Expectations–We all have them.
We have expectations of ourselves that can sound limiting like this…
–“I could never do that! That’s above my paygrade!”
Or our expectations of ourselves can run on the positive side like this…
–“Doing that will be a piece of cake and not hard at all.”
While these can certainly trip us up and blindside us…
The expectations that really create havoc are the ones we have about other people–especially those closest to us.
For instance, take Rhonda.
A few years ago, she joined one of our online communication courses because she and her long-term boyfriend didn’t seem to be on the same page about anything, especially about family gatherings.
She came from a large, close family who celebrated every holiday and birthday together and she loved those gatherings.
But it seemed that her boyfriend always had some excuse why he couldn’t go because of work or he didn’t feel well.
She was frustrated, felt ignored, didn’t feel appreciated or loved and was embarrassed to always show up alone.
In the session about expectations in our course, Rhonda saw something new about her relationship and her boyfriend.
She realized that she had just assumed that he should want to go with her to these family get-togethers…
That since they were a “couple,” he would want to spend his Sundays with her and her extended family.
And she’d been always disappointed in him and their relationship when her expectations weren’t met.
Here are a few things she realized about expectations…
1. Don’t assume.
We make assumptions because even though we know it’s not true…
We think others think the way we do, believe what we do and want what we want.
Not so. We’re all so different.
When Rhonda allowed her judgments of her boyfriend and all the “shoulds” to die down in her mind…
She realized that she had never asked him if he’d like to go to these gatherings with her.
She’d never told him how important family was to her and how she really wanted to be part of their get-togethers.
She had just assumed that he knew all of that about her and that if he loved her…
He’d go with her and like it.
It suddenly dawned on her, that he didn’t have the same family values that she did and that she’d been making him wrong for it.
2. Make a request and listen.
A request isn’t a vague suggestion or an assumption that the other person should know what you want.
It’s asking for what you’d like and we’ll add the caveat of really listening to the answer and not having any expectations about it…
Which can be the tricky part.
The truth is that the other person may or may not want to do what you want but if you listen to one another…
Just like the Rolling Stones said, “You’ll get what you need.”
When Rhonda asked her boyfriend to go with her to a family picnic the following Sunday, she added that she really wanted to hear what he wanted.
At first, he wasn’t sure he could be honest but then he saw that she really did want to hear what he wanted.
He told her that he liked her family but that he was uncomfortable in large gatherings with so many people.
When Rhonda didn’t make him wrong and react negatively, he went on to tell her that on Sunday’s he liked to relax and that wasn’t relaxation to him.
To Rhonda’s credit, she listened and understood where all his excuses had been coming from.
She realized that he hadn’t wanted to disappoint her and didn’t trust that she could hear his truth.
3. Allow a resolution and next action to arise.
When you suspend judgment, assumptions and expectations, your next actions arise naturally.
When your mind isn’t focused on one solution, other solutions can emerge.
With the pressure off to attend all the family gatherings, Rhonda’s boyfriend chose to go with her once in awhile to the smaller ones.
Since this wasn’t a deal breaker for their relationship…
In her mind, Rhonda made it okay that she go alone to the gatherings she wanted to attend and some Sundays, they planned to relax together.
If assumptions and expectations are getting in the way of love in your relationship…
Know that the first step is recognizing that it’s happening and then you can make another, more loving choice.