Setting Relationship Expectations for Good Communication

smiling peopleThings are just supposed to always work out happily in the end.  People are supposed to be able to read your mind and know exactly what you want and what you mean, so every relationship always runs smoothly.  Conflicts are always that other stupid person’s fault for being so dense and for not understanding.  Right!

I know you weren’t born yesterday and haven’t been living under a rock, so you know that none of these things are ever going to be always (or even often) true.  That’s just not how relationships work, no matter how much you wish it were all true.

One thing that can help is to establish clear expectations when the relationship is just beginning, or close to the beginning, to get you and the other person on the same page.  No, it’s not easy to do, and no one wants to do the icky stuff when there’s not a problem – yet!  But what is certain is that when the inevitable problem happens, if you did do the hard work up front, the problem would be easier to deal with down the road.

My daughter is just in such a position right now with her soon-to-be father-in-law.  She knows that he is a problem waiting to happen, mainly because they are very different people.  While we can choose to avoid people we know we don’t agree with and who are too old to realistically change, we can’t avoid offensive family.  And if we could avoid the new family, it’s not a good idea to do so – it just gets things off on the wrong foot when you marry in and immediately start avoiding…

I recommended that she have a chat right from the beginning and lay out the expectations of the relationship, so the air is clear before there is a big blowup.  But she’s just a kid, and for her to initiate such a difficult conversation with a strong personality who is a generation older is probably not in her ability to do.  What a shame, because I can see a world of hurt coming in a few years.  This situation, which is starting out badly now, is just going to get worse through time.

One issue in play is future grandchildren.  This very personal decision is not anyone else’s business besides the couple, but this FIL doesn’t see that it’s not within his rights to intrude.  He constantly makes mention and puts pressure on her (not on his son).  I also recommended that she tells him to back off on this and put the subject off limits, but she doesn’t have the force of personality to do that either.  And while I could, this is not my battle to fight.  Adult children need to learn to fend for themselves.

All of this and more is caused by not establishing relationship expectations up front.  And since this relationship is just beginning, with the marriage marker coming, it’s a perfect opportunity to address the situation.  I don’t have a crystal ball, but you don’t need one to see the clear future before it happens.  This is a relationship train wreck waiting for the imminent crash.

COMUNICATION TAKEAWAY:  Most people have on rose colored glasses, believing the best about the relationships in their life, when the good relationships could be so much better and the warning signs with the poor ones go unrecognized.  And if they do see them, most do not have relationship skills to work on things to make them better.  We all deserve happiness in our relationships, and setting clear expectations is one way to get there.  Simply verbalizing what we want from the other person is a healthy way to start.    

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