What Do You Expect?

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.

Disappointed expectations

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.

angry baby

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? And then you wanted to shout at them too?

 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 before you can even vent about yours? SO selfish ….

 Maybe you secretly long for him/her to look at you like they did when you first met but he/she is always too tired or busy?

 You’ve cleaned the kitchen, cut the lawn, made dinner, bathed the kids … 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 stop talking. They swallow their upset and shrug it away.

And with every disappointed expectation and withdrawn communication, a deeper wedge will appear between you. And another one. And another. 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 the carpet, begin to smoulder and they eventually catch alight causing a torrent of red hot anger. Or the distance between you grows.

“We just grew apart.”

“We had nothing in common any more.”

“The spark went.”

These are common statements for those in relationships where open communication gave out to withdrawn communication.

 So, what is the key to stop this happening?

Ultimately the only way to stop this build up of negative feeling is to talk. This is easier said than done. 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 instead the other person takes t all personally and we 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, trust and understanding instead. Once we have communicated our feelings and felt heard, the wedge is dissolved and true intimacy restored.

Such a lovely feeling of closeness.

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.

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