Webster defines Expectation as the act or state of expecting; anticipation. Antonio Banderas says, "Expectation is the mother of all frustration". Agreed. I believe many marriages are unhappy and failing because of unmet expectations.
What Are Expectations and How Do They Effect Us In Marriage?
Expectations are based on past experiences, and fueled by current thoughts, emotions, beliefs, and desires. Mix it all together and it's the perfect storm for disappointment, frustration, conflict, and then failure.
Expectations come in many forms. We maintain expectations of ourselves and others, and others have expectations of us. You may have high expectations, low expectations, positive, neutral, or negative expectations, large expectations and small. The fascinating thing? Unless you are mindful of your every emotion and thought, you probably don't notice most of your expectations most of the time. Stop and think about it. You may think you are experiencing creative thoughts and/or desires, but read on...
Large expectations are familiar to most of us and are the result of common desires/needs all humans have. No one enters marriage expecting to be lied to, cheated on, abused, or abandoned. From your partner, you expect honesty, commitment, kindness, respect, love, and gentility - and you expect to deliver the same to your spouse. Those types of common expectations are normal and to be expected. ;)
Having constant, smaller expectations of your spouse during daily life, however, robs yourself of rewarding possibilities and delightful surprises, and it robs your spouse from the freedom to give to you. Expectations are future-based and assume a specific result. They narrow your options, dampen your (and others) creativity/imagination, and prevent you from recognizing beautiful possibilities that may be right in front of you. This confines you to a marriage of rigidity and you'll find yourself impulsively reacting to perceived threats that may or may not happen.
A killer of happiness and relationships, expectations cause you to constantly demand things (verbally and non-verbally) from your spouse. In this place, nothing they do (and your spouse him/herself) will never live up to your demands. Placing expectations on your spouse is unfair and creates pressure and insecurities in them. They'll never be good enough - then they constantly walk on egg-shells - and you are constantly dissatisfied, unhappy, frustrated, hurt, and feeling alone. Expectations cause you to be irritable, verbally abusive, make poor judgement calls, and demonstrate poor behavior/reactions.
Are you enslaved by the expectations you've conjured up in life? I know I used to be. I'm so happy to be free of that now! I used to have my own definition of what a good marriage looked like, what it meant to be a good person, what financial and business success looked like, what a healthy friendship meant, and so on. I encourage you to have a look at the definitions you've created regarding what a good husband/wife represents - what a good father/mother looks like - what a good marriage is. And then ask yourself if it's your truth. Does it allow room for human mistakes (because none of us are perfect)? Are your definitions based on appearance, control, perfectionism, or fear? You see, expectations are partly based on these definitions and beliefs you've created (more on this below). When controlled by expectations, you are living a conditional life and are not living in the present. When imprisoned by your expectations, you foolishly allow life to pass you by. Instead, relax, stop to smell the roses - listen to children's laughter, pet a dog, hug a person, look people in the eye. You know, enjoy life.
Causes of Too Many Expectations:
• being controlling - if you're a 'control freak', you may have created expectations based off your desire to be in control. Is this due to your demand of needing to have things your way, a fear of disappointment, a concern about your image, a fear of judgment from others, or perfectionism?
• concerns about image - being overly concerned about your image is either an extreme case of insecurity or extreme materialism that needs reining in.
• perfectionism - doesn't exist. So stop calling yourself a 'perfectionist' - you are not paying yourself a compliment. Perfectionism stems from extreme low self esteem, fear of others' judgement, entitlement, and/or low self worth.
• fear of disappointment - also fear of future pain.
The Cure of Insidious Expectations:
Take delight in not knowing what's going to happen next. Make the decision to not have expectations, to allow events and people to unfold in their truth, and know that you are strong, creative, resourceful and intelligent enough to handle what comes. Learn to love surprises.
Tony Robbins says, "Trade expectations for appreciation". When you're filled with gratitude, you can't be in a position of expecting anything more. To learn how to dwell in Gratitude, please check out Tony's Priming Exercise found HERE, and Prime every morning - it's a great way to start your day - it's how I start mine.
Having too many expectations is, in my opinion, a call for mindfulness. You first choose not to be defined by your expectations/beliefs/definitions you've conjured up. Then be mindful of your thoughts and feelings, especially when you're frustrated or hurt with your spouse when they didn't meet your expectation. Ask if your expectation is a necessity for a healthy marriage or just a desire. If it's a desire, determine if it's healthy or if it's based on one of the unhealthy causes mentioned above. If your expectation is coming from an unhealthy or insecure place, go deeper and ask yourself why you developed that expectation, why you placed that on your spouse, what you can do to create a healthier and better you, and then how you can best approach the future in a healthier, more relaxed way.
Humans innately want to make others happy. Be clear in your communications with your spouse - no one is a mind reader. If they don't get it right immediately, keep trying - some of us need a little more practice than others.
If you're struggling in marriage and would like a consult, please schedule it HERE.
Until next time, manage your expectations ;)