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This Is The Most Common Cause Of Unhappiness In Relationships (According To A Couples Therapist)

Margaret Paul, Ph.D.
Co-Founder of Inner Bonding By Margaret Paul, Ph.D.
Co-Founder of Inner Bonding
Margaret Paul, Ph.D., is a best-selling author, relationship expert, and Inner Bonding® facilitator.
This Is The Most Common Cause Of Unhappiness In Relationships (According To A Couples Therapist)

Georgina, one of my single clients, asked me the following question:

"With relationships, you have your desires about how you want to be treated and what you're looking for in a partner. When you express your desires, isn't that a form of expectation? For example, you would expect them to care about you, your feelings, treat you with respect, have you as a priority, and spend time together regularly. Can you explain the difference between desires and expectations?"

What I said to Georgina is:

"There is nothing wrong with having these desires. Of course these are the things you want in a relationship. But expressing your desires IS a form of expectation. If you are in a new relationship, why would you express them unless the person you are with isn’t doing these things? And if he or she isn’t doing these things, then why would you pursue the relationship? "If you want a partner who treats you with respect, cares about you and your feelings, considers you a priority, and wants to spend time together regularly, then you need to choose a partner who already does these things."

In many new relationships, we convince ourselves we can somehow get the other person to change—that if we are loving enough and give the other person what we want back, the other person will change and give us what we want. If this is what you are doing, then you are not being honest with yourself.


The fallacies in this thinking are twofold. Here's the truth:

1. People tend to treat us the way we treat ourselves.

As long as you are giving yourself up in order to please others, you aren't prioritizing your own feelings or treating yourself with respect. You are rejecting and abandoning yourself, and you will likely attract partners who end up doing the same.

2. If you love rather than abandon yourself, you will naturally choose a partner who loves themselves and loves you.

In this kind of relationship, you wouldn't need to express your desires because you would not be with someone who was not caring, respectful, and available.

Since we attract at our common level of self-abandonment, if we are not loving ourselves, we will attract partners who aren't loving themselves either. That’s when we find ourselves having expectations—unrealistic expectations. If your partner isn’t already doing the things you want, expecting him or her to change is unrealistic.

If you are in a committed relationship with someone who isn’t meeting your expectations and have attempted to explore with them why not and they either won’t talk about it or won’t do what you want, then you have two choices: You can leave, or you can choose to accept them exactly as they are.

The choice you don’t have is to change them. You can express your desires forever, but if this person wasn’t meeting your desires before you made your commitment to each other and if they are currently not interested in meeting your desires or are resistant to being controlled by you, expressing your desires isn’t going to get you anywhere.

In a loving relationship, we can certainly make reasonable requests—and we all need to do this sometimes. But if you request once or twice and your partner doesn’t give you what you need and isn’t open to exploring the issue with you, then you need to fully accept that your request isn’t going to be met.

What would happen if you fully accepted your partner exactly how he or she is and learned to take loving care of yourself instead of focusing on what you aren’t getting from them? You might be surprised at the improvements in your relationship.

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