Friday, January 11, 2013

Expectations Ruin Relationships

My post for Her View From Home this week is about expectations in relationships.

How many times daily do you have expectations of yourself and others that end in disappointment? Do you assume to know what someone has going on or compare them to you, expecting for the other person to behave as you would?

All of our needs are different, based on our past experiences, emotional needs and scars, physical capabilities, and the level of learning in life we are on. My life lessons are not the same as everyone else. My past and traumatic experiences are not the same as others. My insecurities are also a factor in setting unrealistic expectations.

My husband, Bob always has good intentions. If you catch him in the evening when he is relaxing and in a good mood, he will agree to do anything. The next day, he has the habit of realizing whatever he agreed to do was not what he really wanted to do. If he told someone he would do something for them, they count on him. His choices are then to either cancel and risk disappointing the other person or doing the task at hand, while also making himself miserable. I suggested he not make any plans set in stone, to tell people he will see what his schedule looks like the next day, eliminating the promises and disappointment. The best solution for unrealistic expectations and unspoken expectations is communication.

My mom and I assume the other is thinking one thing, when often we are way off base. I have started asking her when she seems upset if it is based on truth--on facts or assumptions. If based on assumptions of others and/or your own emotional insecurities, it is not fair to project them onto others.

In the beginning of a relationship, we give up certain things to spend more time with the other person. We stay up way too late, sacrificing sleep. We skip reading before bed for pillow talk or to talk on the phone. The other person's passions become our interests and ours become theirs. After a year or two, we gradually gravitate toward our own interests again, giving less time to the other person. Sleep is important again. This is all normal. The problem is, the other person may still expect you to take the same interest in their interests that you once had. They may expect you to keep a spotless house as you did when you met. They may expect to have sex five times a week, clean, care for the children, and do everything else you once did. If they do not tell you of these expectations, you are automatically set up to fail, and resentment builds on both sides.

I feel the answer is communication. If you are expecting something specific, the other person deserves to know. When we let go of our own expectations of ourselves and others, going with the flow of life, we are rarely disappointed.

Something that I am currently working on is letting go of the assumptions that I think other people feel. If someone is upset with me and they do not communicate their feelings to me, it is not my problem. I tend to speculate, analyze, and torture myself with every imagine scenario. If it is really bothering me, I try to speak up. Sometimes this is easier said than done, depending on who the other person might be. I have been working on MY communication skills, and have noticed improvements with all of my relationships.

"We must learn to distinguish between expectations and needs. Everyone has a need to be loved, to be understood, to be accepted and to be forgiven when necessary. For us to have expectations about how those needs get fulfilled can only cause disappointment. The number one problem in relationships is undelivered communication. It's the things we don't communicate because the last time we did, it caused a confrontation, argument, anger, frustration and we want to avoid these feelings so we stuff them. The next thing you know is, your partner didn't take out the garbage and you want a divorce and it's not about the garbage. In my opinion, the number two problem in relationships revolves around unfulfilled expectations. So, how do you sidestep the disappointment that always comes from unfulfilled expectations? Who wins the "expectations versus needs" dilemma? Needs, of course! You focus on your needs and make a commitment to never have any undelivered communication about them. Talk about what you need with your partner. Express your needs with love. Unfulfilled expectations always cause problems." Excerpt from a great blog, The Truth About Relationship Expectations, by  Larry James

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