Relationship Expectations

Having expectations is normal part of relationships.

You expect parents to be supportive, spouses to be faithful and friends to be loyal. But unspoken expectations cause the most trouble because expecting others will know what you need isn' realistic.

Your brain automatically interprets information in seconds. These assumptions are connected to past experiences which often have nothing to do with the present. That's why everyone reacts differently. 

Melissa hates when her boyfriend runs late. It makes her feel like she's not a priority. 
As a kid, Melissa's dad traveled a lot. She could never count on him to show up for important events.

Notice that the intensity of Melyssa's reaction stemmed from her dad not showing up for her. That feeling of not being important becomes a trigger in her relationship. 

There is a 12 step saying that "Expectations are premeditated resentments."

Holding onto resentments creates separation. You assume something but don't check it out. Making assumptions leads to hurt feelings and misunderstandings. This blog will clarify different types of expectations and what to do instead.

Types of Expectations

  • Clear expectations openly discussed to improve communication and closeness.
  • Unspoken expectations leads to resentment and misunderstandings.

For example, expecting a partner to know what you want or how you feel without telling them, creates frustration. Communication breaks down because when you make assumptions, you react to what you think is happening verse clarifying it.

Clear expectations are spoken whereas, unrealistic expectations are hidden and often connected to old beliefs. In your family, were expectations clear and reasonable or did they just expect you to know? If expectations weren't clear, they create relationship problems. Here are some examples. 

Unrealistic Expectations

  • Expecting one person to fulfill all (or most) of your needs.
  • Expecting people to change who they are for you.
  • Expecting someone to give what you give them.
  • Expecting someone to know what you want without telling them.
Relationship expectations blog

Having unrealistic expectations can be a symptom of codependency. Expecting people to meet most of your needs is a set up for resentment. It creates an imbalance. Sure you can ask for what you want, but no one is obligated to say yes. Codependency happens when you focus more on what other people are doing rather than on yourself. Click here to read Are You Codependent?

Handling Expectations

The first step in handling expectations is being aware of what they are. Then you need to decide if they're realistic or not. How can you'll the difference?

Well, getting feedback from trusted friends helps. If you are constantly disappointed by what others aren't doing that's a clue. Your expectations are too high. Here's a tip to get you started.  

Are you expecting people to be different than who they are? Are you expecting them to be like you? If so, your expectations are probably unrealistic. Instead try these tips below to avoid getting into that same old cycle of hurt.

  • Be honest about your expectations.
  • Realize that people don't change unless they want to. 
  • Talk openly about expectations beforehand to avoid problems later.
  • Don't make your partner responsible for all your needs.
  • Communicate your needs directly. 
  • Expecting others to give the same amount as you is unrealistic.
  • Don't assume that if someone doesn't change, they don't love you. 
  • Check out all assumptions.

Count on Yourself

Lowering expectations takes practice. Sometimes we expect more from others because we don't know how to fulfill our own needs. Learning how to take care of yourself empowers you in relationships because other people do not have all the answers!

Be clear on what you need and if the answer is no, find another alternative. No one person can mean all your needs. Creating a balance of self-reliance and reaching out helps relationship stay healthy.

How do you handle expectations in your relationships? Please leave a comment or share this with a friend.  

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