How to Deal With Unmet Expectations in Marriage

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Feel satisfied and have your expectations met by following these five simple steps.

Are you feeling helpless and frustrated because you’re not getting what you need in your relationship? The good thing is that there’s a solution. You don’t have to suffer in your marriage any more. Here’s our five-step process that’ll help fulfill your expectations today.

  1. Identify what expectations are unmet
  2. Clarify the underlying needs of those expectations
  3. Take full responsibility for meeting your needs
  4. Seek an open dialogue with your partner
  5. Find alternative ways to fulfill your need

How do you apply this to your life?

We’ve broken down each step into practical takeaways so you can get unstuck right now. Follow the five-step process and you’ll be on the track for more fulfillment in your marriage.

Ready to have more clarity, satisfaction and your needs met with less drama? Read on to find out what you need to do next.

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Identify Your Unmet Expectations

Quick question: what do you do when you want to go on holidays?

You decide where to go. Simple, right?

It’s the same thing with getting your expectations fulfilled. First you need to know what’s missing. So let’s find that out right now.

Take a piece of paper and write down your answers to these questions:

  1. What are my expectations for my partner?
  2. What are my expectations for myself?
  3. What are my expectations for our marriage?

Now that you have a clearer idea of what your expectations are, you’re probably thinking: how come they aren’t met? What’s in the way of having my expectations fulfilled? This next part will get you closer to the answer.

 

For each of the answers from the exercise above, ask the following questions:

  1. How are your expectations not being met?
  2. How would you know when your expectations are met? 
  3. Have your expectations been met in the past?
  4. What are the situations where your expectations aren’t met? (be specific)

Hold onto those answers! Having clarity on the situation makes it easier to address, so you’re off to a great start

But for now, there’s something incredible we want to share with you. It literally changed our relationship. Most people don’t know this about expectations and it’s what keeps them stuck in a never-ending loop of dissatisfaction. Read on to find out what this common expectation misunderstanding is.

Identify the Underlying Need

Do you know the difference between expectations vs. needs?

An expectation is tied to an activity or a way of being. 

A need is what this activity means to you. It’s subjective. 

Here’s an example:

Expectation: I want to have dinner on the table when I get home from work.

Need: I desire to feel appreciated by my spouse.

To have dinner on the table is neutral in and of itself. Some objects have been prepared and now it’s sitting on a surface. It doesn’t mean anything.

But for someone else, it might show appreciation. When they get home and dinner is on the table, they feel appreciated. 

The expectation is the vehicle by which the need is met. 

Why is this important for you and your relationship?

You can meet a need in various ways while an expectation is very limited.

Expectation: Either dinner is on the table or it isn’t. 

Need: Feeling appreciated can be expressed in infinite ways. Dinner on the table, dishes being washed, bills being paid etc.

People don’t care about their expectations, they care that their needs are met.

How come most couples have no clue about this and are lost in this expectation misunderstanding? They’re stuck with their expectations and wants because they don’t pause long enough to uncover their hidden needs. No wonder they feel like communication is hard. 

If you take the time and get to know your needs, your whole relationship can change. No more frustration and miscommunication. No more unmet expectations in your marriage. 

Imagine being able to:

  • Have clarity on what you actually need,
  • Communicate your desires effectively to your partner without them getting defensive (more on that below), and
  • Forever fulfill your needs because you’re not dependent on anyone. Alternatives are always available.

That’s the power of knowing your needs. Let’s take some action and get those incredible changes today. Read on to find out how.

 

How Do You Identify Your Needs?

Now that you’ve busted the expectation misunderstanding, let’s get to the most important part:

How do you identify your needs?

 

Remember the exercise from before? Take the expectations that you’ve written down and ask yourself these simple questions:

  1. Why is it important to you to have that expectation fulfilled?
  2. What do you gain emotionally when those expectations are fulfilled? 
  3. How does it make you feel when your expectations are met?

Expectation: I want my husband to mop the floor for me. 

Why is that important to you? 

It’s very tiring for me and my body aches afterwards. 

How would it make you feel if he would mop the floor for you? 

I’d feel like he cares for my well-being and supports me.

What’s her need? She wants to feel supported. 

Take your time with this. It may take a little while to get to what your need really is. If you want a little help, here’s a list of the different needs that people have.

Take Full Responsibility

I have something shocking to say…

It’s not your partner’s responsibility to take care of your needs. They are yours, not your spouse’s. 

This might sound like bad news. But it isn’t.

To own your needs is empowering. Why?

Because it gives the power back to you. You’re no longer at the mercy of your partner, hoping, wishing or assuming that your partner will fulfill them. You’re in the driver’s seat now.

Here’s a comparison between being dependent on your partner vs. taking full responsibility yourself. Which would you rather choose?here’s a list of the different needs that people have.

