeker: It feels great.
Jase: It feels awesome and being a partner, when you successfully guess what it is that your partner wants, that also feels great. Maybe they don't even know what they want. They're just feeling bad or are stressed about work, or whatever it is and you think of, oh "I think this thing might help them, or I know this is something they like." That's awesome. Still do that. Be romantic for sure. Go ahead and do all those things. I think that for myself at least, having an awareness of this so that if I am feeling that thing of, "Gosh I just want my partner to do something." Maybe I don't even know what it is, but I still expect them to figure it out. I've just kind of going, "Okay." That would be cool if that happened, I guess but that it's not a requirement, it's not a need. Again going back to that need word.
Emily It's a want. Is that better Jase?
Jase: Yes, a want. Maybe I don't even know what I would want or what would help me.
Emily They are not going to know if you're not going to know.
Jase: Well maybe they do and if they do, it's a bonus. I guess that's what I'm getting at is that's a cool extra and not a requirement.
Dedeker: If your partner happens to guess what you want and gives it to you, that's a bonus, it shouldn't be expected.
Jase: It's not a baseline requirement.
Dedeker: It shouldn't be a baseline, I see. That makes sense. Then the last one that you have on this list is a 2 for one, because it's 2 sides of the same coin. It can be really unhealthy to carry the expectation of this partner or this relationship will always stay the same as it is right now. It's not going to change, it's going to be like this forever. Again both positively and negatively, to have this really positive Fantasy land idea of the relationship can -- That's how it's always going to be or having a really negative, more depressing, more gloomy idea of the relationship and that's just how it's always going to be. Those both can be unhealthy to hang on to.
Then on the other side of that same coin, is holding onto the expectation that this partner or this relationship will definitely change from the way that they are now. That sounds like a paradox to put it that way, but it just works. It's just one of those Zen koan kind of style experiences where it's, both expecting that things are going to stay the same an also expecting that a person's going to change in a particular way can be unhealthy.
Emily I think about that. One of the two of you said this regarding a monogamous woman, I guess and her husband who were married for 60 years and somebody said, "How could you stay married that long?" And she was like, "Well I've been married to 10 different in that amount of time."
Jase: Yes, I was talking about that.
Emily I like that. At the very least it goes to show that people do change hugely over the course of their lives. Even the time that I've known which Jase it's been almost 7 years, we've changed incredibly in that amount of time.
Jase: So much.
Emily So much. You can still maintain a relationship with someone in some capacity regardless of how much you change in that period of time. It's inevitable.
Jase: Maybe you won't still stay close but that's okay. Either way, that either trying to hold on to getting things back to the way they were at one point is just futile because you can't go back. Also expecting that something will change and instead of asking yourself that question of, "If nothing ever changed would I still be okay being in this relationship?" Whatever kind of relationship it is. It makes me think of in the musical Bye Bye Birdie, there is the song that the the subplot love characters the woman from that sings her song about to find a boy and change him. That's the purpose of a woman is to find that special boy that you want to change and make into the man that you want him to be.
Jase: Incredibly unhealthy stuff that's out there in a show that gets performed in a lot of high schools and middle schools. At a point when people are especially vulnerable to these kinds of messages. Before we get on to some healthier expectations about that, well we want to take a moment to talk about some ways that you can give back to this show and keep this stuff going.
Dedeker: If you're getting value out of our show, it's something that we do produce for free. That we have been doing for the last three years of our lives at home. If you're getting value out of it then the past way that you can help to support us so that we can keep making the show is to become one of our patron supporters. If you go to patreon.com/multiamory, you can sign up to become one of our patrons. We offer incentives for pretty much every level that you can donate out. You can donate as little as a dollar per month that still goes toward helping us toward investing in the show and thus continuing to to build the show and grow our audience.
At $5 a month to get access to our private invite only Facebook group, which has been a fantastic community, fantastic discussion group. At $9 a month you get access to our monthly video discussion groups which are also pretty fantastic, so if you want to get on that train go to patreon.com/multiamory.
Jase: We're also looking at adding some more reward tiers and other things like that. For the people who already are patreons, let us know what you'd like those to be because we're really excited to start rolling those out soon.
