The Covert Killer of Relationships

How to avoid this pitfall and improve your relationships.

“Expectation is the root of all heartache” is a phrase not to be taken lightly. Often we feel like this saying in terms of romance applies more to the beginning of a relationship when we are unsure of how things will evolve.

But not setting expectations, especially with your partner’s time is something that should be considered throughout the relationship and to be very much kept in mind when you move in together.

Time is precious. We know that. We get upset if someone disrupts our time by being late to meet us or rearranges appointments. When people we care about don’t make time for us, we feel less valued. We appreciate it when our friends and family with very busy schedules prioritise us when they could be with their children or working on their new business.

When we are dating, we invite one another to spend time together. We seek to know if that person’s schedule and then plan dates around them. When we become comfortable in our relationship, there is a point where we start to stop requesting permission for time. Here is when time starts to become assumed.

At first, having a routine can be cute. You know we always go to THAT market together on a Saturday morning. But we aren’t always free to do these things with our significant others every week. One partner might want to spend this time cultivating a hobby or even having some space to themselves after a tough week. They might even be invited to an event but feel like they can’t go and needs to stick to their couples routine.

This partner starts to feel like their time becomes taken for granted, and that is when a drift occurs — a slow drift.

When our free time becomes hallmarked by someone else and isn’t appreciated, a slow feeling of resentment grows. We feel like our liberty is taken for granted. Not only that but something that was once a cute ‘us’ thing can start to feel routine and mundane.

If we fear cancelling to spend time doing something else because our partner may feel betrayed, this is a sign of codependency in the relationship. We are changing our behaviour to accommodate someone else’s feelings at the expense of our own. Our partner should not feel abandoned when we spend time away from them.

Assuming time is especially dangerous territory when we move in with a partner. Previous physical barriers to spending time with one another are removed. In the same space, there is more visibility of what each other is doing and when.

Issues can arise when one or both partners start to think that all their free time should now be shared and spent together. Personal breathing space diminishes. Everything becomes a compromise, and individuality and respect of each other’s personal space start to erode. The time when there were invitations to be with one another has disappeared.

These lack of boundaries with time are dangerous because this is when discontentment with the routine of your living situation starts. Most people are unaware of this happening as it is so gradual it seems like they are behaving as one would in a committed relationship.

But when a dissatisfied partner is asked if there was a certain point when they started to feel pessimistic about the relationship, they are likely unable to pinpoint when as these kinds of mental shifts and changes in behaviour happen subtly.

You are still able to nourish a healthy sense of being in a partnership and also respect your individual needs and boundaries over time when living with your partner.

Rather than taking for granted that you will both watch that TV series you have been watching together that night, ask them if that’s what they want to do? Start asking your partner ahead of time if they’d like to do something on a Friday night even if that thing is something that is home-based like cooking a meal.

This respect for one another time and boundaries doesn’t need to be planned ahead. It could be as simple as when you see your partner chilling in the living room, and they look immersed in a book or a film ask if you can join them.

The simple words “Can I join you?” shows respect for an individual's space.

Sometimes I just want to watch an easy show on Netflix and mindlessly scroll through my Instagram without talking to anyone. I don’t want to discuss what documentary to watch or feel like I should be having a quality conversation with my partner, and I know this works both ways. If my partner or anyone invites themselves into my space doing that time, I feel agitated.

We do not need to be doing something that is deemed as important such as working in our office or on a conference call to be left alone.

Not expecting one another’s time, and having a healthy respect for each other’s time boundaries makes us appreciate the time spent with our partner more. There is a higher chance of more effective communication and improved quality time. It lessens the chances of codependency and feelings of abandonment fear that can arise when all our free time is monopolised. It also gives us time to enrich our lives with other hobbies and interests. This time spent away from our partner results in more engaging topics of conversation when together.

So now it’s time to think: have you started to assume your partners time or does your partner assume your time? If so, try to change this behaviour. Invite your partner to spend time with you and vice versa ask if you can spend time with your partner. This way of thinking should be embedded in all our relationships, not only our romantic ones.

When time is not expected and given from a genuine want of connection, this is when unexpected magic has space to enter our relationships, and our connections strengthen.

Stop assuming others time and see how your relationships develop.

Freelance writer. You can find me reading under a palm tree in Rio de Janeiro. E-mail:

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store