Managing Expectations vs Nurturing Expectancy
Many times our feelings of let-down, disappointment, anger, bitterness, sadness, frustration... - they are related to unmet expectations. Especially within our relationships with our partners.
How do we live a life of joy, happiness, and of feeling successful in our relationships when these feelings continue to show up, and because of unmet expectations?
Today we look at how the expectations in our relationships are destroying what we could have, if we could only learn the difference between expectations, and expectancy. We focus on some specific expectations that are common in relationships, and use them as examples to see how we can shift our mindset and learn to manage the expectations and nurture the expectancy.
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ACOUSTIC GUITAR # 1 by Jason Shaw https://freemusicarchive.org/music/Jason_Shaw
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I think it’s safe to assume that we’ve all had that feeling – the one where we’ve been looking forward to something, planning for something.
Maybe a wedding. Maybe a graduation. A first date perhaps. A special dinner.
We were expecting something.
And we were expecting it to go a certain way. We played it out in our minds. We played it over and over. When it would happen. How it would happen. How people would respond. The emotions. The conversation. The perfect timing of it all.
We had it all planned to go a certain way. A certain way according to our expectations.
We make them, our expectations, often subconsciously, not even realizing it. Until they are unmet. Making them may seem subconscious, but all the disappointment and letdown is very much present, isn’t it.
We aren’t as aware that we have expectations as we are that we have unmet expectations
And isn’t it true that much of the conflict we experience in our relationships is based on unmet expectations.
Is this it? Is this the episode where I share with you how to get others to live up to your expectations???
OH, ya, NO. Sorry. But that’s just not going to happen. We are going to talk about addressing and changing the feelings we have when people let us down by not meeting our expectations. But it’s not by addressing the problem partner… no. It’s going to be by addressing the expectations.
Don’t leave. It’s really good stuff. And we all need it. We do. And our relationships deserve it.
When we talk about expectations, what we’re really talking about are wishes, hopes, assumptions that something is possible and exists. We are hoping and wishing that the ideals we have in our mind are going to happen. And happen just the way we imagined they would, again, according to our wishes.
But sometimes, reality doesn’t live up to our expectations. We are left feeling disappointed, frustrated, sad, confused, stressed, exhausted from overworking and overthinking. We are left with cynicism, fear, and anger.
You know it’s true. You probably don’t have to go back very far into your memory to the last time you had high hopes for how something would go, and you were left feeling disappointed with the actual outcome.
And it’s often not hard to think of a time when that involved your partner or someone with whom you have a relationship with.
We walk away from whatever experience it was, with these feelings of anger or sadness or bitterness etc., because our expectations were left wanting?
Because we were let down when it didn’t all play out the way we planned.
I hate that feeling. I really do.
I’m sure you do too. And maybe you’re thinking right now that you have that feeling way too much. Too often you are let down, because your expectations were just too high, too much.
What’s the answer?
Is this where we get a bit snippy and say something like, “yep, my expectations are just too high for being surrounded by all these morons who just constantly let me down?”.
Slow down. Trust me, I know all too well how easy it is to jump from expectations, to disappointment, to blame.
Man, do I ever know that one. It’s been a signature move of mine.
But we have to be aware, and remember, that it’s not the lowly peasants in our life that are the problem… No. It’s the royal expectations that are too much.
Having a list of expectations alone are a problem. Believing your expectations will and should be met is a problem.
Having values and clearly knowing what they are is good. Having deal-breakers and knowing clearly what they are is important. But that’s about you. That’s about knowing yourself well.
Expectations are about someone else. Having expectations is about putting demands on other people to meet the demands of your wants from them.
The big problem here is that expectations do not allow for others to have a past, a history that may include trauma and difficult experiences. It doesn’t allow for error or crisis. It doesn’t leave room for growth and healing.
Relationships are not about making you happy. They are about living a life in which you have someone else to learn with, grow with, heal with, experience so much with.
And expectations don’t allow for all of those things. Because again, they are about hopes and wishes… which takes out the creative process and frankly, the responsibility of developing and building with one another.
With expectations, you want to take yourself out of having to do the work and put the work on someone else to meet your wishes of them.
Really, you are setting others up for failure. And you’re setting your relationship up for real difficulties when you see your partner as a failure.
If instead, you were focused on building, healing, growing, creating, developing…together, what a huge difference that would make. What a different way in which you would see your partner. They’d really then seem like a partner. And not so much of a project to grade.
