Why do we have such great expectations of other people? When we have expectations of others without communicating what they are, we are always disappointed. I was talking to a friend the other day and she was telling me that she only works late one night a week and she had cooked spaghetti sauce the night before so that her husband could just cook the spaghetti and they could eat when she got home. Instead, he had eaten something else and he had not cooked her pasta for her. I told her that men don’t think like we do and asked what would have happened if she had called him before she left work and asked him to cook it for her. She said, “Oh, he would have cooked it.” None of us are mind readers, so we have to communicate our needs to the other person. Have you ever heard…”Well, I thought you would have done…or I expected you to do so and so,” but nothing had been communicated to you?
In Alanon, a twelve step program for loved ones of alcoholics, they have a saying, ”Expect nothing and what you get is a bonus.” I worked in addiction for 28 years and with families of the addicted. The families always had great expectations of the patients, but I would always remind them that the only thing we had to go on was their past behavior. I also reminded the patients of this and would add that their trust had to be earned. In addiction the rules of the house are…don’t think…don’t talk…don’t feel. We call it “the elephant in the living room.” Everyone is feeding and cleaning up after the elephant, but no one talks about the elephant being there. The alcoholic is passed out in the chair, mama knows he’s passed out and the kids know he’s passed out, but mama says, “Your daddy is asleep, so you kids be quiet.” Nobody talks about daddy’s drinking, that subject is not up for discussion. And every time daddy tells mama that he’s going to quit, she not only believes it, she expects him to and then comes the disappointment.
Sometimes we expect a certain reaction to something we say and when we don’t get it, we are disappointed or get angry. We really have no right to expect others to live up to our expectations, do we? Could part of this be a control issue or wanting confirmation that we are right? Setting expectations based on our belief system for somebody else is not only unrealistic; it’s not fair to the other person. That makes it all about you and devalues them. Expectations will only bring frustration. Self- induced frustration! If we are living in the spirit, we will eliminate this behavior and learn to express our needs in a loving way, honoring the other person’s feelings.
Toni True-Wills, Ph.D.