BY TAYLOR WADE
Life experiences causes people to undergo a sort of metamorphose, with change as the inevitable outcome. If you’re a couple, this means the two of you are constantly changing over time. But what if you’re not changing together? What if you reach a point where there are two different expectations in the relationship?
Subjectivity relates to the way you personally experience things – a.k.a. your individual perception. Your subjective sensory experiences are shaped by interactions between expectations and incoming sensory information. The experience of a sensory event is highly subjective and can vary substantially from one individual to the other. Much of this individual variation may result from the manner in which past experience and future predictions about a stimulus are used to interpret afferent information.
When you apply this information to a relationship, this means that two people are constantly having subjective sensory experiences. The experience for each person is shaped by how they individually perceive it. These perceptions are shaped by previous experiences and also expectations, or future predictions.
So, what does all of this mean?
When two people enter into a long-term relationship, they may have the best intentions and deepest attachment for the relationship to last. The beginning stages are full of excitement and infatuation. However, as the relationship grows, change happens and expectations come with it. These expectations, which were previously outside of the individuals’ awareness, are now deeply rooted in the relationship. They are unspoken among one another. If an expectation goes unexamined and unrealized, it can be the fatal flaw of relationships.
Maybe the man doesn’t want the woman to change. He wants her to stay the same woman he fell in love with years ago. And maybe the woman expects the man to change over time and reach his full potential. These expectations are already flawed. The man may not change the way she expected him to and the woman will most likely go through a lot of important changes over time.
People who commit to each other during that early infatuation phase are more likely to run into this problem than those who have had the chance to grow and mature together in a relationship – even that, though, does not guarantee that these issues will not emerge. It is not uncommon for expectations, either realized or not, to change at the time of a formal commitment (an engagement, for example).
It’s common for couples to think that after living together for years, the act of getting married will not change anything at all. However, it can be a mistake to think in these terms. A whole other set of expectations, reservations, and obligatory notions may enter into an even successful long-term relationship at the point of marriage. It’s better to talk openly and not ignore them.
We can improve our chances of a successful long-term relationship by openly discussing expectations about change before a long-term commitment is made.