A lot of couples who come for therapy usually cite anger or frustration with their partner as one of the major issues they face. This anger and frustration usually stems from unmet expectations.
Expectations play a huge role in relationship satisfaction. Couples who are frustrated say things like “You weren’t very supportive of me when I changed careers” or “You didn’t plan any special activity for our anniversary.” These sentiments stem from an expectation of response that was not met. Allowing anger and frustration to remain unresolved can lead to resentment and create an unhappy relationship.
Here are some practical tips to help you reduce frustration towards your partner.
1. Communicate – You need to inform your partner of your expectations ahead of time because they can’t read your mind. If you want them to text you more often, or take you on more dates, tell them why it is important to you.
2. Manage your expectations – Beyond the basic things that are necessary for a happy relationship, decide what’s really important to you and let go of some frivolous things. Remember that your happiness is directly related to your level of expectations. Examine your expectations to determine whether or not they are realistic. If your partner is a first responder (police officer, firefighter, paramedic, etc.) expecting him/her to call or text if he/she is going to be late may not be possible. This is something you can talk to your partner about so you can figure out together what might work best.
3. Appreciate – Be grateful for everything that your partner does for you. Appreciate your similarities and differences, and your gratitude will help you unlock a whole new level of love, passion and satisfaction in your relationship. This means even appreciating the things your partner is “supposed” to do like take out the trash or fold the laundry. We all like to know what we do to keep a household running matters, even if it’s mundane tasks.
4. Don’t keep score – Keeping a mental scorecard of what your partner does or doesn’t do based on your expectations will only cause hurt and frustration. Kill your mental scorecard and remember that if they aren’t aware of your expectations, they can’t possibly live up to them. Frankly, relationships are not tit for tat. They are about mutual service to each other. Letting anger fester because you’ve given more during a given week isn’t helpful.
5. Accept your partner – Acceptance is key. Love your partner for who they are, not who you imagine them to be. Accepting your partner’s differences and peculiarities, makes them feel safe and respected. Judgement causes them to feel blamed and become defensive.
6. Understand your partner – Understanding your partner’s personality and motivations could help you be less frustrated when they don’t meet expectations. For example, if they hate sports they’re probably not going to take the initiative to buy you tickets to see your favorite team play unless you’ve told them how important it is to you. Aim to understand your partner’s way of seeing the world.
7. Learn to calm yourself – Controlling your emotions and response when your expectations aren’t met can be the difference between a happy relationship and an unhappy one that’s bound to end. This means you need to take out time to settle and soothe yourself before talking to your partner about it.
Decide what expectations are important to you, and communicate them to your partner properly. If you are able to accept and appreciate your differences, then you can have a loving and fulfilling relationship.
If you’re struggling to resolve frustration and anger in your relationship I may be able to help. If you would like marriage counseling or relationship counseling, please contact me.