Expectations. We all have them.
Have you ever found yourself feeling sad or disappointed in a relationship and not known why? With a little reflection, you may realize you had an expectation about something or someone and didn’t even know it. And neither did they.
To help bring awareness to your expectations, take some time to explore what your expectations are and how you acquired them. Often times, we pick-up messages about what relationships are suppose to be like and how we should be treated by others from movies, TV, family, and friends. If we don’t take time to consider our expectations, then we may accidentally adopt other people’s expectations that simply don’t work for our relationships or for us.
Unmet expectations can be detrimental to a relationship. Expectations can feel overwhelming and uncomfortable to the organic flow of relating to another person. If we have expectations of others and are really attached to the outcome, then we can engage in power struggles by using manipulation or control tactics to get our way. This strategy often leads to conflict and unhealthy dynamics where partners do not feel free with one another, do not act authentically, and most importantly may not communicate honestly with each other.
Coming to the realization that your partner cannot live up to your expectations or ideals can be devastating. Couples can feel disappointed, frustrated, betrayed, or resentful and move to end the relationship because of unmet desires and unfulfilled expectations.
SO… What can you do?
1. Own it.
That’s right- Take ownership for your needs and desires! The truth of the matter is – we know what we need better than anyone else. Ultimately, it is our responsibility to get our own needs met. If we give our ownership to others (by expecting others to magically know what we need and give it to us) than we can feel dependent, powerless, and misunderstood. Taking ownership also inspires action. We realize we have the power to create change. Also, we have the opportunity to nurture ourselves in the ways that we need it most. This is a difficult practice, but it can be very empowering.
Yep. Communication is KEY. Express your needs, desires and expectations to your partner. No one can read your mind. Have you ever consciously expected something from someone, but didn’t voice it? Usually, this is a recipe for disappointment and resentment. How is someone suppose to know what you want if you don’t tell them? Even if they get it right once in a while, it sets up a dynamic where two people are operating on assumptions, which leads to miscommunication and frustration. Get in the habit of making your needs known and stop expecting those around you to read your mind or “Just know” how you feel and what you need.
3. Speak Up.
Sharing your needs and desires with your partner may seem scary and vulnerable because it requires you to open yourself up and acknowledge that you have needs – this can make you feel vulnerable to the other person. What if they don’t care enough to meet your needs? But, what if they do? Imagine being able to ask for what you need in a clear and clean way (to own it, without making it someone else’s responsibility) and then to receive it from someone who genuinely wants to give it to you. This can truly be a transformational experience and a doorway to deeper intimacy. By taking ownership of our needs, desires, and expectations, we can work with our partners. We can help teach them what works and doesn’t work for us, and then we have the opportunity to learn and grow together.
Give people the benefit of the doubt. Usually, people are doing the best they can. And your partner probably loves you in the best way he/she knows how. This is important to remember when you are holding your partner up to an expectation or an ideal of yours. It may be helpful to consider, the question “How would I respond to the situation if the roles were reversed?” This is often easier said than done, especially when one feels hurt and protective. Trusting someone and giving them the benefit of the doubt can be extremely difficult if you have experienced a lot of hurt and betrayal. It is important to keep track of your wants and needs. If you are taking responsibility for your needs, then you will be more likely to take care of yourself and not harbor resentments in your closest relationships.
When opening up to your partner, if you feel a strong negative reaction, feel threatened, or really self-protective- than this may be a good indication that you have underlying hurts carried over from your younger years. These hurts will DIRECTLY impact your current relationships unless you deal with them. There are many opportunities to heal and grow, through self-help books, articles, groups, and psychotherapy. It’s never too late to learn new skills and to start practicing them. Your love-life may actually depend on it!
Allowing space for people to meet you in the best way they know how can be a truly satisfying experience. When we lift our unspoken expectations off of our partner, share with them what we need in a genuine way and then step back and allow them to meet some of these needs we might be genuinely surprised and happy with how things go. Try and practice allowing things to happen in a new way and you may get new results you are very pleased with.