Sometimes we argue with people and later wonder, “why did I just do that? That person didn’t really do anything wrong.” Often this happens with someone we love. Why are we arguing with them? There can be many reasons, but oftentimes it stems from one word: EXPECTATION. If I expect someone to do something and they don’t do it, they’ve let me down, regardless of whether or not they knew what my expectation was.
Here is a classic example. It’s close to dinner time. You expect your husband (or boyfriend, or partner, but I’ll call him husband here because I’m married and if I start talking boyfriend it doesn’t sound good.) You expect your husband to walk in, sweep you up in a loving embrace and listen to the tales of your day, then you’ll all eat dinner and have a nice conversation about everyone’s day that includes no arguing. Your husband expects to walk in and sit and put his feet up and zone out on his phone for a half hour because he just got done with a rough day and a long commute. The kids expect him to rush in and play games with them and expect you to have their favorite dinner presented to them with a smile while they play said games.
Looks like almost everyone here will be disappointed. How can this situation be prevented? By sharing what we expect with others. Open and honest communication should be a staple at home. Unfortunately, we often get so busy we forget to take the time for it.
Like many family issues, problems with expectations are regularly repeated. Einstein once said “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” Why, then do we have the same arguments and frustrations so often?
People in relationships should expect:
- a safe and loving environment
The more subtle expectations, like expecting someone to make your coffee exactly the way you like or expecting him to pick up your prescription on his way home when you haven’t asked, have to be communicated. The people around us are not mind readers. We may think they should know what we need and want, but try as they might they won’t be able to figure it all out on their own.
Decide which are the things you need and things you want from those around you. Having him pick the kids up from school on time is a need, but taking you out for a date this Friday is a want. Sit down as a couple, even if you’ve been together a long time, and discuss your needs and wants and expectations. Sometimes, our expectation is that when we’ve been together so long, the other person should already know what those things are. But they change over time as our lives change.
Be open, honest, and fair in your expectations. After you two have had your private discussion, sit down with the kids and explain what you need and want and expect from them. You might be surprised to hear that they had no idea what you were thinking! Also, ask them what their expectations are of you. If you can’t meet all of their expectations, explain the reasons why. Things will go much smoother when everyone knows what is expected of them.
These things are especially important during the holiday season. Communicate what you expect before important, exciting days and they will go much more smoothly. Don’t expect others to know what will make you feel special unless you communicate it to them. Let them know in advance. People who love you want to make you happy, just like you want to make them happy. With open communication, more realistic expectations, and less unexpressed expectation, there is less arguing and disappointment.
Your challenge for today: sit down with your significant other and discuss your expectations for the coming months. Be honest and communicate openly so that they can understand your wants and needs, and be willing to listen to theirs as well.
Let me know how it went! I love to hear from you!