Emily Another amazing way that you can help us out and so many of you have done this already and we thank you, is to go to iTunes or Stitcher and write us a review. It helps us come up higher in search results which is very, very important for us. If you're typing and polyamory or typing in relationships or sexuality, then we'll come up higher in search results just because you write us a nice review. Again, go to iTunes or Stitcher and write a review if you haven't already.
Jase: I don't know about you but for me I think oral hygiene is a very important part of dating.
Dedeker: Actually it is. It truly is.
Jase: It is. It is not for everybody but for me oral hygiene, very important.
Dedeker: I think it's a need for me.
Jase: A boundary, do you think it's a boundary?
Dedeker: That might be a boundary.
Emily It's a boundary, yes.
Jase: If you want a place where you can get, not only beautiful, but also really effective oral care equipment like toothbrushes and toothpastes and stuff like that, that have been engineered by working together with dentists to actually work on what is effective, instead of just what is gimmicky and sells, then go to Quip. They are a place where you can get not only your electric toothbrush but also replacement heads and toothpaste and things delivered to you every three months, so that you can be changing your heads as regularly as you're supposed to. It's also perfect for travel because it's so much smaller than a lot of the other electric toothbrushes out there. If you want to use our promo and get one free refill on your first order, you can go to tryquip.com/multiamory. Again that's try tryquip.com/multiamory.
Dedeker: All right let's get back to it. What are some reasonable or healthy expectations to hold going into relationships? I found that sometimes when you have this conversation about letting go of expectations, letting your relationship be organic. Letting there be a blank slate that people can get up in arms to be like, "Does that mean I have no standards, does that mean that someone could do whatever the heck they want to me?" Clearly this person who also doesn't have any boundaries or whatever. If I don't have any expectations, how do I conduct a relationship at all? I wanted to talk about what are some things that we could reasonably expect in a relationship. As in maybe we wouldn't even necessarily have to ask for these things because they'd be expected, even saying that phrase makes me nervous.
Jase: It does, yes.
Dedeker: But, I pose that to myself I was like, "What are the things that I can think of?" If I start a new relationship today one of the things that I would expect, that I wouldn't feel the need to like sit this partner down and be like, "I need or want this, this, this, and this." What are my base level of things? i started coming up with this list. Some of them are a little bit strange because it is a strange question. The first one that I came up with was holding the expectation that whatever happens in the relationship I am going to learn about myself and I'm going to grow as a human being.
Jase: Almost seems more like an expectation of yourself.
Dedeker: I guess that's true.
Emily Then it's a bound-- No.
Dedeker: No, no, no, no, no.
Jase: That was just an expectation of herself.
Dedeker: I hold that one because it lets me to let go a little bit and to know however this relationship plays out, whether this person I end up being in a relationship with for 10 years. Whether we just hook up a couple of times and that's it. Whether we find that we're maybe not compatible and we just become good friends. Whatever's going to happen that I can't hold that expectation that it's going to be still there for my own personal growth and for me to gain more self awareness about myself. I think that helps to take the sting away of the fear of, "But what if it doesn't work out? What if it goes horribly?" That I can still at least hold on to that.
Emily Have you had relationships where you haven't learned anything about yourself? I guess that could be, like I said a boundary before, but if you go into a relationship and it's just very static and nothing occurs, and you're like, "I don't really think this is going anywhere. I don't really need to do this." I guess that's a healthy expectation to have that I only I'm going to be in relationships that further my growth as a human being.
Jase: I would argue that even that relationship you just described you could still learn about yourself.
Dedeker: That's my thing, it’s a broader thing. You could potentially learn about yourself from almost any situation.
Jase: Well I think the important thing here is that if you go in with that as an expectation even for yourself, then if you have that just one week relationship where it turned out we were just going to be friends that you don't see that as a failure anymore, like you would have had you gone in with the expectation that this has to be my next the one. My next long-term relationship or this has to be the father of my children or whatever it is.
Dedeker: I want to just go ahead and roll into the next one. The next one that I wrote down was having the expectation that I'm going to feel good in a relationship more often than I feel bad. It's not the expectation that I'm always going to feel good or I'm always going to feel bad. I started thinking about this what if I put it through that litmus test of something that I could expect and that I wouldn't necessarily have to communicate to a partner like starting out in a relationship and it was that.
