If you’ve been married long enough to experience any “special” days together, then you know the drill. Birthdays. Anniversaries. Valentine’s Day. Date night. Each one is uniquely special…and each one has a set of equally unique and unrealistic expectations. For Valentine’s, we expect flowers, chocolate and a few red and pink things. Birthdays call for presents on presents and a party planning committee. And our anniversary? Um, romance-game-over—if you’re not waking up to the smell of fresh quiche in the oven and packing for a surprise trip to Turks and Caicos, something has gone awry.
If you read that list and thought that’s just ridiculous…think again.
You might not have those exact expectations, but if you’re human, you have some lounging around in your mind somewhere, waiting for the opportune moment to present themselves and ruin a perfectly good evening. So, newlyweds, we asked around and did a little bit of research to bring you the three things you should know about expectations before you proceed in your new marriage.
Your childhood and past experiences weigh heavily on your expectations.
You probably didn’t realize it, but the fact that your parents surprised you every year on your birthday with a bedroom full of balloons and a homemade cake for breakfast has a real affect on what you expect of your new lifelong roommate. Take some time to reflect on how your parents, siblings and friends celebrated you on special days, and then tell your partner about it. This will give him/her a foundation to build on.
As always, communication is the perfect tool for setting and restructuring expectations.
Jill McCormick, writer, speaker and marriage vet of 18 years, says that preventing conflict around expectations is all about communication. “Start with questions…What do you want to do for Valentine’s Day? I want to do something else…Can we meet in the middle? What’s the reason that’s important to you? What would a happy birthday look like for you?” Talking now about what you expect (and why) will prevent disappointment and arguments when the day comes.
Budget takes a backseat when we’re dreaming up our special days, but in reality, it’s typically the one driving.
Come on, y’all—it’s way easier to discuss budget and expectations with car metaphors. In general, our ideal date or holiday isn’t a small expense, but who thinks about that when they’re daydreaming about the perfect anniversary dinner? Discussing your budget beforehand is crucial to setting appropriate expectations for these special occasions. And if your budget is smaller, remember that a hot air balloon ride in San Fransisco is not the only way to celebrate your first wedding anniversary.
A lot of marital conflict begins and ends with expectations, so if you’re new to this whole marriage thing, it would be wise to get a handle on it early on. The next time your date night is ruined by mismanaged expectations, take a deep breath and discuss it. A little conversation in this area can save your special day before it begins.