View this post on Instagram
(Yes, any relationship!)
Have you ever noticed how we believe we can (and should) control the world? Think about it…
Somewhere in the back of our subconscious minds, we need other people to behave a certain way so that we can feel good, right?
We have so many rules for our relationships that we’ve stopped experiencing them. Instead, we’re locked into our expectations of how the relationship should be.
The secret is this: our relationship with anyone is dependent on our thoughts about them. This means that, in reality, our relationships are simply our thoughts about another person.
The big kicker here? Our thoughts about them are dependent on our expectations of them and how well they meet those expectations.
Here are a few simple truths about relationships:
>> We can’t have love for someone—we just have love when we think about them.
>> We can’t be mad at someone—we have thoughts that make us mad.
>> Someone can’t hurt us—we have thoughts that hurt.
These can be tough pills to swallow.
That’s why it’s is all about getting to know the other person we are in a relationship with—whether that relationship is romantic, platonic, or professional.
In order to get there, we wade through what our thoughts and expectations actually are—how to recognize them— and why we’ve got to eliminate them to truly move toward unconditional love, friendship, or respect.
See, I believe we are responsible for meeting our own needs.
My husband and I decided a long time ago that we didn’t want to be responsible for each other’s needs.
We wanted to take care of our own needs and try to enjoy each other’s company as much as possible.
We didn’t want the other person to be responsible for our happiness—and to do that, it’s important to note that we also need to know what makes us happy.
We were actually really good at that for a long time—many people would come up to me for relationship advice asking how I could “let” him be gone for a month at a time on an expedition, for example, and not be pissed.
“Doesn’t it bother you that he’s not here for you?”
“Nope!” I’d reply, “I’m cool with it. I have other things I do when he’s not around. I can go out with my girlfriends, write, read…I’m plenty happy being alone with myself.”
(Which reminds me: a healthy relationship also requires that we like being with ourselves.)
Anyway, it went on like this without much of a hitch…until we had a kid, and my expectations got added on.
To be fair, it’s not like we both didn’t expect anything to change. We spoke about how we thought it was going to change. (This was all a guess—we were the first in our close friend group in Alaska to have a kid and didn’t have great modeling in our own families).
He said he could be around as long as he could leave for a big international expedition once a year. I was cool with that.
We also made the mistake of agreeing he would be around for “the important things,” without qualifying what those were.
We agreed we’d take turns doing the “lame” jobs that gave us health insurance and alternate two years at a time.
So, I felt all my expectations for how he needed to show up were…reasonable.
After all, we had discussed them and agreed to them. Nowhere did it seem like I’d agreed to him paragliding five or six days a week, me spending a ton of time alone, and us going on vacations together only for him to be in the sky over half the time, leaving me stuck alone with a young child, not getting any breaks, and also working more than I ever had in my life.
Now you all might think, “Wow, that sounds sort of miserable.”
And it was.
It took me a long time to get over the fact that he was doing what he wanted. And that he, as an adult, gets to do that.
Not having my expectations met…those were thoughts that were causing me immense suffering.
I kept trying to force him to honor his promises. And well, you can guess how well that worked.
So, here is where learning how to set good boundaries and make clear requests comes in.
Did I want to be with this man, still? Assuming things didn’t change?
In all honesty, it took me a while to figure all that out, but I decided yes! If I could have a few things met.
I came up with my non-negotiables—not everything little thing that I wanted, but what would feel in alignment with my values.
Things like, “Well I can deal with you paragliding four days a week if it’s fixed days so I can expect them and plan around it. And yes, I get you’ll miss some good weather days, but as our therapist said, you can’t be married to the weather and a woman.”
And, “No, it can’t be Thursday through Sunday because I get to have my adventures with my friends, too.
If I’m going to work my butt off, I need you to do the grocery shopping, schedule the babysitter, yadda, yadda…”
So I got really clear about that and then said, “Hey, these are the things I need.
What do you think? Can you do this? If you want to—out of love, not out of fear—I’ll deal with my own sh*t to get over the other stuff.”
So, he thought about it and said yes. And he’s stuck to it ever since.
To this day—I asked him recently while I was prepping my podcast episode on this topic—he feels good about it because it’s clear to him how it is a loving thing to do for our family.
Once I got clear about what I needed, I made the requests, and then let him decide.
You see, we can’t control what another person does, or whether they want to honor our requests or not.
But we can make requests, and if people say no, then we take ownership over our own thoughts and how we are responding.
Now, I don’t want you to think all that happened overnight. It was a process that took years.
But we figured it out. And I want you to know that—even with a kid—this is possible to work toward.
So today, I invite you to lean into the process of letting go of your “manual” of expectations, of setting boundaries, and honoring the responsibility we carry to take care of ourselves.
Start out by asking yourself these three questions:
In what ways do I want to control other people? Why? Where does this come from within myself?
Real talk? We lose our power in a situation or relationship in which how we feel is dependent on someone else’s behavior.
Let’s change that.
Choose to focus your brain in ways that serve you. Choose to invest in your relationships in ways that feel good. Choose to shift your expectations and stand in your truth.
‘Cause one thing’s for sure—you won’t regret it.
If you’re down with becoming a relationship Jedi master, check out my podcast episode to learn:
>> What ‘The Manual’ is—and how to better understand the expectations we carry that dictate how we want others to behave (so that we can feel better).
>> How to stop trying to control other people—learn instead to control your mind and your response to how other people behave.
>> Why I believe we are responsible for meeting our own needs in our relationships.
>> Why you’ve got to know what makes you happy to do this work.
>> The two main things that have us compromise more than we need to in relationships.
>> How to stop denying yourself love when someone doesn’t follow your “manual.”
Or join my free Rebel Buddhist Facebook group and head to the video archives for more on everything from how to make friends as an adult, to loneliness, to creating boundaries, and tons of other juicy topics.