We have an idea about how life should be; we believe we should think, feel, and behave a certain way, and we expect others to follow suit. Aspirations and dreams are all very well, but rigid expectations wielded by an unrelenting dictator makes for a very unhappy relationship.
Karen Horney called this a ‘tyranny of the shoulds’, and, left unchecked, it can pose a significant threat to a relationship. When life does not live up to our expectations, we need to remember that we are in a relationship with someone else, and their perception of how things 'should' be may contradict our own expectations.
Negotiation is the best way forward. Once we own up to our own sense of how life 'should' be, and we are willing to hear what the other person wants and needs, we can then open a dialogue to negotiate a way forward. Which 'shoulds' are essential, and which are you willing to concede? This can be difficult to attempt on your own, so you may need to explore this with a therapist, either individually, or as a couple. We can help you with this.
Relationship counseling (also known as couples counseling, couples therapy, or marriage counseling) offers you a neutral setting to work through all of this. Find out more today.
Chris Warren-Dickins, Psychotherapist
Ridgewood, New Jersey