Single and ready to mingle? Coupled and ready to settle down?
Regardless of your relationship status, I think we can all agree on one thing: being in a relationship is like a trip up to Genting Highlands. It’s curvy, might make you upset, and you don’t even know if you’ll survive the trip.
Some of us do well with the pressure, others don’t. At the end of the day, we either move on with the relationship or move on from it.
Looking back on the years, I realized that there were several hidden pressures in my relationship that made me feel pressured and anxious.
Here’s 5 unspoken expectations you will likely always face in a relationship:
1. Celebrating important dates
When you’re single, the only thing you need to plan is your birthday. For me, it’s pretty simple and low-key that at times, I didn’t need the tradition of a cake, blowing candles and making a wish.
Now that I’m in a relationship, the pressure is on to make my partner’s birthday, anniversary, Valentine’s Day, Christmas, New Year’s Day, etc. special and meaningful.
The words “We don’t need to celebrate it” or “I don’t need a gift” can feel like a landmine at times. Does my partner really not want to celebrate it or are they trying to subtly hint that they want something else, something special?
[Image credits: Freepik]
I never grew up with the tradition of gift-giving (my closest friends just receive a ‘Happy Birthday’ message or we’ll go out to eat), so it was a whole different type of stress trying to find the perfect gift/experience at least three times a year for my partner (birthday, Valentine’s, Christmas).
It also doesn’t help that every other day, there’s a post on social media showing an extravagant birthday gift/surprise with the caption “I wish my partner was like this”.
I too wish that I could make big bucks and surprise my partner with everything they’ve ever wanted, but let’s face it: I can’t. Luckily for us though, we’ve come to an agreement to only spend on necessary items and nothing wasteful.
2. Expectations vs. Reality
I think what we see and consume on social media plays a big part of how we shape our reality. On the surface, a relationship may seem all sunshine, cotton candy, and roses, but who are we to know what’s really simmering under the surface?
Unfortunately and without us knowing it, we consume social media the most and that’s where we form our expectations.
[Image credits: Freepik]
Your friend or that influencer you follow might show off the lavish gifts and surprise escapades they’ve received from their partners, but do they show the ugly moments of a couple’s argument complete with foul words and tears?
The unspoken expectation to conform to social norms — as can be seen on social media — can be overwhelming, which makes clear communication and reaching a mutual understanding with your partner extremely important.
I thought that when I had a partner, they could help me take nice photographs and be a typical #instabf — those were my expectations.
After a long period together, I’ve resigned to the fact that nope, my partner cannot be an #instabf and that’s the reality of things that I accept.
I’ll just ask a friend to help me take photos then. *insert sad smile here*
3. Getting along with their friends/family
As an introvert, I struggle to form relationships with people I don’t spend a lot of time with. Adding on to the fact that my partner’s family communicates in a language I’m not very well-versed in, I definitely felt a lot of unspoken expectation to fit in.
And it’s not just limited to fitting in, but also whether I’m doing or saying the right thing. For example, I was and still get very nervous when I meet and talk to my partner’s extended family because I’m afraid of addressing them wrongly.
[Image credits: Digi]
In English, we call our cousins ‘cousin’ no matter the age and gender. In Mandarin however, there are different ways to address your cousin: biao jie, biao mei, biao ge, biao di. Don’t get me started on addressing uncles and aunties, and these titles depend on the dialect too!
At a certain point, I’d feel so nervous that I could barely eat and keep food down, which doesn’t really help when you’re trying to smile and be polite but worry about producing vomit instead of words.
I faced the same when meeting my partner’s friends for the first time too — in fact, it was probably even more stressful because these are the people my partner is closest to.
Even if I made a good impression, I always felt anxious of being judged and being studied intently like a new specimen, analysing if I was a worthy match for their friend.
Which brings me to my next point…
4. The concept of “Am I enough?”
This was something I struggled with a lot in my relationship.
I’d constantly compare myself to others and struggled with feeling enough for my partner, often saying things like, “I’m not good enough, we should break up so you can find someone better.”
Although my partner would always reassure me that yes, I’m enough, I never felt like it. In fact, I hated that I couldn’t be better for my partner.
I hated that I couldn’t be more athletic or more outgoing, perhaps prettier, friendlier, smarter, kinder — any reasonable characteristic I could think of that would make a better partner, for my partner.
[Image credits: Pressfoto]
It’s an overwhelming pressure that I still struggle with to this day, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s to take your partner’s word for it when they say “You are enough”.
If you are not enough for them, why are they still with you?
5. Navigating comfort zones
Comfort zones include everything from daily life and behaviour to intimacy. What’s comfortable for you, might not be comfortable for your partner and that means finding a way to work around it.
My partner is the touchy-feely kind while I’m perfectly happy with zero physical contact. In the beginning, I felt pressured to reciprocate my partner’s advances because well, I thought, that’s what relationships are supposed to be, right?
But no. If you’re not comfortable doing something with your partner, don’t bow into the pressure or expectation of it. Communicate that with your partner and find a way to meet halfway. That’s what relationships are: give and take.
On the other hand, sometimes challenging comfort zones gives you a great way to learn and discover something new, or to get out of your shell.
We all know just how comfortable a comfort zone can be, but newsflash! If you don’t get uncomfortable, you’ll never learn something new.
In terms of a relationship, discuss your comfort zones and levels of risk you are willing to take and/or explore with each other. The best partner is one who understands and respects your decision, and if they’re willing to sacrifice so much for you, they’re a keeper.
For more stories like this, read: My Husband Has a ‘Rich Person’ Mindset While I Have a ‘Frugal’ Mindset – Here’s How We Make Our Marriage Work and Making a Relationship Work for 30 Years; What I Wished I Knew Then.