We have all read the memes, the Facebook statuses, and heard people talk about how their expectations were not fulfilled.
Life is not all sunshine and rainbows and sometimes unwritten contracts that we have with others are broken. I believe that is just life.
However, there are some expectations that would be silly to just let go of.
Expectations, such as that the guy coming from the opposite direction in traffic will abide by the law and stay in his own lane, or that the grocery store will open their doors according to the hours posted. These are not expectations that I am ready or willing to give up. No real thought goes into these everyday occurrences—even something as small as turning on the tap to brush our teeth in the mornings holds the expectation of flowing water.
Interrupting any of the above examples can cause us mild to severe irritation, depending on where we are at emotionally.
If we have children, we expect them to follow the rules we as parents have laid out. Children also have expectations that when they do test the boundaries, we will correct their behavior—-it’s hard to believe, but they honestly do.
We expect our friends to show up relatively on time when plans are made, and if too much time has passed and they don’t show up, we may worry and contact them to see if everything is alright.
We know that we arrive at work every day, do what is required of us and that we will get paid for this. Again, that expectation is in place and the rules are written to make this happen. Some of us even expand that expectation, believing that when we go above and beyond those job requirements, that a raise or promotion should be waiting for us.
We expect that our loved ones will treat us with respect and that the bonds we build and share will also be respected. We expect them to carry through with their end of the deal that we have made with each other, whether that be through marriage vows or just an unwritten agreement in a relationship.
We expect peanut butter to be in the jar labelled as such and chocolate chip cookies—not oatmeal raisin—to be in the package indicating so. These are but a few examples of the types of expectations we have and there are many more, but I think you get the picture.
So when I hear people mumble and groan about how they really shouldn’t have expected any better from a person or situation, I have to wonder where this thought is coming from, because to some extent, some expectations are justified. Some people believe that if they stop expecting things, their lives will suddenly be easy.
Do these people honestly believe their lives would be suddenly filled with sunshine and rainbows? Or do they feel that they personally do not deserve to be treated better? Would they honestly just shrug their shoulders after opening that package to find oatmeal raisin cookies and just be thankful they have cookies? I am not a betting person, but I’d place my money on a mild to moderate unpleasant response and maybe even at times an irrational response.
We shouldn’t have to lower our expectations unless they are unrealistic. Taking a good look at where our expectations lie may be more appropriate than giving them up altogether. We need to take a step back and examine why our expectations are not being met in relation to others.
One of the first things we should do is ask ourselves if we have communicated our needs with intention. If someone you feel has disappointed you has no clue what the expectations were in the first place, it is our responsibility to rectify this with open and honest communication. This should be done well in advance and not by means of a demand, but rather by discussing clean and concise guidelines that we personally have in place.
The next question to ask ourselves is if our expectations are based on reality or on “the potential.” In a simplified example, it is like asking a grade one child to be able to solve a math problem designed for a child in grade six. Eventually, that child will be able to solve that problem, but not at this point in time. Clearly our expectations are on the potential we see and not in the reality of the situation. This helps us keep in mind that it is through no one’s fault that our expectations are not being met.
I use that silly example but how often have we not looked closely enough at a situation and gotten upset at another person when in fact they were doing the best they could with the knowledge they had at that moment?
“I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” ~ Maya Angelou
Although we have unspoken expectations in our relationships, it is not in our best interest to allow these to stay unspoken—this will only set us up for failure. Communication that is open and honest is the key to not only exploring if our expectations are realistic but also an opportunity to set clear boundaries. To use the statement “if he/she loved me, they would know better” is not only the silliest thing ever said out loud but it is a breeding ground for failure. No one I know is a mind reader and our expectations need to be discussed.
By opening up the lines of communication, and being honest with each other, we are allowing an opportunity for personal growth—for ourselves and others. Maybe our expectations are unrealistic and this gives us a chance to adjust our thinking, if needed. If we truly loved that other person, less mind–reading and more talking is what needs to take place. Again, not in a demanding, demeaning way, but in a way that offers both parties the respect that is needed to grow together.
If, after we have talked and an agreement is reached, then you’ve made the expectations a reality and you deserve to have them met.
It is a give and take on both sides—one that could potentially save us a lot of heartache down the road in our relationships.
Author: Debbi Serafinchon
Image: via jRockness on Imgur
Editors: Catherine Monkman; Renee Picard