I want you to imagine that a man and a woman go on a date to the movies. They pay separately for the movie tickets and then walk straight past the concessions stand and into the theater and sit down. The woman is finding herself put off by instead of interested in the man. She is feeling perturbed. What she is really upset about is that this man did not meet her expectations. Her expectation was that the man pays for the movie ticket and also to offer to buy her popcorn. Not only did she expect something that was not communicated to the man, she assumed that this would be the expectation he has for himself when he takes girls on dates.
We all have expectations. These expectations may be conscious, or they may be subconscious. Most expectations are subconscious. This means you may know what some of your expectations are, and you may not know that you have certain expectations even though you do.
To expect something is to believe with confidence that something will happen. Expectation often implies the attitude that something should happen or should be a certain way. To assume is to take something for granted or to suppose something is true, even without having any proof. Looking at that definition, can you see how often we do this in our relationships?
All of us have expectations in relationships. Some of these may be healthy and some of them might not be. For example, it is an expectation that most people have to be treated well in a relationship. We're expecting other people to treat us how we would treat them. And we assume that this is an expectation that other people have as well. And so, when we don’t get treated well in a relationship, and people don’t treat us like we would treat them, we feel disappointed.
Our expectations are set up by previous experiences. For example, they are set up by things like our culture, society, by watching the relationships around us when we are little and by our interactions with people before etc. We have a way of assuming that everyone else’s sense of reality is the same as ours and getting really confused when there is a conflict between our expectations in a situation because of it… Just ask a multi racial couple. A relationship with someone from another culture will show you really quickly just how different people’s expectations in a relationship can be.
We do not often communicate our expectations in relationships because we are not often conscious of what those expectations are. And we do not often communicate our expectations because they reflect our needs, and we have been taught that it isn’t ok to have needs. When we can’t directly voice our needs we often manipulate to get it. We do things and say things specifically to get the desired reaction out of someone. If you want to learn more about manipulation, watch my video on YouTube titled: Meet Your Needs!.
In a relationship, we need to understand each other’s expectations. And not assume that our expectations are the same and will be met. Once we become aware of our expectations, we must decide consciously if we want to maintain those expectations or let them go, and then those expectations must be communicated to our partner.
One of the best thing about being upset in a relationship is that it’s the perfect opportunity to figure out your subconscious expectations and assumptions. So, look back over the times you’ve felt upset in a relationship, especially disappointed. And ask yourself, “What did I expect in that circumstance and what assumptions did I make? Answer as brutally honestly as you can. You can carry this into the present by using the times you are upset in a relationship as a meditation bell, awakening you to the opportunity to discover an expectation you have. When you feel upset in a relationship, ask yourself “What am I expecting in that circumstance and what assumptions am I making?".
In a relationship, expecting and assuming is a form of mutual cruelty. Can you imagine what it would feel like to go to another culture, where shaking hands is a form of threat? In this culture, it is expected that no one would shake your hand unless they wanted to fight you. It is assumed that everyone knows this. So, when you go into this culture and shake hands to say hello, you get punched in the face. You are standing there confused and feeling hurt and to you, it seems really unfair that they just assumed you would know not to do that and expect you not to shake hands. We do this kind of thing in our relationships all the time. This is one reason why communication in a relationship is everything.
Because we tend to project our own sense of reality over other people, we also tend to assume things about other people without even taking to them to confirm whether we are right or wrong. For example, we assume that if we asked someone out on a date, they would say no when in fact they would say yes. We assume someone is mad at us when really they are just busy. We assume someone will know to show up at the exact time they say they will.
Imagine that every person in your life is a fresh and new experience. Assume that coming from his or her background, he or she will have totally different expectations and assumptions than you do or that anyone you’ve met in the past does. Make it a conscious effort to discover each other’s expectations in the relationship. Some will be the same, and some won't.
Any time an expectation isn’t met by someone else you will feel bad in a relationship. So, get conscious of the expectations you have and get clear about the assumptions you are making. Make a list today of what you expect from each person in your life and why you have those expectations. And any time you get upset in a relationship, use that to become conscious of what you subconsciously expect. Decide whether you want to consciously keep those expectations. And communicate all of this process openly with that other person in your life.