They will be a partner you have influence in. And you’ve allowed yourself to be in a place where they can help influence you in and through growth and development.
What if, instead of expectations, you together set goals, within your relationship as to what you’d like to work towards.
Expectations are hopes that those goals are already in place, and you’d like to see the evidence of them. Expectations are assumptions that these things already exist and should be happening.
But setting goals and knowing it will take work from both of you to build what you’d both like to see, is a uniting way of hoping and wishing together, without the letdown when your partner or yourself needs a process to get there.
This is where I want to introduce a new word into our relationships, to take the place of the word expectations.
And the word is this…
Expectancy is having the hopes and wishes but without the details. It’s creating and growing and developing, just as we said, but without the timeline and all the personal preferences attached.
Expectancy still looks towards the future, and full of hope, but without the demand of the future unfolding just as you had planned it in your own mind. It allows another to be a part of it all. It does allow for the process it may take.
Expectancy is a perspective where we take all of our hopes and dreams, but hold them open handedly, saying, “this is what I’d really love… but I don’t know when and I don’t know how. I’m just excited and along for the ride, whatever this journey may look like”.
Expectancy allows for co-creation, co-operation, collaboration, cohesiveness. It allows us to work together towards common goals.
What it doesn’t allow for is forcing your partner’s reality to line up with your own.
Ya, I said it. All my panicking fellow control freaks, I said it. Expectations are all about wanting to be in full control of all the details of all the details. For yourself, your partner, your family your home, your finances,… everything!
Expectancy is about trusting yourself, trusting the process, trusting that you’ll be able to handle whatever may happen on this journey you’re taking together.
And some of you may have noticed that I didn’t include in there, “trusting your partner”.
And it’s for this reason, I’m not about to defend your partner and say that you need to trust them. I have no idea about that. You may say to me that you don’t trust them and have very good reason not to.
Ok. Not even going to argue about that. You may be right.
But I didn’t say it. I didn’t say you have to trust them. Maybe they have destroyed your trust. You’re working at building a future together and maybe someday trust will be restored, but today it isn’t there yet.
Gotcha. Like I said, expectancy is trusting yourself, trusting the process, and trusting that you’ll be able to handle whatever happens on this journey you’re taking together.
So don’t worry so much about your ability to entirely trust them. Because you’re focused more on trusting yourself to handle it, even if they betray your trust again, along the process of this journey.
I’m not saying learn to settle. And I’m not saying that you should learn to put up with less than you deserve. Don’t stay where you don’t want to be. But if you are committed to building a future with someone, we have to be careful that we don’t have expectations for our partner to be perfect.
And you know that you’ve done this when you are comparing them to others. Thinking your friend’s partner is so much nicer than yours. Your co-worker is a harder worker. Your neighbor is more fit and active and seems more fun. This is setting you up for all kinds of problems. Do you have goals together that can build on what you see in each other’s potential? Or do you have expectations that your partner is to be perfect.
Your partner will let you down. They will make mistakes. But is it along the journey of growing or is it in comparison to the expectations you had for them to be perfect. Those two differences bring with them a different set of feelings and perspectives. One is allowing for humanness. The other is demanding your ideal picture-perfect details become reality. And now.
We have to learn to celebrate our partner’s strengths while also elevating their personal goals for growth.
Did you notice that I said their personal goals for growth?
Ya, as much as you can have goals to work on together, you two, as individuals will still have personal goals for yourselves. And the objective here is to work on being the best version of yourself, and to encourage the best version of themselves – that they see – not what you have decided for them – not the potential you see in them – not the expectations you’ve set for them – but the best version of who THEY want to be.
It's not for us to project onto them who we think they could be. It’s for them to tell us who they want to be, how they want to be, what they want to do, how they want to do it… and encourage that. Those details. Their details. Not ours. Not our expectations.
And that goes very closely with the expectation that your partner should want the same things as you. Like you find out they would like a cat, but you have always been a dog person and now you’re questioning if they even love you at all.
And it’s not even about a cat or a dog, you just always figured they were the one. And now you find out here, you don’t want the same thing. And you’re upset. You’re disappointed. Because you expected them to be like-minded with you.
I like moving the furniture around at home. I like the change. Ian hates it. He likes to know that if he goes to sit on the couch, the couch will be there.
