Unmet Expectations: How to deal with things not going our way

March 24, 2018

Expectation has been referred to as The Silent Killer of all relationships.

I have an expectation that after a long week of feeling like passing ships in the night with our busy work schedules, that a full weekend spent together will be my reward. But in reality weekends are just as busy, sometimes with more work and other times with life that you couldn’t get to in the week and these keep us from spending the amount of time together we would like to.

I admit that in that moment of finding out this would be one of those weekends filled with more work, instead of responding with understanding, I responded with anger and frustration and the time we did actually have together was left with a sour taste in our mouths.

But I should have recognised that not getting what I wanted was the true source of my anger. I was dissatisfied with this unmet expectation. And on top of hat I ASSUMED the worst intentions behind his behaviour. I assumed he had chosen to work instead of spending time with me, I assumed that he had not noticed how understanding I’d been all week and therefore I should have had my need met of spending time together. This weekend wasn’t going as I had planned.... I’m seeing a lot of I, I, I in there!

I assumed wrong (isn’t this often the case with assumptions!) Assumptions really do make an ass out of U + ME.

Instead I should have rationalised that OF COURSE he wouldn’t CHOOSE to work on a weekend. That it’s not an indication of him not wanting to spend time with me but rather an indication of how much pressure he is under that he has to work on a weekend. And suddenly that sentence has a whole lot of He and Him!

And I should have also communicated my expectations to him rather than giving into the frustration and anger. “I feel sad when we don’t get time together on a weekend, it makes me think you don’t prioritise our time as much”. Too often we expect our partners to just now what it is we need and expect from them but how do they know what it is they need to do for us if we haven’t told them.

** Disclaimer: All healthy relationships need there to be healthy expectations. If you are finding yourself in a relationship where you uncompromisingly set aside your needs and are taken advantage of (abused in any way), this is not a healthy relationship and I implore you to seek out assistance of a Counsellor, or friend, or family member. Abuse is a NOT so silent killer of relationships.

But for those who are in healthy relationships where there are times that unmet expectations causes frustration and anger and disappointment, this is for you.

Unmet expectations is not just a relationship problem, it’s a life problem! That’s probably one of the things that made me realise I’d reached adulthood. And it sucks. No one is immune. So what is the solution?

Derek Harvey, a relationship specialist, set up the following equation:

EXPECTATION - OBSERVATION = FRUSTRATION

I expected the weekend plans to go my way: a lovely family celebration for my grans 90th, a romantic dinner, church, coffee with a custard doughnut after church, window shopping, lunch, more coffee at some cute coffee shop, maybe a movie to end off the weekend, laughter, chatting, connection. Sounds blissful to me.

But I observed that in between preparations for my grans 90th there was work to be done in order to attend the party, dinner was scheduled to after work and he was now tired from a week and weekend of work, frustrated with having to work, no coffees, no window shopping. Exhaustion.

And so I was left frustrated. My need for quality time together hadn’t been met and his needs for understanding hadn’t been met. My reality didn’t match my expectation.

Sounds like a great weekend doesn’t it!

But the fact of the matter is life is full of us not having things go our way. And learning to cope within our reality rather than our expectation is essential for successful relationship. You MUST have healthy, well communicated expectations that we all strive to achieve for our partners.... but in moments when your expectations are not met you should allow for observation to set up!

Instead of focusing on my unmet expectations for the weekend, I should have observed the reality of the situation better. So maybe the weekend didn’t consist of us sitting engrossed in conversation and laughter over coffee with custard doughnuts but it did consist of time together, of stealing every moment we could in between the other commitments of the weekend, to be together. His intention behind not seeing me wasn’t malicious or even desirable for him, so I should not have assumed the worst, and allowed me not getting my own way to result in such frustration.

Observe the reality, positively handle it, and then after the fact, feel free to communicate what it is you expectated and why!

If you haven’t already: sit together and establish what your expectations are from your partner in your relationship and why.

And then discuss what will be a positive way for you both to handle unmet expectations (because this will happen)!

~ With Love from Registered Counsellor Rooted in Love 

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