I wish I wasn’t married.
Ok, let me clarify that. I adore living with my wife, being her lover and best friend, but I wish we didn’t have the label of husband and wife, because it really throws us off.
I’m talking about the “e” word.
Every day, my expectations rob me of happiness. I have a vision for how my relationship should be, and when that doesn’t happen I’m left disappointed. Even when my expectations are met, am I happy? Not really, I’m “good”. My expectations create a perfect recipe for suffering or at best mediocrity.
Why do we do this?
What if we had the chance to be delighted and overjoyed, instead of disappointed or just satisfied? If we were aware of our expectations we would have a better chance of dropping them when they show up.
Here are some common expectations, and yes I’m guilty of all of these.
You should make me happy
After all, why else would we be in a relationship? Our partner should make us happy, right? Isn’t that what we were told to expect?
Nope, your happiness is your job.
What happens when we see other relationships as perfect is we unconsciously conclude that if we have a relationship, it should also be perfect. Thanks to the standard we set, anything that doesn’t match up to our expectation causes even more pain. A simple upset turns into something that can ruin our day.
Here’s an example.
Step 1: Your partner does something that triggers you and you become upset.
Step 2: You are carrying the expectation “they should make me happy” and you compare your standard (them making you happy) to the reality (they are not making you happy).
Step 3: That comparison then makes you more upset, and now you are upset about being upset.
Step 4: You don’t want to see that you are now causing your own pain, so you blame your partner and they become defensive, making you even more upset.
Step 5: You are now completely miserable.
Not only does this process make you miserable, but when you hold this expectation, you also miss out on all the times your partner does something really sweet for you. Why? You expected it! It’s about time they took me out on a date!
All of a sudden a simple nice act gets turned into something to be used against the person you love, all because of an expectation.
You should give me sex
As crazy as it sounds, we live in a world where we think that because someone agrees to be in a relationship with us they are also obligated to meet our sexual needs. This expectation is the number one killer of foreplay. Why? We shouldn’t have to do that! They should give it to us, because we’re married!
Guilt is a terrible aphrodisiac.
Men are particularly guilty of this, mostly because somewhere along the lines, we bought into the notion that women who decide to commit to being in relationship with us are somehow like our property.
No one should be required to have sex if they don’t want to for any reason and under any circumstances.
You should want to have sex with me
This is a slightly less medieval flavor of expectation #2. Sustaining high erotic desire in a long-term relationship takes dedication and work. It’s akin to Mating in Captivity, yet we often treat this situation with total denial. He’s my boyfriend, why isn’t he always hot for me?
When we loose this expectation we start seducing our partners and not taking them for granted. We take responsibility for creating desire in our partners and we play, and we tease them. We make turning them on a fun game, just like we did when we first met.
You should appreciate me.
I am so guilty of this.
I love appreciation, and I have the habit of creating expectations of my wife that she should appreciate me. The funny thing is that by holding on to these expectations, I’m actually experiencing less appreciation. While my partner is appreciating me, I’m missing it, thanks to me believing the thought that she should do that for me.
You should know what I want.
You should read my mind. You should “get” me. You should know what I want.
Here is something that’s hard for me to truly understand. If I want to communicate something to you, it’s my job to speak it in a way so you can understand it.
When we think that just because we are married, or in a relationship, that our partner should somehow be able to always “get” us, we are carrying an unreal expectation of them. How does it feel when your partner makes you play guessing games? All those games come from this expectation, because without it, we would simply take the time to explain what we really want.
What’s also possible if we drop this expectation of our partner “getting” us, is we can be present to all the magical moments in which our partners do understand us. We can be overjoyed when they finish our sentences, think one step ahead of us, and cook our favorite meal just the way we like it.
This Shouldn’t End
When we believe things should stay the same, we cling to the past and resist the ever-changing nature of life. In a broader context, this concept is the root of all suffering. Relationships, just like life, are always changing. Life is a constant process of death and rebirth.
When we want things to be “like they used to” or when we resist anything new, we are fighting a losing battle. Life changes. People change. Relationships change.
That amazing space you were in last night while on that date? It might be gone when you wake up. When you cling to it you create disappointment. You attach to the level of joy you felt last night and now your normal life feels disappointing, due to your new standard.
When I get too attached to the good times, I set myself up for suffering down the road. It’s not that we should try and suppress our enthusiasm, but when we are feeling joy, love and happiness, it’s important to feel gratitude, and not cling to those experiences like we deserve them.
What I’ve noticed is that when we are getting attached to something, there is an unconscious happiness present, but it’s really just masking fear. We have thoughts like “this is the way it should always be” and “I want this to last forever” and instead of appreciating them and letting them go, we use them to set expectations for how our life should be in the future.
Inner peace is possible when we understand that the nature of life is change. When we embrace change instead of fight it, we get to ride the wave of uncertainty into a peaceful future.
The End of Expectation
How many more holidays are you going to ruin for yourself?
How many more times are you going to be disappointed because other people didn’t “live up to your expectations”?
How many more acts of kindness are you going to miss out on because “that’s the way it should be”?
Expectations aren’t something we can totally avoid, they are built into the fabric of our lives. It’s literally impossible for me to have a wife and not have expectations that come with that. The people that live happier lives are the ones that notice expectations and choose to drop them.
The next time you find yourself acting like a spoiled brat because you didn’t get what you wanted, ask yourself if you expected it. If you did, why not try dropping it? Why not give the people you love the gift of no expectations? Allow them to be how they are, with all their faults and shortcomings, and love them for that.
While you’re at it, why not give that gift to yourself? Instead of being so hard on yourself, why not do your best, give yourself a pat on the back, go to bed, wake up and do the same thing tomorrow?
All I expect of others and myself is that we do our best with what we have.
As I look back over my life, I find that’s all we’ve ever done.