I might sit down and communicate to my partner, I have a history of dealing with people who have abusive behavior and that means that if somebody calls me names that's a boundary for me. I can't be in a relationship. I can tell my partner that, those specifics, but as far as this general expectation of what I expect in a relationship I'm going to feel good about the relationship more often than I feel bad.
Jase: If you go back to our Science of Happy Relationships episode, not just a little bit more, but it should be at least like an 80-20 kind of thing.
Emily -said the same thing.
Jase: -said the same thing. I think that's a reasonable expectation to have. It could also be a boundary for you, but because it's not so quantifiable, it's not such a clear like, "Well from my tally sheet here I see that it’s actually only been 79% good, so that's a boundary, I've got bounce," but if it is more of an expectation then it's reasonable to say, "Okay, well, I'm not really getting what I expected maybe I should rethink this relationship."
Dedeker: I guess my thing is if I have that expectation and I'm finding that my partner is not meeting that expectation, I don't want to be like, "I guess I should let go that expectation and just tolerate a shady relationship essentially." I think this is a healthy one that is okay to hold on to. If you're not getting it rather than changing your expectation or letting it go, just get out.
Jase: Another one that we have here is just having the ability to express your desires or your needs or your wants or your boundaries. Then to be able to make your own decisions about that based on whether or not my partner can meet these or acknowledges these. I know this one's it's like so zoomed out it's so metta, but basically, I think it would be reasonable to go into a relationship with the expectation that I can communicate the things I want and I need to have those be heard and be received.
Again with a lot of these certain aspects of this could also be a boundary for you, saying, "If a partner immediately shuts down when I express concern that I have, then that's a boundary for me, whereas the expectation can be a little more general." It can be, "I expect to have people who receive these things well."
Dedeker: I was going to say I made it more about being able to express it because maybe you express a desire and your partner says no and that's okay. It is okay for your partner to say no now, of course, you then the ball's back in your court to decide, "What do I do with this?" Then, "Is this a boundary? Is it not? Can we negotiate? Can we compromise?" I really wanted to zoom it out that it's more about you should be able to at least express what it is that you want, what your boundaries are; that there should be a space where you can talk about these things.
Jase: I just want to clarify that I said that they would be received and I realize I use this word and I often don't explain it. By being received what I mean by that is that they actually listen to what you're saying and considerate and give you a reasonable response as opposed to just immediately shutting it down and not even thinking about it or disrespecting that desire or something. It is one thing to say, "I understand but no I don't really want to do that or that's not what I'm looking for," versus, "Oh God, what's wrong with you?" That would not be receiving it well or maybe just ignoring it would also not be receiving it.
Emily Another healthy expectation to have for yourself is that your desires, your needs and even your expectations themselves may change over time because again you are not going to be the same person potentially from one section of your relationship to the next. Your needs and everything that you think that you may want will potentially change over time and that you should expect that to be an okay thing in your life.
Jase: Definitely, and you started talking about this one earlier a little bit.
Dedeker: Yes, I did. I think that it's a healthy and reasonable expectation to want to feel safe in your relationships.
Jase: Can you tell us more of what do you mean by safe?
Dedeker: Safety can cover many different arenas. It can mean I want to feel physically safe, as in; I don't want to feel afraid that my partner is going to harm me.
Jase: I hope that's a boundary for people.
Emily That’s a deal breaker
Dedeker: Again I think it falls under this category where that's something that you shouldn't have to sit down your partner and be like, "Hey,--"
Dedeker: I think that's a healthy expectation to have. It can mean physical safety, it can mean emotional mental safety; as in also not being on the receiving end of emotional abuse of being able to be vulnerable, being able to open up to a partner about certain things, about being able to have privacy. I think there's a certain amount of privacy personal safety there that you feel safe and secure that your privacy is going to be respected in a relationship.
Again to clarify in expecting to feel safe in a relationship that doesn't necessarily mean expecting that you'll never feel uncomfortable or expecting that you're never going to feel challenged. I think those are different things because those go back to unhealthy expectation of, "I'm never going to have to feel angry, I'm never going to have to feel lonely, I'm never going to feel uncomfortable ever again."
