When we enter into relationships with expectations of how we think others should act, not only are we going to be disappointed, but we create conflict.
I’ve noticed a strange, albeit interesting, pattern in my Coaching practice. It seems as if specific issues that different couples are facing appear at my door all at the same time. Over the past few months, the common theme has been a disappointment when their partners are not living up to their expectations.
For many people, expectations are similar to watching a circus performer jump through a flaming hoop. Only in the case of relationships, the opening is so small that many if not all can’t pass through it and are subsequently burned. Basically, it’s a setup.
Here’s how expectations ruin relationships
People enter into relationships somehow thinking that they’ll figure things out as they go, trusting and believing that “we love each other, and we’ll figure it out.” The question I often ask couples is this: If you were planning to buy a business, would you not cross your t’s and dot your i’s before doing so, or would you just somehow trust it would all work out?
Expectations are really not the first issue or really the most important issue couples face, despite what they may think. The real issue is they never set up boundaries at the beginning of the relationship and then have the audacity to be upset when their partner doesn’t do something they think they should do, or in a way that they think should be done.
Every relationship I agree to support must have the conversations they’ve never had — and be willing to have them as needed for life! The following thoughts need to be shared. Find your own wording if need be.
- “Here is what I feel and believe about this.”
- “I am willing to do this. What is your thinking around this?”
- “In hearing your side, here is what I’m willing to do to meet you in the middle.”
- “Here is what I’m not willing to do. This is a deal-breaker for me.”
- “We both may need to re-examine and reconfigure this/these at some point down the line as things in our lives shift. You have my commitment to this.”
Many people have challenged me over the years with the statement, “I don’t see anything wrong with having expectations.” Expectations themselves are not the challenge; it’s having them, keeping them from your partner, and then projecting your views of the world onto them when they fail to jump over the bar you’ve imposed. In fact, think of it this way: Expectations are really boundaries that have never been discussed or agreed upon. The word itself actually sounds like you’re imposing your view onto your partner with no consideration for the way he or she sees things. It gets much easier when we get our heads out of the sand and are willing to have the discussion when needed so everyone is on the same page. If individuals don’t see the logic in what I’m saying, I’m wondering if they’re really in a nurturing relationship or have simply taken someone else hostage.
Expectations and relationships: Final thought
In many ways it comes down to the old adage, do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy? Happy for many is found in the relief of having boundaries in place, releasing their partners from undeclared or excessive expectations, and looking for the bridge to connect better with them versus finding ways to be right and yet feel isolated and all alone. It might sound like a cliche, yet it’s true — you’re in this together, so play and work at it together!