What are Your Expectations?
By: Alexandra DeWoskin, LCSW.
Do you find that you’re often disappointed in your relationships or feel like people are often letting you down? If so, this can leave you feeling powerless as if you are the victim to the whims of others. We often hear about the need to have realistic expectations.
But, how does that actually work?
This topic comes up often in therapy sessions. We must remember that the common denominator in all of our relationships is ourselves. This means that we are contributing to why we often feel disappointed or let down.
Thus, this must mean that we actually have more control in our relationships than we give ourselves credit for. Quite often our expectations of others is that they will behave and treat us exactly the way would them. But, this is where expectations become unrealistic because expecting others to do as we do does not align with the fact that every person is different…even our partners, family, and best of friends.
Here’s a great exercise to get started: make a list of everyone in your life – friends, family, acquaintances, and co-workers. Then take a good long look at each person and who they actually are not who you want them to be. Then list exactly how each person is able to contribute to your life based on who they actually are.
For example, Julie is great to talk to about relationships, she’s reliable, and she likes to take walks and Joe sometimes cancels plans but he always makes you laugh and loves to go dancing.
Some people like to make a visual of all this. Maybe it looks like solar system where you are the sun and all these people revolve around you in your solar system. How close or how far they are from you is based on what they bring to the table and how many of your expectations they can actually meet, not how much you love them or they love you.
Once you have an accurate representation how everyone fits into your life, you now know who to go to for what. So, you would schedule a very important plan with Julie but not with John because he might cancel. And you would go to John if you needed your spirits lifted because he’s guaranteed to make you smile.
The more you stop going to people who just aren’t wired to meet certain expectations, the less disappointed you will be. And, you may find your relationships getting stronger without all the conflict. I have found that when I’m disappointed now, most likely I knew better to not go to a certain person who couldn’t meet my expectation.
If, during your analysis you discover someone that is so toxic for you and who meets none of your needs, maybe that person just shouldn’t be in your life. Now you are empowered.