How to Talk About Expectations When You Enter a New Relationship

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Entering a relationship is similar to learning the rules of a game you've never played before. Each relationship is different. Individuals come with different expectations about what constitutes a lasting relationship. It is important to communicate your needs once you have established the relationship -- and as the relationship progresses.

Recognize Your Needs

Your needs in a relationship may be physical or emotional. Take time to think about it. What are your non-negotiable needs? What can't you do without in a relationship? Perhaps it is affection. Maybe you need a supportive partner. Write a list of qualities that you expect in a partner. If you are having trouble coming up with characteristics you desire in a partner, write down traits you find unacceptable. For example, you won't accept disrespect. Then, write down the opposing trait -- respect. Your partner must be respectful.

Set Boundaries

Successful communication begins with useful feedback. Share your feelings and fears, even if this feels outside the comfort zone, says marriage and family therapist intern, Emy Tafelski in her article, "Want A Healthier Relationship? It Starts At Home, With You!" Elaborate on your expectations by explaining how your partner's words or actions make you feel -- good or bad. By verbalizing your expectations, you are setting boundaries, informing your partner where you draw the line regarding what is appropriate and inappropriate.

Address Changing Expectations

When you find yourself angry or upset about something your partner said or did, recognize that your perceptions elicit those feelings. Additionally, as time goes by and your relationship grows, your expectations will inevitably change. Take that change as an opportunity to check in with your partner, recommends the University of Texas at Austin Counseling Center article, "Building a Healthy Relationship." Discuss changing expectations and goals.

Offer Positive Reinforcement

Always express gratitude and thank your partner for praiseworthy deeds. For example, you might say, "I appreciate how thoughtful and considerate you are, always putting my needs first. Thank you." This positive reinforcement will help you get more of the same behavior in the future. In his Psychology Today article, "If You Like Something, Say Something," psychologist Mark Sherman suggests couples don't use positive reinforcement enough. If you want to spend more time cuddling, say so. You can't get what you want if you never speak up.