But, despite these differences, we’ve decided to stay together. Make it work.
Here’s the thing, we don’t look at each other’s differences as disrespect. They are just differences. We have different pasts, experiences, preferences. We can’t expect each other to want the same things.
Creating something together. That’s where we unite. We have an expectancy of going forward together seeing what unfolds and how.
They don’t want to get married when we do? Must not love us. Don’t want to move? Must not love us. Don’t agree on the same new vehicle choice? Can’t be love.
This brings us to another expectation we can find ourselves falling into. That if our partner really loved us, we wouldn’t have to say what we were thinking. They’d just know.
Oh boy. I have to break it to you… love doesn’t mean mind-reader. Someone can love you, quite genuinely, and still not be able to read your mind.
I know, sounds silly to say it like that, but isn’t it true that we’ve had times that we were so disappointed or angry because “they should have known” what I’d want or not want for a gift”. Or “where I’d want or not want to eat”. Or “that I’d be really uncomfortable if they did this or didn’t do that”.
They should have known. If they really loved me the way they say they do, they would have known.
Again, love doesn’t automatically give you the ability to read minds.
There must be communication. Love doesn’t send magical communication signals. Love communicates. It doesn’t hold the expectation for the other person to just know. That will again leave you disappointed and angry and sad.
Expectancy, on the other hand, is believing you will have a good relationship because you are willing and able to communicate with one another. It’s believing you will maybe get the gift you were hoping for, or go to the restaurant you love, or not end up in an uncomfortable position… because you’ve talked about these things. They are known.
Expectancy is knowing you’ll grow more and more connected, not because they love you enough to read your mind, but because you love each other enough to communicate back and forth.
We form expectations in our mind just based on a whole conversation alone. We plan it all out, from the beginning to the end, and then we are so mad because they didn’t follow the script we had written for them, in our head.
Or how about when something is bothering us. We have these expectations that our partner will SEE that we are upset, because we are acting obvious about it, and then they will mystically sense what is wrong and what we need.
And then we are so hurt and mad when they don’t react and say exactly what we expected them to.
What if, and this may be crazy, but what is we said something like, “I’m really hurt by what a co-worker said to me today, I feel like I need to talk it out with you. You up for that?”
“I’m just processing a part of our conversation last night. I’m quiet right now I know, but I promise you we aren’t having a problem between us, I’m just processing and need some time alone for a bit. I’ll join you soon, ok.”
That sure saves a lot of time and energy being upset and then upset because they didn’t notice we were upset. Or ask if we were ok. Or leave us alone instead of continuously asking if we were ok. All the while thinking, if they loved me, they’d know what to do and say. Surely.
Really, we can’t expect someone else to do the hard work of understanding us, without us being willing to explain ourselves to them in the first place.
And here is another expectation to be weary of in this space. Do not expect your partner to understand you right away. Do not expect them to understand what you meant as soon as you said it.
They do not have an auto-complete feature like your phone, where you start typing and it predicts your intended text and finishes your sentence for you.
Instead of expecting them to know what you are saying and completely understand what you mean, it’s our responsibility to articulate and communicate well. As much as is necessary for their understanding.
They wouldn’t just know what you mean if they loved you enough. They would know what you mean if you explained what you meant. That’s actually how it happens.
Lack of understanding does not auto translate to lack of love.
When we live out of expectations, instead of living out of expectancy, we set our relationship up for failure. We set our partners up to look and feel like failures.
But if I really see a future with this person, if I want to spend the rest of my life with them, why would I want to see them fail? Why would I want them to feel like they’ve failed?
We want the best for the people we love. The people who love us - want the best for us too.
And the best is never going to be demanding perfection or expecting someone to be who YOU think they should be.
The best is not expecting someone to read your mind, or to want everything you want, or understanding you better than you even understand yourself.
The best is living a life out of expectancy. Knowing you want to build a future with someone. You don’t know exactly how that will go, what it will look like, or the timing of it all. But you are committed to creating, building, and developing it with them.
I hope my future with my partner will be great. But it’s the journey of us creating it together that has my focus.
Consider today, where you can drop some expectations and instead, work to create something awesome, in an attitude of expectancy, with someone you love.
Next week you’re gonna hear from Jenny again, then Chris the week after and Bob the week after that. And then I’ll be right back here for another episode with you again.
Until then my friends, this is Tina saying good bye for now and we’ll speak again soon.