After 12 years of marriage and 9 years of a successful business partnership, I feel I've discovered a key to human relationships. It's probably a common denominator in every argument you've ever had.
Think back to the last handful of arguments you've had, and you'll probably notice one (or both) of the following:
You had expectations which you didn't properly communicate, so they went unmet.
You did communicate your expectations clearly, and they still weren't met.
The first one is all on you. If you want something, say so. Don't expect people to read your mind and then blame them for doing a poor job at it.
The second one is more nuanced. What if your expectations are unreasonable? What if they can't be met by the person you put them on? Good relationships require vulnerability, trust, and compromise. Meeting in the middle between what you want and what's possible can lead to intimacy and understanding. On the other hand, if your expectations are well communicated, able to be met, and still fall flat... That's where things get tricky. That's when people feel the most hurt. "Why didn't you do this for me when you clearly could have? Don't you value my needs and desires?"
Whenever our perception of reality isn't inline with actual reality, especially involving relationships, we set ourselves up for frustration. Maybe the person you're with doesn't really care about your needs as much as you thought they did? Maybe the expectations you have of those around you are too high and actually quite selfish?
Getting inline with reality will eliminate so many frustrations which come from your own uncommunicated or unmet expectations.
Should we hope for nothing?
Is there an alternative to expectations?
Maybe we should focus instead on expectancy.
the state of thinking or hoping that something, especially something pleasant, will happen or be the case.
Notice the subtle difference:
a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future.
Expectancy is about hope. It's about treating everything as a gift.
Realistic optimism attracts success because it encourages taking calculated risks again and again. Over the long run, those risks turn into success as we fight our natural tendency to fall under loss aversion:
In economics and decision theory, loss aversion refers to people's tendency to prefer avoiding losses to acquiring equivalent gains: it is worse to lose one's jacket than to find one. Some studies have suggested that losses are twice as powerful, psychologically, as gains.
An attitude of expectancy also gives us the joy of having our needs and desires met. Human imagination is a powerful thing. Anyone with a significant other knows how freaking fantastic and mind-blowingly amazing it is to have your desires met by the one you love (yes, I'm talking about great sex).
One of the keys to a successful life with meaningful relationships is expectancy, not expectations. If you do have expectations, be sure to communicate them and keep them reasonable. Expectations on others or yourself need to align with reality.
The next time you have an argument or feel really frustrated, figure out the answers to these questions:
- What were the expectations here?
- Were they well communicated?
- Why weren't they met?
In the future, focus on expectancy over expectations and see what difference it makes in your relationships and your life.