I am 47 years old (about to be 48 in a few days) and have recently discovered something that was missing from my life.
Yep, you guessed it, expectations and boundaries.
Having grown up in an abusive, dysfunctional, and chaotic environment, I was never taught how to exist any other way.
Healthy relationships exist and are defined by the expectations and boundaries that are set by each person. We all have our “must-haves” and deal breakers, or at least, we should. However, when you grow up in an unhealthy environment, boundaries and expectations simply don’t exist; you are literally just all about survival.
So, despite having one too many expectations of myself (yes, this is the curse of being an overachiever), I virtually had no expectations of others in my life, which has caused me to attract toxic, one-sided relationships where none of my needs have been met.
I am currently working on this.
My personal and “intimate” relationships have been chaotic, one-sided, toxic, and painful to say the least. They all start out and end the same. Sadly, I had this notion that I had to be absolutely perfect and self-sufficient, otherwise, I was not lovable. Crazy right?
The problem with this thinking is when you are too busy trying to be perfect—which is impossible, by the way—you are also setting unrealistic expectations with your partner, which leaves no room for vulnerability or for you to just be yourself. You are setting a precedent that you will never be able to change.
Also, when you have no expectations of a partner, you end up giving everything and receive nothing in return, which is exactly how you structured things. The truth is, you have created this relationship dynamic, for whatever reason, maybe out of the need to have control, or maybe you simply don’t believe you deserve more.
No matter the reason, having zero expectations of others oddly provides you a safety net. If you expect nothing, you won’t be disappointed when you receive nothing. More craziness.
Existing like this is completely one-sided and can be quite lonely, not to mention emotionally draining. When you continuously give, receiving next to nothing in return, you are basically the only contributor to the relationship. You are sending the message to yourself and your partner that you are not worthy of more.
Over time, this can wear on your soul.
You may tell yourself that you are happy with things the way they are. By continuing to exist this way, you believe you have some sort of control because you rely on him or her for nothing. You are completely independent.
The truth is, all you have done is isolate yourself in an empty relationship. This type of dysfunction will catch up with you! Over time, feelings of resentment creep in. Truly at no fault to your partner since you taught him or her early on that this is what you are willing to accept. So how could you expect them to change, when you have zero expectations of them to be anything more than what they are right now?
This situation won’t ever change unless you do!
This is fear-based behavior. When you live in a place of fear, you are constantly afraid of losing something. In my case, my biggest fear was if he knows I am not perfect, he will leave.
How sad is that thought process! Because the truth is, no one is perfect.
So for me, I am personally on this amazing journey of preparing myself for a healthy and happy relationship. The first step after knowing what I really want from a partner and a relationship is to set boundaries and expectations of myself and them. I am working to determine my “must-haves” and “deal breakers” and figuring out exactly what it is that I myself am capable of because that is a big piece of the puzzle as well.
Truth be told, this is kind of fun for me because I am obsessed and love healing work.
Below, I have listed a few of my expectations of a relationship; some are quite simple (see if any resonate with you):
- Emotional maturity and availability
- Communication (mature and effective)
- Support (this one is huge for me)
There are more, but this is a good start. I don’t think I have experienced even one of these in my two marriages and multiple relationships. Okay, maybe I did experience “fun,” but only at the expense of my integrity and morals most of the time.
There is always a cost, isn’t there?
So I empower you to ask yourself—do you have expectations of the important people in your life? Your husband, boyfriend, children, coworkers, boss? If not, start thinking about what you want those expectations to be and jot them down.
I am also working on this in my professional life. What are the realistic expectations that I have of myself, my staff, coworkers, my boss, and the company as a whole? I am evaluating where I am able to improve those relationships and how to reset those boundaries and expectations.
The truth is, we really do teach people how to treat us. If we allow negative behaviors, we are telling them that it’s okay to treat us poorly. However, if we set boundaries, and we don’t accept certain behaviors, we are training people to treat us the way we feel we should be treated and the way we deserve.
Some of this is so simple you almost can’t believe it takes so long to just “get it.” Seems like common sense, doesn’t it?
I would love to hear from you if you are in need of setting boundaries and expectations—where are you lacking in the process?