I have a friend whose little boy is going through a “phase”. If he expects something and this demand isn’t met, he starts to cry and whinge incessantly.
Like all human beings, he is deeply attached to his expectations. He doesn’t enjoy the disappointment of having these expectations unmet and that leads to him feeling angry.
He then sees his family and as the enemy and everyone becomes stuck on this treadmill of more expectations, more disappointment, withheld communication and resentment.
What is expectation and why does it cause such a challenge in life and our relationships?
To expect is to “look forward to the likely occurrence of something. To anticipate, hope or wait for.” Expectations are natural. We can’t help but have them. The problem with expectation starts to occur when we expect our expectations to happen because when they aren’t met we feel cheated and betrayed.
Have you ever been upset by a confrontation, tried to tell your partner and they tell you how you should have handled it?
Perhaps you’ve had a really bad day at work, come home and she/he is in a foul mood and starts complaining about their day.
You want him/her to look at you like they did when you first met but he/she is always too tired or busy.
You’ve made a real effort to help him/her out in some way, yet she/he doesn’t even notice.
Having our expectations unmet and feeling disappointment are commonplace when we are in any sort of relationship. The problem is that after being disappointed over and over, many people will withdraw their communication. They become resigned. The wedges begin to build up.
Now, if we try to explain how we feel, our partners become upset. Before you know it, you feel as though you’re not close to this person anymore. Instead they frustrate and annoy you. These hidden disappointments, brushed under teh carpet, begin to smoulder and they eventually catch alight causing a torrent of red hot anger.
What is the key to stop this happening?
Ultimately the only way to stop this build up of negative feeling is communication, yet often when people attempt to communicate their disappointment it will be heard as judgement, accusation or attack. We try to explain how we feel, but we just end up arguing. Yet if you can BOTH understand that what happened was no one’s fault, it was simply an unmet expectation, the accusation and feeling of attack dissolves.
When you feel upset about something that someone else has done, try to think back. What were you expecting to be different? What did you want to happen? Explain to your partner that you were expecting something and you felt disappointed when that desire was unmet.
Explaining things in this way stops others feeling accused and will result in compassion, love, trust and understanding instead. And once we have communicated our feelings and felt heard, we are once again at the beginning of the cycle. We will have new expectations! This is just a fact of life and necessary to keep us growing, evolving and striving to meet our challenges.
Each time we find ourselves feeling upset with someone else, this is a great opportunity to find out some truth about ourselves and in doing so strengthening the very core of all our relationships.