The Queer Joy Podcast; two relationship therapists exploring what it looks like to see joy in queer relationships.
Expectations might not be what you expect! In this episode we discuss how to set expectations around sharing time together, household chores, communication styles, expectations for yourself, and, of course, sex.
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Keely: When we're thinking about us being responsible for our own feelings, our own emotions. When someone breaks or doesn't fulfill an expectation, where's that line between us taking accountability for management of our own emotions and sincerely talking about how someone affected us, how someone's actions affected us, *intro music* Hello, everyone. Melisa: Hello. Welcome back. Keely: Welcome. My name is Kelly Helmick. My pronouns are they them. I'm a white queer sex therapist, also co-owner of Connective Therapy Collective and able-bodied. Melissa, you want to quickly introduce yourself again? Melisa: Absolutely. My name is Melisa. I am a licensed therapist with Connective Therapy Collective. I am a cis white bisexual female. Polyamorous... able-bodied as well. And again, there may be some specifiers I am missing, but there are a lot of things that I am. Keely: Yeah, I forget. Yeah. And I didn't say I'm fluid relationship wise. I have been polyamorous in the past. Non-monogamous. Currently in a monogamous dating situation the status of our relationship keeps changing, which is a great intro to our topic for today about expectations. Okay. So expectations, I mean, what are expectations anyway? What, like what we think someone else should be doing? What do expectations mean in relationships? And I don't think this is a queer, this is not a queer specific view. Always are talking from a place of queer relationships. And I mean, this comes up. All types relationships, including non-romantic relationships. I think it's just more evident in our romantic relationships. So the reason Melissa, I brought this up and you and I were talking of course, cause we always chat beforehand for those that don't know, we tend to do chats. I think that's normal with people chat. If you're going to talk on a episode or a podcast or something. Talk before you huddle up and then you go, you know, you go into the motion and sometimes you wish you could have just recorded what you're talking about beforehand. Cause it sounded really good. And then you're start recording and it doesn't quite sound as good as it did, Melisa: but that's us managing our expectations for the finished product of the podcast. Keely: That's managing expectations. Is that what I do as a therapist is that what I supposed to do as a couples therapist is manage everyone's expectations, managing expectations of myself. So, scenario, do you I'm going to set up the scenario. The reason why we want to talk about this topic is clients coming in and saying, this is, and this was a monogamous couple monogamous, queer couple who came in and said my partner said that they would do this and they didn't, and they're not meeting expectations. What, what should I do? Somebody isn't meeting my expectations. That was it. That, that wasn't the main point. It's like a couple talking to me as a therapist and like, well, my partner didn't meet my expectations, so what am I supposed to do? And I'm like so you're looking for an answer to that. And part of me is like, well, is that your job? Or , are you their parent? I, I didn't know how to answer it. And so I really been mulling this over of these predetermined ideas that we have of, what does an expectation mean in, in a romantic relationship? Yeah. Melisa: Yeah. And where is the place for expectations and, and you had brought this up Keely as we were chatting, but maybe there's a reframe needed or a different word to use. Because when I hear expectations, I can't help, but go to sort of a cognitive behavioral mindset of, it sounds like a should statement in, in hiding. Like you should. I have the expectation that my partner should do X, Y, and Z every time this happens, you know, and number one, those expectations come from. You know, I'm certainly guilty of having lots of expectations of relationships, which I think is once again, if you've listened to any of the other episodes, part of a beam of why I am in very different kinds of relationships right now. And, and yeah, which ones do you get to talk to? , what are the agreements you can come to with a partner? Rather than having the set of rules that either one has to follow and then for what too feel loved to feel validated. What are they for? What's the purpose of expectations? Is it about one's personal safety? Those are the kinds of questions that I, I like to get into in sessions with folks. Keely: So, so part of what you're saying is, is taking apart or deconstructing what. What this, even what an expectation even is. And I think the, you touched on and what I finally, I mean, I've been thinking about this for weeks so I'm like, oh, this is coming up again and again, and again more than even sex is coming up in these couples sessions right now is, is expectations. I'm