Why You Should Have Expectations
Sometimes they scream weakness and sometimes they scream vulnerability. Communicating expectations can be hard for many of us because, in root form, it is communicating a need. But our expectations communicate what is important to us and they define the value of the relationship we are in. What we expect from someone we are in close relationship with isn’t the same as what we expect from a stranger. We are not telling someone what to do or needing them to be perfect, we are simply inviting them to get to know us and the standards we have. They get to choose to meet us there or not. Most people live by lowering their expectations so that they never have to face disappointment, but those people will also miss out on being able to fully show up. Expectations don’t make you weak, they make you humble, inviting and human. They create connection as you become more known by someone, allowing them to see all sides of you.
Here is the tricky part: sometimes we are not aware we even have an expectation until we’re in the middle of a moment where it arises. During my last relationship I found myself in these moments numerous times. There are many reasons why we may not want to communicate expectations, but as I dug into my childhood wounds, I found my reason to be, that I was so afraid of being disappointed, that I refused to express expectations I had. So I withheld. What I believed to be helping my relationship (withholding my emotions and expectations) was actually sabotaging it. I made no room for my boyfriend to fully get to know me when I only showed sides of myself that I thought were acceptable. Disclaimer: expectations are NORMAL but we cannot expect someone to guess where and when we might have them. Thanks to my last relationship, I have learned you can actually set your partner up for success by letting them know what you expect!
So what does it look like to communicate expectations before, during and after a situation?
Before: Communicating expectations before a situation arises is a great tool to have in your belt. This looks like letting your partner know what you might expect in an upcoming situation. If you have a high value for quality time, this looks like telling your partner that it’s important to you that your quality time together is just you and them and that you have the expectation that no one else will be joining that time. This helps your partner know what’s important to you as they get to know you. They get to win at creating a great experience for you because you have clearly defined what you would like this time to look like.
During: We can communicate expectations often, and still find ourselves in these moments where we were unaware of another expectation we have. In these cases, rather than rolling around in disappointment, giving the silent treatment or becoming resentful, you get to be honest about where you’re at. You get to now clearly communicate that you didn’t know it would bother you that someone else was invited into what you expected to be quality time, and now you’re feeling undervalued. You get to let them know why it hurts and you get to collaborate how to better navigate these situations in the future. You can step aside and bring this issue into the light without ruining the entire time together. Communicating in the moment allows problems to be brought into the light, without creating a huge explosion.
After: Perhaps you find yourself shutting down as your partner invites their roommate to join in on your afternoon of what you thought would be quality time. You try to muster through it and navigate why you’re feeling upset but can’t quite pinpoint where your reaction is coming from. Later, as you process the emotions and triggers and find a conclusion within you, you find out what may have been the cause of the trigger. It’s easy to want to sweep this moment under the rug and move on, but instead of being afraid to have a need, you get to debrief with your partner what happened inside of you during that moment. They get to learn what quality time means to you and the importance that it holds for you.
Give yourself grace as you journey into this. You may never have been taught to clearly communicate your expectations or even allowed to. This is a practice! You won’t always get it right the first time or even the 50th. BELIEVE ME. Like anything else, it takes repetition to discover what you want and need in a relationship, but you’ll find the stress and anxiety lessens when communication is valued. Have fun with it and remember, the goal is to get to know the person across from you and to be fully known in return.