Part 2: It’s never about the Trash – Common Relationship Problems

Are you ready to begin altering your assumptions about your relationship so you can invite change into your life?  Yesterday we shared a few of the beginning steps to invite change to some of the most common relationship problems that couples experience. Today, we’re sharing a few more.

What’s the 1st step to changing your assumptions?

The next time your partner does or doesn’t do something that makes you unhappy, stop yourself before it turns from an action that did or didn’t take place, to a character definition: “He/she is so selfish, thoughtless, lazy.” Understanding that what you’re upset about is an action or lack thereof and that’s very different from who your partner is, is a great way to get off the road of assumptions and on the road of communication .

Common Relationship Problem #2: Your expectations

What happens next is that assumptions turn into expectations and this may further the problem. This is one of the most common relationship problems that keep couples stuck! Expectations come from assuming the other person knows what needs to be done even when that assumption is never communicated. Can you see how this is a set up for failure and frustration?

In the above example, the wife assumes her husband will take the trash out and she expects him to do it right now because it’s overflowing. After all, that’s what she would do! Her expectation just took her frustration up a notch because now, the trash isn’t being taken out and it’s not being taken out this minute. Her assumption that he would A) take the trash out and B) do it right now, especially if he loved her, is going to cause some fireworks in a matter of minutes.

At this point, the internal dialog is probably going something like this:

Wife: “Oooh, he knows how much I hate dealing with the trash and he’s just ignoring it (as she bangs pots and pans around, clearly upset). He is so selfish! I suppose I’ll have to stop cooking dinner and do it myself!”

Husband: “What’s her deal? I’m trying to stop worrying about this problem at work long enough to enjoy my dinner and a good conversation with my wife and she’s apparently mad at me and I don’t even know why. I hate that she’s so moody!”

Now both people are interpreting what’s going on inside the other person’s head and it’s neither good nor accurate.  This is a very common relationship problem that can lead to further miscommunication and misunderstanding.

To escape the assumptions and expectations trap, use your words and then practice confirmation.

Imagine if the scenario changed to this:

Wife: “Hi, honey! I would really appreciate it if you could take the trash out when you have a moment. That way, I can continue cooking dinner so we can sit down and relax with each other.”

Husband: “Sure thing.   I was thinking of doing it after dinner since we’ll have more trash after we eat and clean up. Also, I’m kind of preoccupied with something that happened at work today and need a few minutes to decompress.”

Now there’s an opening for some great dialog. She knows the trash is going out and he wasn’t ignoring it or her, and he can do this on his preferred time table, which is important to him. They also have the opportunity to discuss their day and have a richer conversation rather than an argument about trash.

The next time you’re feeling a situation start to escalate, ask yourself if either assumptions or expectations could be the problem. If so, take a moment to reassess the situation and communicate about it more directly.

Taking some time out now can save you tons of problems down the road!

How do you know if your relationship is “hanging by a string?” Download your free copy of 5 Critical Signs Your Relationship is on Life Support today!

About author

Dr. Jeff Kane
Dr. Jeff Kane

Dr. Jeff Kane is a Doctor in Marriage and Family Therapy and the founder of Relationships Unscripted. Over the past 20 years he has helped couples re-ignite their spark, passion and have great sex in their relationships. Learn more about the couples coaching programs, free webinars and Ask Dr. Jeff your burning relationship questions at

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