like, oh, wait a minute. These are things based on this idea that there was no mutual agreement. So it's like, oh, I have this expectation of you, but I never really told you. So oh, by the way, you just read my mind, I forgot that you mentioned that too. When you first started dating and it's almost like this post consent agreement, like we have the sex, you know, a sex consensual talk. But then when we have these relationships or when we talk about outside of the sexual pieces, these expectations, or even, I mean, sexually too expectations, they're not mutually agreed upon. Melisa: Right We can fall into this trap of assuming that everyone else knows exactly how we want to be treated at all times. And that's just not the case. I mean, half the time I feel like the work is knowing individually how we want to be treated so we can communicate that, which that's where the work is for some folks, myself included in that category. And when you're talking about agreements too, I think part of that has to be the conversation about what happens when these agreements aren't met. Similar to in couples therapy, I'm off often talking to people in the first couple of sessions, normalizing conflict. Okay, conflict's going to come up. So what are we going to agree to do when that happens? So that we're we're, front-loading it, you know and similar with expectations, even if there's agreements that are made, we're human, right. Things come up. We are not perfect. And we have our own set of trauma responses that often dictates behavior before we have a chance to think about it or understand what's happening. So what's the agreement about when these quote unquote expectations are not met? Keely: Yeah. So that's the piece of , oh, well, what I do, this person didn't do this thing. They did not meet my expectation. What should I do? That's what, that was the question I was asked as a therapist. And it was like, well, how do we talk about our own boundaries and what we're asking for? But if we have, if we expect someone to be a certain way without asking or without request. Then how do they know that's what we want or that's our desire. That's and then there's this like, oh, well, you know, it's just the social norm. It's like, okay. But social norms are dictated by white cishetero monogamy. And so then that's what really shifts and confuses , oh, you should just know. It's like, well know what. Because if someone has a vulva, that means that they're a woman, which means that they want flowers on the first date?, like, or opening the door or paying. I mean, we could deconstruct this and, you know, paying for who pays for the meals. You know how often, I mean, I definitely fall into that category. Sometimes I remember not knowing I had a person I was dating and they were newly out. She was newly out and she, she always paid for me and it was one of my first full, long-term relationships with a woman in my adulthood. And she just paid. I was like, oh, that's really nice. And then at some point I think it was six or eight months into the relationship. It was like.. . She almost always pays for me. And then she tells me later that she was resentful of that. And I was like, oh, what? She's like, well, I thought I was just supposed to pay. I'm like, why are you the one that's supposed to pay? And it was like, oh, cause, oh, cause she's the more masc identifying. It was like, whoa, this social norm. And she was also from Texas. So she had all these interesting in social norms, me being from Oregon. Very different. But there are these ingrained things. And that to me was very cisheteronormative because she's like more masc looking or masc presenting. And so she just always thought she had to do it and then she'd built. And that's the other piece that we didn't bring up is the buildup of resentment too. Not meeting unspoken expectations. Melisa: Right. Right. Absolutely. And it's the resentment can really. I mean, that can be so toxic. I think anyone who has had experience, I can really break a relationship. And, you know, as you were talking about that, it makes me think of expectations, almost as assumptions. Yes. We're just, there are these unspoken agreements that we've never actually talked about. But it's an assumption, you know, and that can happen with behavior. It can get very, I, I know I fall into this camp in relationships. If I do that, you're going to do this for me. And I'm not going to have to request it or say, that's why I'm doing this thing. It's just going to be this unspoken reciprocal thing so that I feel good. But again, this is all from my perspective and only in my awareness, unless I actually communicate this to a partner. Keely: And so where does it even come up to even start? I mean, I think that's where they're , there's, I mean, there's so many advantages to that's the poly dynamic, because I find when I'm in poly dynamics or non-monogamy, and with the couples that I work with, folks that I work with who are practicing non-monogamy. There is more agreement set up just like BDSM kink, like with consent. There's , okay. The norm, the norm, this is hetero mono and