Unrealistic Expectations Or Unreasonable Ex?

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.

  1. Relationship expectations are the give and take currency of a healthy relationship.
  2. 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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9 Comments

  • I stumbled on your blog following a link from one of your articles. It is nice to know that this service is here for people like myself who need answers fast and are not sure who to ask. Keep up the good work.

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  • Thank you,
    That is me loving too much, after reading your advice, I feel guilty and started feeling about the other person, how terrible of me. Thank you , you help me see the other side.

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  • I enjoyed this too…I think that when my b/f told me something was missing and he’s been trying very hard to figure it out but he also told me that he isn’t going anywhere. I do believe the problem is me. I’ve thought that for a while. I am too analytical, but try not to let him see that, but maybe I am inadvertently letting him see my insecurities.
    I have enjoyed reading this so far..I truly want this relationship to work, he is everything I have ever wanted.

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  • Thank you for replying

    we spoke today, and I asked her if she could give me a chance to prove these things, she said that I still don’t understand, she needs to be alone to find herself, that she has been with someone since she was 14, always filing her life with another partner. She said she loves me, and misses me all the time, but she can’t be IN love right now, and if it happens in the future that’s up to fate. We spent the day together as we are still best friends, and when I got home she texted me saying thank you for talking, wonderful day, just too early to think about these things. I know the solution may seem easy, but I don’t want to screw this up, it’s so very important to me. I can wait as long as it takes, but I’m not sure how to define if it’s really worth it, or I’m just heading for extended heartbreak. I appologise for the long comment… Thank you in advance

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    • It’ll only be extended heartbreak if you put your life on “hold” or push this to happen in your timeframe. But if you live your life, doing the things that are important to you and which you enjoy (with or without her) and if you can get more days like “today” where you enjoy each other’s company with no “pressure” to get back together or even make her “fall IN love” with you, and like she says if it happens in the future that’s up to fate.

      She still loves you and misses you – PLUS you have the “best friends” advantage, don’t screw this up with your own internal pressure to “get her back” before she’s ready…

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  • thank you so much for your books and this website!

    My girl left nearly 2 weeks ago, because she felt something was “missing”, that we havent really been working through any issues for months. Looking back i can see this is true, but i also believe what we have is special, and that she is the one. I have been working on myself this whole time, and plan to continue with it. She believes that she needs to get over me, but id like to ask her to give me a try at making her feel loved and fun and happy again, by actually dating (we missed this step the first time) and just having fun maybe once or twice a week, before she does that. How do you recommend i approach this?

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    • There is not ONE approach because making someone feel loved and fun and happy involves doing many different things on many different fronts. In your other comment you say you have my eBook Dating Your Ex. The following chapters (approx. 70 pages) all deal with dating an ex in a way that is meaningful, emotional bonding and fun – all working gradually towards actually getting back together, and staying together:

      1) re-entering your ex’s life
      2) the right time to ask for another chance
      3) direct vs. indirect request
      4) how to talk about getting back together
      5) being friends to start with
      6) the pulling and pushing phase
      7) starting afresh

      Of course what’s meaningful, emotional bonding and fun is different from woman to woman, so you have to really know what appeals to your particular one other wise doing the generic stuff won’t get you far. It may even confirm to her that you just don’t GET HER (and may never) and that seals your fate. If you need help figuring out what will work for your woman, I’m happy to work with you.

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