Expectations within a relationship can have many different implications to its quality. But does anticipating change as part of a relationship have any impact? Thankfully that’s the question a 2016 research paper set out to find answers to.
The results of the research showed that couples who expect to have the same level of current and future personal change have higher levels of future relationship quality and stability compared to those who had different expectations for each other’s rate of change. This applied to couples who both expected to have no changes over the future year and also those who both expected to change. The important part was that both partners had the same expectations about rate of personal change. When both partners had the same expectations of change then their current future relationship quality and stability was higher than when one partner had different expectations to the other.
There are a number of possible reasons for these results. One might be jealousy created by one partner knowing the other has future plans that will produce more personal change than they will experience for themselves. Another could be lack of coordination between partners. Partners are generally happier the better coordinated they are with each other and therefore expectations of different rates of change would indicate a lack of coordination.
Whatever the reason is for the decreased levels of relationship quality that having differing expectations of change from each other causes, it’s very much worthwhile exploring within your relationship. You could start by asking your partner about their own expectations and comparing them to your own. If your expectations of change are both the same then enjoy the satisfaction of knowing this is a healthy sign for your relationship. But if you both have different expectations take a look at how you respond to that emotionally. For example where do the differences lie? Are you or your partner going to be doing a project that one of you will be potentially jealous of? Recognising potential causes of difficult feelings well before they happen can help you to anticipate how you’ll feel about them and cope better with them when they do happen. It can also help you to recognise where there are areas for your own personal growth to bring it into line with your partner’s. For example you could take on an equally ambitious project to the one they are that will result in an equal expectation of personal change to that of your partner.
Takeaway: Having the same expectations of personal change within your relationship as your partner is a good sign of current and future relationship quality and stability.