monogamous norm is to not talk about the things, to have more assumptions and less agreements and outwardly there's, you know, for, for well done, consensual BDSM. There's a lot more boundaries and agreements from the beginning. And with non-monogamy, there's set up in a healthy way, much more overt agreements and expectations that are talked about before hand, you know, whereas people just think someone's cute and started hanging out with them and have sex and all of a sudden know all the things, if they're supposed to, supposed to be doing quotations, right. Melisa: And so much of those things tend to be based on the title. Like now that we're in a relationship now that we're Facebook official you know, now I have these expectations. I know I went through that after marriage, you know, as much as we had talked about deconstructing marriage and having it be, you know, a reflection of our relationship, not, you know, the norm, whatever that is. Still, still, there were expectations on me as a wife, on my ex as a husband. And I think you're right, that, that there are communities who are kind of getting this right in front loading, like, okay, let's talk about these things. Even some dating sites, you know, when you talk about the pain some of the sites will literally ask what happens when you get a check who pays, you can kind of front load these conversations, but then there has to be the check-in built in. We change. These things aren't going to be, if we make the assumption that the initial expectations are still going to stand five years down the road, maybe not. Maybe there needs to be room for fluidity and checking in on these agreements. Keely: Yeah. Well, isn't that? I mean, that's the thing is like checking, relationship check-ins. I guess, this ties into this idea, or when we're thinking about us being responsible for our own feelings, our own emotions. When someone breaks or doesn't fulfill an expectation, where's that line between us taking accountability for management of our own emotions and sincerely talking about how someone affected us, how someone's actions affected us, Melisa: Right. Yeah. And it is, it's bringing it back home, you know? Looking internally and going, especially when we get triggered that's when I think about it, when strong emotions come up, we notice anger, resentment frustration. It's an opportunity to self-reflect a little bit and say, was there an expectation I had that wasn't met? Is that something I need to resolve internally? You know, is that, is that an unrealistic expectation? Or is this something I do want to communicate to my partner? And then it sounds so basic, but I find myself talking about , I statements. Own that! I had this expectation. You did this to me, you did this, you did that. And sometimes people take the little tips from the therapy and they go, you did this. So I feel this way. Keely: Wait, that's a thought, Melisa: right? Yeah. Keely: So between feeling and Melisa: thought, right, right. So there's, that's why I say take it home. I made it, I mean, taking the ownership over our own emotions and our own experience. Keely: Yeah. And so I think you clearly were talking about what you do with clients that are already in in session, but they're already in a relationship they've already had these assumptions and going forward. What is this? I'm, I'm thinking about what a relationship or someone, if there's like a takeaway, like what's the relationship, Melisa: what makes it work? What's working with Keely: expectations. I mean, is the idea, you know, and I think there's sometimes this fantastical or this idea of relationship and anarchy. Well, there's absolutely no expectations, but even within that dynamic, there are certain ideas of how to be respectful or how to communicate. So there's still these agreements. So I don't think we've come up with it. I just want a different word than expectation. Yeah. I think about as parenting of expectation of like at a job with expectations of somebody, or we have expectations that are set out for us I just want to hear the expectations altogether and have a different word and have a different word. I Melisa: have a different word and start that conversation early. I feel like that's what works is when these things are not brought up because harm has been done. But when they're brought up at the beginning of starting a relationship again, whether that's free, you mentioned it earlier. Even friendships, I've just connected with somebody, you know, on an online platform. And we kind of had a lengthy first two responses as we were getting to know each other's dynamics. And then I didn't hear from them for four days and just peaked and got a message. And they were so apologetic. You know, like, Hey, sorry, it's been so long, but then really named, like, this is kinda how I am. As a friend, I go dark a couple of days. You know, then I'll respond to pick up right where we left off. And I mean, first and foremost, that works for me cause that's how I communicate as well. But again, it was a conversation right from the jump, which is so helpful because now I can manage my own assumptions