Jase: Right, that you'll never be challenged by any of these. I do think this one is worth spending the time to think about what aspects of this are boundaries for you though and to think about them in advance. When you're in a relationship especially if you've been in it a while, it can actually be much harder than it seems from the outside to have these boundaries, to enforce these to get yourself out of a situation that is a place where you don't feel safe either emotionally or even physically.
I think it's so easy to think, "Well this would never happen to me or obviously I would get out of that situation if I was in it," but to really spend a little bit of time and specifically think about what would I do in these situations, where would I draw the line between if a partner -- Where to I don't know like jokingly slap my hand, is that a boundary for me of any kind of physical aggression like that or what is it? Get a sense for that so we don't think about these things very often.
Emily Finally the last one is going to be a reasonable balance between giving and receiving. We have spoken about emotional labor on this show and definitely if you are giving more emotional labor in terms of know just emotional support to your partner or certain type of emotional labor that maybe you feel your partner is not continuing to give back to you then that could potentially be a boundary or expectation again the line is slim here.
Jase: [laughs] For sure. I was actually just thinking about this with friendships, about how in our friendships over our lives, there will be some give and take, there will be times where I'm going through something and I'm taking up most of the attention and I'm being self-absorbed because I'm going through something. Then there'll be other times where my friends are the ones going through things and I'll be the one giving more and not focusing on my own needs as much for their sake. If this imbalance becomes systemic that's where it's a problem and it might be time to end that friendship and I think the same thing applies in relationships. If it's always going one way then it's not that they're a bad person but this might just not be a good situation for you. That it is okay to respect that about yourself and to have this expectation that you want to be met.
Emily We've talked about codependency a bit in a previous episode. I think this kind of can fall into that category as well that potentially if you are okay with the fact or enable your partner in some way because they keep wanting things from you and you keep giving it to them or enabling a behavior within them, then that can become a poor probably choice in your relationship and potentially you need to take a look at that and examine it.
Dedeker: Yes, to bring us home here I think that the question that we have gotten a lot of question on and I've gotten often in my coaching practice is people realizing, I think that my expectations for this relationship do not match my partner's expectations, what do I do? Or someone realizing, "You know what? This new relationship I don't think it's going the way that I think that I was going to go, what do I do? How do I change my expectations of it," Maybe they are like, "I don't necessarily want to just break up with this person or whatever I'm okay for it to be organic, but how do I let go of this particular expectation of how it was going to go."
Jase: Very often it's that I really wanted a serious relationship and this partner doesn't want a serious relationship. I don't want to have to throw the baby out with the bathwater so to speak and give all of this up, so how can I let go of this expectation, that's the one that I see the most often I think.
Dedeker: Of course it does vary. For instance if you identify as more monogamous and maybe you do specifically want to find someone that you want to spend the rest of your life with, it makes the stakes a little bit higher as far as, are you willing to tolerate just being in a relationship where you are not getting what you want. I think that this conversation becomes a little bit broader we're talking about polyamory, where it's like maybe I have multiple partners and I'm not looking for anything in particular, but this one just didn't turn out the way that I thought it was going to be, but in good old fashion relationship hierarchy style, could be connected with this person and create some new custom connection.
I guess the list of solutions that we have here are not going to apply across the board or goals of your relationship format, but you are going to have to pick and choose I suppose.
Jase: Or adapt them a little bit and I would say the very first one to start with here is just if you haven't already, start talking about these expectations that you have. That it's one thing to say, "Well I have this expectation and I don't think my partner wants that," versus,"We've had a conversation about it and this is what I expected or what I had hoped for and this is what they are looking for," then you at least have a starting point. Now you actually know what you are working with and you can see, "Okay, which parts of this can we find that will work for both of us."
Dedeker: Yes, and the other thing that I would recommend is to seek some outside help that can help you get a little bit of a reality check on what your expectations are. I've seen this go both ways, I've seen people who maybe go to a counselor or therapist or coach or even a friend that they trust they have a good rapport with and they may say, "I was expecting this for the relationship," and this third party can be like, "Whoa that was really not realistic, maybe you need to check yourself as far as where you think this relationship is go."
I've also seen people come to their friends or to a coach or to a counselor and say, "Well, my partner is not meeting my expectations and so I changed my expectations so it's okay if he lies to me," and that this other person should be like, "Actually that doesn't sound very good either." Seeking someone who's outside of the situation whether it's a friend of course your friends are probably going to be a little bit biased or if it's a professional, can help you to work through what your expectations are; which ones are healthy, which ones are unhealthy, which ones are serving you and which ones are not.
