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Minimising The Stress Of Managing Opposing Expectations In A Relationship
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Minimising the Stress Of Managing Opposing Expectations In A Relationship

Yesterday it was announced that Sinead O’Conner (the Irish singer) was ending her fourth marriage to Barry Herridge after a mere 16 days, beating the short marriage of Kim Kardashian (the reality TV star) and Kris but Humphries who recently ended their marriage after 72 days. Of course no outsiders can ever really know what has gone on in someone else’s marriage or relationship but one thing that the two couples seem to have had in common is that their relationships were damaged by the stress of managing opposing expectations either from their spouses or from outsiders.

O’Conner says that her marriage never stood a chance because of the attitude of friends and relations of her soon to be ex husband and that she believed there was undue pressure for him to live his life in certain ways which did not include marriage to her. Feeling that he had too much to lose she says that she had no choice but to let him go.

In the case of Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries it appears that they had completely different expectations of what their marriage would be like. He wanted them to move back to his home in Minnesota, work less and eventually be a housewife raising their intended family. Kardashian who has been raised to work ferociously hard to ensure an affluent future was having none of it and not only did she not want to move, but she also wanted to carry on her career and be a working mother. With such opposing expectations it’s surprising that the marriage lasted as long as 72 days.

Now looking at these two cases you may well be thinking that their lives are so far removed from your life that there is nothing to learn from them. But I’d beg to disagree. The mistakes that they've made are ones that most of us have made at one time or another if not within a marriage but in other family relationships or friendships. The burden of other people’s expectations not matching your own can be extremely stressful and difficult to cope with.

So what can you do to minimise the stress of managing opposing expectations?

1. Talk to each other – Okay that’s hardly revolutionary but so many people don’t talk about the things that really matter and make assumptions that they know what someone else is thinking. Do't make that mistake.

2. Communicate your views – In a rational non threatening way, you need to explain your views, your wants or your needs. Just as you shouldn’t make assumptions about what someone else is thinking you also shouldn't assume that someone else is a mind reader and knows what’s going inside your head – however close you may be!

3. Listen to what’s being said – Too often people forget to listen to each other. Make sure that you take the time to really listen and understand what someone else is saying. Make a special effort to list out for other people's values and beliefs that may be very different from your own.

4. Listen for what’s not being said – It’s amazing how often people say ‘I thought they were holding back – but I didn’t want to ask.’ If you intuition is telling you that there might be something that is important but not being said – act upon it and ask.

5. Observe what’s being said through non verbal communication - you don’t have to be an expert in reading body language to pick up things people are saying through their movements, positioning or facial expressions. Be aware of giving one message through their speech and something entirely different from their body language.


Not understanding other people’s expectations can cause a huge amount of stress and easily lead to the breakdown of a relationship. The key to minimising the stress is to ensure that you communicate effectively with other people. Admittedly that can be difficult if another person doesn’t want to communicate with you, but if you don’t try you will never know if being honest and talking there is the opportunity to compromise and readjust your expectations so they align more closely to each others.

Street Talk

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