about what should happen and what shouldn't happen. So I think that's part of what works is not only to have conversations throughout the relationship, but right as you're starting to build one. Know how you operate as much as you can, and then communicate that so that somebody can decide whether or not you're a right fit to be in a relationship with- whether it's a friendship or otherwise. Keely: Yeah. And I think of resources or I think about when, when having these discussions, for the people that are listening and they're like, okay, well what's the takeaway or how do I figure it out how to do this. I really recommend folks that are monogamous to take a look at some of the non-monogamy agreements and, and can use some of that as a loose template. Obviously some of those things aren't going to apply if you're monogamous, but just getting the conversation going around, what to expectations, how do we time manage? How do we share time? I mean, that's another thing comes up. Huge piece of expectations outside of, I don't even want to get dragged down into the whole, sharing household responsibilities, things live together. I just don't even want to go there. It's so monotonous, but, I think that things like time management or expectations around time together, time apart. Time with friends. I mean, I think we talked about this before, but that, that kind of discussion of how we manage that, that comes up really well in non-monogamy because when you have potentially more than one romantic partner or more than one person you're spending romantic or sexual time with the management, that discussion of time becomes or schedules. Is even more so than just if you're just dating one person or just in a relationship one person. Yeah. Yeah. Melisa: I think a great starting point. In addition to those kinds of non-monogamy agreements and foundations, just thinking about what expectations do we have for ourselves? Like really as a reflection question, what expectation do I have of myself? What expectation do I in myself as a partner or as a friend. And then do I have those same expectations for other people? I last because maybe, maybe not. But I think that's really valuable to know is what are we measuring people up against? Which I think is often our own inner critic. But then that's a good starting point. Like I said, there might be differentiation like for myself, I am a really ridiculously tidy pro we're getting the household stuff, but I we're ridiculously tidy person. And I do not have the same expectation that people that I live with are exactly as tidy as I am. I do have my limitations, which I try and communicate to people again, like, okay, I don't want. Dishes growing mold, you know? But I think those, that can be a good starting point is just looking again internally and , what are the expectations I hold myself to? And then am I assuming that everyone else must do this same? Keely: Yeah. Well, and then don't those expectations come from things that you want. Or desires, what is, I mean, I sometimes get into my head. I mean, I've been doing this work for 16 years and I'm like, what is even a relationship? What is a relationship? And like, what's the point of a relationship. I know going very dramatic here, but , what is, and so when you stop and slow down and reflect, I'm like, and what you're saying, Melissa is, is what are my expectations of myself? What am I looking for? What am I wanting? What do I want, you know, really it's what do I want my life to look like day to day? Yeah. It's a much more dynamic way to look at it than what's my list of things that people have to hit for me to be in relationship Keely: Check all my boxes. Oh yeah, yeah. Melisa: Yeah. What is the life you want to be living? Yeah. What do you, how can yours, like, how can you support your partner in that? How can your partner support you in that? Keely: Yeah. I mean, I have a really good friend. It's really beautiful actually. I mean, we'll see, you know, NRE right now, total NRE, but she had for years and years and years with like partner with these people and be like, oh, this is working well for now, but had never really understood how much her passion for adventure, certain adventure things, that not everyone does mountain climbing and scaling, doing all these things that not the average person does. And at first she was like, oh, I think that I don't, my partner doesn't have to do these things. But then as she noticed more and more, that relationship weren't working out because. She was spending so much time doing these things that she loves and her partners were like, were sad not to be around her, or had expectations that she would be home more with them. And the relationship didn't work out. Cause she's like, well, I have these things in. And so now when she figured this out, she really, you know, she started dating someone who was very cynical therapy. 