Partner’s Responsibility

  • Disempowering
  • Dependant on them
  • Hoping they get it right
  • Potential disappointment
  • Feeling resentment
  • Helpless

My Responsibility

  • Empowering
  • Fully in control by yourself
  • Creating the circumstances that your needs will be fulfilled
  • Satisfied
  • Loving your partner as they are
  • Capable

We know… It’s wonderful when your partner can take care of you and fulfill your needs. But the truth is that sometimes your partner isn’t capable or unwilling to meet them. If you’re completely dependent on them for getting your needs met, then aren’t you both set up for failure?

No wonder you’re feeling helpless, ignored and frustrated then!

That’s why it’s important to know that there are alternatives and you have the power to choose.

The common misunderstanding is that if you took responsibility for your own needs then you’re detached from your partner and that they’re abandoning you.

That can’t be further from the truth. Because taking responsibility for your needs brings more respect and empathy into the relationship. It means that you know how you can take care of yourself fully and won’t force your partner to do anything that they aren’t willing to do or that might be altogether impossible to achieve.

When you come from this empowered place, you’re opening up a conversation for more respect and fulfillment for both you and your spouse. You’ll be able to listen to your partner more powerfully because you’re not stuck trying to get them to fulfill your unmet expectations.

Talk to Your Partner 

Don’t you want to see your spouse happy? 

They do too.

It’s very fulfilling to be able to provide something deeply satisfying to your significant other. That’s why your partner wants to help you get your needs met. 

However, if you just place a bunch of expectations onto them, they’ll feel obligated. That’s not a nice place to be.

That’s why we recommended getting to know what’s behind those expectations first. It gives you and your partner a starting place to explore how you can have those needs met. Make sure that you have a talking routine established so that you have a save place to talk things out. 

If you voice your expectations, it’s a one way conversation. When you have a need and bring that up to your partner, both of you can find a solution together. 

Be aware that it takes courage and vulnerability to open up and communicate what your needs are. After all, they’re really important to you, which makes it a delicate topic.

We all fear being rejected when we show ourselves fully. It’s very natural to feel a bit scared. To help you ease that fear, here’s how you can approach it instead.

Him: ‘You know how I’ve been asking you to have dinner on the table and I’d get all angry if it wasn’t?’

Her: ‘Yes, and?’

Him: ‘Well I’ve realized that it really wasn’t nice from me to put this expectation onto you. I didn’t want to bring conflict into our marriage. I wasn’t aware why I had this expectation in the first place. I’ve come to realize that the dinner is really an expression of appreciation for me. 

I know you probably have no intention of making me feel this way. But I just feel like when dinner isn’t on the table, you don’t appreciate me.’

Her: ‘I didn’t realize that this is what the dinner meant for you. I just can’t get it all done after a full day of work.’

This conversation clearly isn’t over yet. You still need to discuss how you can fulfill the need for appreciation in other ways. However, the stage has been set appropriately without any blame.

If your spouse has a habit of interrupting you then check out this article here. 

Please know that there’s no shame in having needs and expressing them. It’ll make your relationship stronger, happier, and more fulfilling for both of you. 

Take heart and sit down with your spouse. This open and transparent conversation will strengthen and transform your relationship.  If you need more help with your communication skills to deepen your relationship click here. 

What If My Partner Can’t Meet My Needs?


Maybe you’ve had your chat and realized that your spouse can’t or isn’t willing to fulfill that need. What can you do now?

  1. Be sure that you haven’t been talking about expectations rather than needs. Remember: needs can be expressed in many different ways.
  2. You’re in charge of your needs. Since your partner can’t meet them, how can you fulfill it in other ways?

Don’t feel discouraged if your needs aren’t met this red hot second. If you take anything from this article, it’s that there’s always a way to fulfill your needs and to be deeply satisfied. Sometimes the process takes a bit of time and work until you find the right solution.

Say that you feel stuck because your partner can’t help meet your needs, here’s an empowering way to address it.

Imagine a world where:

Your spouse isn’t in your life anymore. And you can’t find another romantic partner at the moment. 

How are you going to fulfill your needs? 

Think about your friends, social activities, and things you can do by yourself. You can also ask:

  • How have I fulfilled this need before I met my current partner? 
  • What other experiences did I have in my life that fulfilled this need?

Be creative and don’t be afraid to give new things a try. 

Now you’re equipped with everything you need to deal with unmet expectations in your marriage.

Even if you had difficulties before, you can now identify what expectations are unmet and clarify the underlying needs. By taking full responsibility for meeting your needs, you can actually have an open dialogue with your partner without fighting and find alternative ways to fulfill your needs.

There’s no need to feel frustrated and helpless anymore. Just start with the first exercise in this five-step process and you’ll soon see a difference in your life.

If you feel like there are more urgent issues that’s beyond meeting your unmet needs, then make sure to check out this essential guide: The #1 Reason Why Your Arguments Don’t Get Anywhere. There’s always a solution to your relationship problems, you just have to take the first step and you’ll be that much closer.

Stress less. Receive more. 

Fight less. Love more.

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