Why is it so much easier to get along with acquaintances than it is with those close to us? How do relationships that seem so right become so wrong? In a word—EXPECTATIONS!
Expectations can be the root cause of souring relationships with lovers, siblings, parents, children, friends; anyone we are close to. When we begin a relationship, everything is fresh, new and we enter into it with an open mind. We enjoy the spontaneity and surprises. We marvel at a youngster’s intrigue with the world and the people in it.
As relationships grow, we begin to expect certain behaviors and create assumptions about the other’s actions. Those expectations and assumptions can be the demise of what seemed at one time to be a perfect union. Unmet expectations and erroneous assumptions can often turn into anger.
Anger is an emotion that masks underlying feelings. Frequent experiences with unmet expectations can cause anger and resentment to overwhelm us. Elliott Larson said, “Anger always comes from frustrated expectations.” One can come to terms with anger by recognizing it as a normal and necessary emotion to help a person grow more aware of himself. If we accept our feelings of anger and then look beneath it and address the unmet expectations, we can then begin to grow into more fulfilled individuals. Only by taking responsibility for our own needs and wants, i.e. our own expectations, can we begin to have positive experiences with others.
Those positive experiences will come more often if we keep a vigilant eye on our own expectations and assumptions. Expectations can either be reasonable or unreasonable. They can be expressed or implied. Expectations that are communicated have a chance of being met. If we are open to communicating our wishes and desires with another and can accept that sometimes they cannot be met, we can more accurately determine how viable or important the relationship is.
When we are able to accept others for who they are and not who we wish them to be, we are closer to becoming a more fulfilled person. This new awareness can lead us into a decision to end the relationship or deepen it. An unknown author wrote, “When we remember how hard it is to change ourselves, we begin to understand what little chance we have of changing others.”
Spending our time learning how to accept others where they are, helping them when we can, and continuing to work on our own personal growth, will lead to a happier, more mature view of our relationships and ourselves. Acknowledging we all have expectations, having a willingness to express them through clear communication and accepting when others may not be able to meet those expectations will help to create more satisfying relationships with ourselves and others.
Submitted by Nancy Buyle. MA, LLPC, NBCC, TLLP. Nancy is the Safe Schools/Student Assistance Specialist at the Macomb Intermediate School District.