Happiness has been described as the difference between your expectations and what you get.  The following is an exercise to explore your expectations of your relationship.   Consider each question in light of what you want for the future.

What are your expectations regarding:

  • Sexual fidelity
  • Do you expect to love each other always?  Do you expect this will change over time?
  • What are the frequencies, practices and taboos of sex for you?
  • Describe what romance means to you.
  • Do you want children?  More children?  Do you want the children raised differently from the way you’re currently doing it?
  • If you or your partner has children from a previous marriage, how do you expect to share in their discipline?  How do they fit into your marriage and lifestyle?
  • Provision of income.  Who will work in the future?  Whose career or job is more important?  Will either partner reduce work time to take care of children?
  • The degree of each partner’s emotional dependency on the other.  Do you want to be taken care of?  How?  How much do you expect to rely on each other to get through the tough times?
  • Basic approach to life.  As a team?  As two independent individuals?
  • Loyalty.  What does that mean to you?
  • How do you want to deal with problems in the relationship?
  • Power and control.  Who do you expect will have more power and in what kinds of decisions?  For example, who will control the money?  Discipline the kids?  What happens when you disagree in a key area?  Who has the power now, and how do you feel about that?
  • Household tasks.  Who do you expect will do what?  How does the current breakdown match up to what you expect in the future?
  • Religious beliefs and observances.  Be specific about where, when or what rituals you’d expect to observe and how important it is to you that such rituals be mutual?  How will you bring the children up?
  • How much time do you want to spend together?  Alone?  With friends or family, at work and so on?
  • Sharing feelings.  How much of what you are each feeling do you expect should be shared?
  • Friendship with your partner.  What is a friend?  What does it mean to have a friendship with your mate?
  • The little things in life.  Where do you squeeze the toothpaste?  Is the toilet seat left up or down?  Think carefully about the little things that can cause a lot of irritation.  What do you want or expect in each area?
  • How important is forgiveness to your relationship?  What still needs to be forgiven?
  • What is your overall long-term vision for the relationship?  Is it “till death do us part?”
  • What do you expect in the areas of caring, recognition, commitment, integrity and acceptance?
  • Any other expectations about how you want things to be that are not already listed?

After you and your partner have had the opportunity to work on the exercise individually, plan to spend time together discussing these expectations.

Source:  Fighting For Your Marriage by Howard Markman, Scott Stanley and Susan Blumberg (Jossey-Bass)

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