As a psychotherapist that specializes in couples and relationships, my phone rings incessantly on Fridays and Mondays. Frantic men and women call to make appointments, convinced that their relationship is either headed south or completely over. Why is this a phenomenon on the weekends? After many years of observing couples try and manage their relationships, I know that this pattern of weekend drama is based on two elements: expectations and communication.
We all know that time is a precious thing. For most of today’s couples, life is a constant juggling act of careers, children, pets, extended family, sports, hobbies, vacations, outdoor activities and recreation. The typical work day often extends into the evening and the weekend, leaving little time for “us”. We are conditioned early on to regard the weekend as just that- the “week’s end”, meaning a shift in energy and a time to slow down. As the weekend approaches, so does the expectation that there will finally be an opportunity to relax, unwind and enjoy some quality time with your partner. You go home on Friday evening, ready to get your mind off of work and chill out. Saturday morning comes and you want to sleep in, linger over breakfast with your partner, have some afternoon activity planned and go to a movie and dinner. Your partner wants to get up early, clean out the garage, go to Lowe’s and begin the home project that you have had on your “to-do” list for several months. Add in some unwanted social or family obligations and the recipe is complete for a blow up. The ensuing fight with your partner resembles the perfect storm, lasting the rest of the day and well into Sunday. In fact, by the time you cool down, it’s time to go back to work. This results in the Monday morning phone call to the therapist’s office because you and your partner “fight constantly” “can’t connect anymore” or “have grown apart”. Does this sound familiar?
Let’s look at the expectations that the couple has for the weekend- one partner wants to relax, the other sees the weekend as a time to catch up on everything that didn’t get finished during the week. Expectations in relationships begin when we take our own beliefs and experiences and project them onto our partner, believing that they will happily live up to those standards and values. We assume that they feel and think the same way that we do, and when they behave in a manner that contrasts with our expectations, we feel angry, betrayed and confused. These feelings of anger and hurt can result in a sense of disconnect, creating arguing and resentment in the relationship.
Good, skillful communications are the solution to the problem of expectations in a relationship. Here are some tips to enhance your communication skills with your partner.
1. Ask your partner for what you want and need. Couples who can do this are pleasantly surprised with the results.
2. Listen to your partner- without rejecting their opinion.
3. Model the communication that you want to receive in return- speak with respect and friendship
4. Learn to negotiate and compromise with your partner
Spend some time on developing these communication skills and you will see a difference in your relationship. Couples who communicate their wants and needs to each other will have a better chance of enjoying the weekend, and not being a “weekend warrior”.