Emily Definitely, we've spoken about counseling with a partner in the past, but it's good to do that potentially when the relationship isn't already in the shitter as we say but if it's more of a preventative measure rather than it's on its last leg and you're just trying to save it and whatever way possible.
Jase: Defiantly, I also just wanted to add that when you are going to other people to check in on this and get other opinions, that it is important to look at the source, maybe get multiple opinions and also evaluate them for yourself because I think the real hope would be that by going to someone else to get their opinion it's not because you want them to make a decision for you but by hearing their answer even if you ultimately disagree with it at least gave you that external prompting to come up with that answer yourself. Which is why good coaches and therapists aren't just going to tell you what to do they're going to help you figure out for yourself what it is that you want to do, because no one knows you as well as you do. I just want to put a little caveat in there.
Dedeker: Another resource that I found extremely helpful in letting go of expectations that aren't serving me is a particular chapter in The Ethical Slut and it's the Clean Love chapter and I believe we referenced it when we interviewed Janet Hardy a few weeks ago. It's so beautiful, it's just so wonderfully written it's a very short chapter if you have The Ethical Slut, I recommend checking it out. It's just this manifesto about being able to accept the love that people have to give you just as they are and just what it is that they have to give you and not worrying about forcing it to be anything else.
I oftentimes especially if I'm starting up a new relationship, I will read it many times to remind myself to just be like, "Okay, it's okay, I can just be open and I can receive whatever love is coming my way whether it's from a relationship that's going to turn into something extremely emotional and passionate or it's going to turn into just like a really cool friendship connection or whatever it turns into that I can accept it and be happy about what it is that I'm getting as far as love goes instead of being disappointed about it not matching my ideal or not matching what my image of it was."
Jase: The next one and this is one that I particularly love and that's allowing yourself to accept and enjoy the fact that there's more mystery and space in this relationship. I think this can manifest in a lot of different ways besides just expectations, but just understanding and allowing your partner to be a totally separate person from you that you will never fully understand even if you have been together for 50 years that they might still be able to surprise you. I think that is really powerful because that person you fell in love with in the first place, was a person you didn't know everything about and you didn't know everything they were going to do and that's the person you fell in love with. To think that, "Now I'm going to change them into someone who's never surprising that I know everything about-
Dedeker: Is going to meet all my expectations, exactly.
Emily -is going to meet all my expectations." It's just like, but that's not what you fell in love with. That wasn't what excited you in the first place. That isn't what got you on that first date in the first place, whatever it is, but just to really enjoy the fact that, I don't know everything about my partner and by giving that space you actually open yourself up to a lot of pleasant surprises as well and could even give you distance to better see bad surprises I suppose those came up. Being able to see your partner enjoying other parts of their life and getting to witness that can be a really inspiring and amazing thing getting to see them practice something or do something that they are really passionate about that might not be something you share or something you know everything about.
Dedeker: Yes, of course within all of these as we've reiterated many times in this episode of course take the responsibility and take the time to identify what your boundaries are, have the willingness to enforce those boundaries. If in examining what your expectations are, it actually comes to light like, "No actually, what's happening in this relationship is crossing a boundary of mine," then you take the responsibility to actually leave that relationship if that's the case. But within that in maintaining your boundaries, then let this particular relationship be a blank slate and that's okay because a blank slate you can do whatever you want with it and it doesn't have to look a particular way. That is what I have to say about that.
Emily That was awesome guys , thank you. I learned a ton today, lots of things to think about within my own relationships and also just some good things to try whenever I'm feeling like, "Oh God something isn't going my way, what I’m my going to do about it?" If you'd like to have your question or comment played on the show you can call 678-MULTI-05, you can also e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or send us a message on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram to support our show and join our private Facebook community, go to patreon.com/multiamory. Multiamory is created and produced by Jase Lindgren, Dedeker Winston and me Emily Matlack. Our episodes are edited by Mauricio, our social media wizard is Will Mcmillan, our theme song is Forms I know I did by Josh and Anand from the Fractal Cave EP. The full transcript is available on the episodes page at multiamory.com.