• Michelle Barsky

Overcoming Pressure from Ideals and Expectations that Don’t Align with Your Relationship


Whether it’s your culture or your family members with traditional ideals, being on the receiving end of strict expectations can be overwhelming—especially when you don’t feel it’s right for your relationship. Perhaps there are certain wedding ceremony traditions you don’t agree with. Maybe you’re not interested in following the “nuclear family” pattern.


Your family may be upset by you straying from these ideals. It may make you feel guilty. Some people may concede and end up going with what’s expected and feel bitter about it later on. Acquiescing and bottling up feelings to let them fester will not only affect your relationship with yourself, but with your family and your partner.


Ultimately, the way you navigate your relationship and how you choose to approach life as a couple is up to you.


Here are some things to keep in mind if you're having feelings of guilt or pressure related to traditional ideals.

Know That There’s Nothing Wrong with You

You are allowed to live your life the way you want. This includes how you approach marriage, whether you want something untraditional, or don’t want to enter the institution of marriage at all. That’s up to you and your partner.


It’s easy to feel guilty for not following the script. People’s questions, concern, or even outrage may make you begin to question yourself. “Is this right? Am I wrong for not wanting the “norm”?”


There is nothing wrong with doing things your way. You are no less of a person, nor is your outlook invalid.

Set Boundaries

While you might want your family involved in the big day or want to turn to them for advice, at the end of the day, your relationship is no one else’s business.


If people try to insert themselves into the dynamics of your relationship, set a boundary. Express that you know how important tradition is to them, but emphasize that a different way works better for you and you would appreciate support. If your relationship is the subject of unsolicited advice, express that while you appreciate the care, you are happy to navigate things your own way and will reach out when you want some input.


Establishing a boundary here is important and goes a long way in relieving you of guilt and stress. When other people stop making it their problem, you’ll feel better.

Focus on You

Often, external pressure from traditional ideals can put strain on your relationship. You might be so focused on fielding the pressure that you don’t have time to focus on your relationship. You might argue more and communicate less.


It’s important to take steps to not only reduce stress and guilt, but to keep communicating effectively with your partner. Like said above, your relationship is no one else’s business. Allow yourself permission to let go of feelings that you’re letting your family culture down. Discuss as a couple how this makes you feel and talk about how you’ll approach expectations as a united front.


Be there to support each other. Make sure to actively listen to each other’s frustrations and concerns. You are each other’s advocate. Take time to lay out what you both think is important for your relationship, expectations aside.

Get Support

If you still find that your boundaries are being crossed or you don’t yet have the confidence to set them, a therapist can help. They can help you work through your thoughts and feelings and help you come up with productive ways to address expectations you’re not interested in filling.


You deserve to be happy in your relationship and within yourself. Reach out today to learn how therapy can help you manage.


For more information on therapy to treat anxiety stemming from others' expectations, click the link!