40, try to therapist out that she recognized, like I really want to have a companion to do adventures with. So now she's dating this person. That is a volcano researcher, how perfect is that? It's amazing, but her, but she didn't even understand. So her partners actually had these unspoken expectations, , oh, you don't need to think of in this self-reflection. And then another piece to take away is, think about how much of your expectations are based on previous relationship. And thinking, this is the way it's supposed to be. My former partner did this, or this is how we did things Melisa: Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. It just check those things. Cause maybe not, maybe there is not as supposed to be. You know, we've talked about that with queer relationships before, let's just be fluid and differentiate based on the relationship we're in and what we want. Keely: Yeah. Create your own, the dynamic that the possibilities are endless. There's so many ways that humans can exist together in relationships. So let's, let's create. So I think that the takeaways, what we're both saying is, you know, for listeners who are utilizing this to, to try new things, Think of new ways to interact or bring it up to one of your partners is to really reflect on yourself and look at what it is that you want expectations that you have of yourself. So reflection of self noticing patterns that you may be assuming certain expectations based on previous relationships. And then really, if you either, if you're in a new relationship, Talking about agreements with these new partner. If you ha are in a long-term relationship or long-term relationships right now, revisit, or see it, ask your partner, what are our agreements or what, what things do we agree on? What talk to them, see what they say. Right in your experiences, let us know, like tell us if this works. Hopefully it doesn't cause arguments, but , you can also let us know that, what the hell I brought this up to my partner and they're really pissed off right now, or more likely tiny with queer joy. Tell us how these stories of how they got conversation sparked. Absolutely how that happened. Yeah. So speaking of queer joy, Melissa, what was your queer joy of the week? Melisa: Okay. This is actually, I'm glad we talked about expectations because it's kind of in line and I won't deviate too far from the queer joy, but just to expand on my relationship with my girlfriend in California. Talk about somebody who just expectation free, especially on me going through a divorce and a move and having someone who loves me and be like, okay, that's cool. No big deal, so amazing. And she, and I don't get to talk very often for lots of different reasons. So and there just was Keely: no, can I say real quick? Yeah. For it's straight listeners, we're talking about this is Melissa's romantic partner. One of, one of her romantic partners. Straight culture, women called girlfriends, all the things. I forget that I know Melisa: girlfriends, I am in love with her. She has been in my life for over a year, And wonderful. Our agreements are really awesome, I think. And we don't get to see each other very often. It had been about two months since I got to even FaceTime with her. And we had a date! And she treated me to like dinner and just get everything , you know, my head, they sent to my house and we did a movie, like watch party and it was so much fun. It was amazing. So that was my queer joy of the week. Keely: That's awesome. My queer joy of the week was getting to , hang out with my 13 year old queer child, and talk about queer things. And, oh my gosh. I mean, for those of you who don't have kids, let me tell you, I learn so much from her and listening. I learned, I don't even know. I mean, I'm not going to, I could go on for days, all the things she tells me about, but, but learning about the freedom of expression and the verbiage that queer youth. It's, it's just, it's amazing. And it fills my heart every single day when she talks about these things, it's just, and you know, not to get too mushy and go down too much of a, you know, showing my age like, oh, when I was in high school, but really. Part of why I wanted to do a podcast like this and talking about queer joy and documenting is, is this role modeling because I see, I get to firsthand, see young people and how different it is. And in that joy that they're, they still have challenging things, but not anywhere near the things that I experienced in high school. And w both I, and the things that I experienced were not even compared to so many many other youth. So that's my queer joy I is getting to talk all the queer things with the, my queer teenager. I love it. Melisa: The queer youth gives me so much hope, so much hope Keely: So awesome. Well, thanks everyone for listening today, please. Don't hesitate to write in any questions you have thoughts. If you have a topic you want to hear, or even a guest that you want to hear from, we. Are always loving these new guests that we're bringing in and get to hear either people by themselves talk about relationships we love seeing the couples and listening to couples and share their stories and their joys. So write us in, you can and follow us on Instagram at Connective Therapy Collective. Facebook, that Twitter, all the things. Check out our website. Thanks everyone.