Many of my clients don’t like it when I say to them, “The cause of your pain is not John/Mary”. John isn’t hurting you. You’re hurting yourself. Mary doesn’t upset you. You upset yourself”.
Like most, we are used to thinking about our frustration, pain or hurt as someone else’s doing. If we’re unhappy in a relationship, it’s because of the person we’re with. If only the didn’t do x or if only they did more of y, we wouldn’t feel as frustrated or as unhappy. It’s easier to think it’s somebody or some thing else’s fault than admit that we need to change.
And unfortunately, this is the same mindset many of us still have as we set out to get back our ex.
Just think about it. Every time you’ve felt rejected and unwanted by someone you love, it’s because someone didn’t do what you expected them to do — didn’t call, didn’t say the words you hoped he/she would say, didn’t remember your birthday, forgot to mention… and so on. And the times you’ve felt so loved and wanted where when he/she met your expectations and beyond.
Our expectations, especially our unexpressed expectations cause more problems in our relationships than many of us realize.
Should you have any relationship expectations at all?
My opinion is: yes, you must absolutely have expectations for your relationship.
- Relationship expectations are the give and take currency of a healthy relationship.
- Relationship expectations challenge us to be and do our best for the sake of the relationship.
Without expectations, the relationship is like to “whom it may concern” letter. You hope that someone will read it and respond, but chances are no one will.
In other words, having expectations is not the problem. Who has expectations and what expectations is what creates most relationship problems.
Most people who have problems with relationships expectations use expectations to hold the other person hostage in the relationship.
If you have an over inflated ego, you’ll tend to have very high and often unrealistic expectations (standards, ideals and views of things) that others can’t live up to. You think, feel and expect the other person to think, feel and behave like you when in a similar situation, and often feel hurt, angry, confused and betrayed when the other person doesn’t live up to your expectation of them.
And if you have a very low opinion of yourself, you’ll tend to have very low expectations or harbour unsaid expectations because you don’t believe you’re worth of anything more. You say and do things out of the need to be loved, liked or wanted contributing to the unrealistic expectations others have of you.
The worst part is that the other person may not even know what is expected from them. The expectation 1) was never communicated, 2) was communicated but not clearly, or 3) was communicated but somewhere things changed and the other person was not notified.
Our expectations play an equally important role when it comes to getting our ex back. When we send a text for example, we expect a response. We also expect things to move along at a certain pace and when they don’t, it’s a signal we are either not doing the right things to move things forward or it’s time to throw in the towel.
Both expectations are rational, healthy and realistic. Problems start when those expectations are not met. Some of us go on overdrive (send too may more texts/act needy) and some of us retreat (cut off all contact).
Some of us try to manage the anxiety of not knowing what happens next by either lowering our expectations too low or by becoming “whoever and whatever” our ex wants. We forget that the reason the relationship ended in the first place was because we lost who we are in the relationship making our ex feel like we were suffocating them or that we were holding them back (extra weight) and they had no choice but end the relationship.
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