Last week I talked about doing relationships your own way, the way that works for everyone involved, and how so many other people seem intent on telling you the “right”way to do it. This week I want to talk about another barrier people often run into…themselves.
In order to create our own type of relationship, there has to be communication. That seems pretty straight forward. How your partner know what you want or expect if you don’t communicate it? Communication isn’t always simply conversation. We communicate our desires and needs and expectations in a lot of different ways.
As an aside, I used the word expectations. There are many people that way it is unreasonable to have expectation in a relationship. While I think there are degrees of expectations, I don’t believe it is healthy to not have some expectations. Expectations are about boundaries.
One of the places we run into trouble is when we don’t communicate an expectation and then get angry or hurt when those expectations aren’t met. This often happens when our expectation is so deeply held that we just assume the other person must know it. We develop these assumptions from past patterns. If our family always acted a certain way or responded to situations in the same manner, we may come to just believe that everyone thinks that way. We are surprised when our partner didn’t know.
Obviously we can’t talk about every expectation and some don’t need to be spoken out loud. For instance, you probably don’t need to express your expectation that your partner won’t intentionally run you over with the car. It seems reasonably safe to believe that is a commonly shared expectation.
But not everything is so clear. There are grey areas where you may hold one belief strongly, but not everyone else does. The strength of your conviction may make you assume others do, but they don’t. Or, your partner’s actions in one area may lead you to believe that their belief in another area will be a certain way when it actually isn’t.
As if this isn’t challenging enough, there is another scenario. It is when we have expectations that we don’t even realize we have. In some ways that sounds ridiculous. But it happens. We all have expectations that we hold so deeply that we don’t even realize we have them. That is until they aren’t met and we get hurt or upset or unhappy. It often takes that situation to help us recognize those expectations. And sometimes we don’t even see them then.
As you create your own relationships it is important to remember these three levels of expectations – 1) those you know and communicate, 2) those you know but don’t communicate, and 3) those you don’t even realize you have. Challenge yourself to talk about the ones you don’t. And dig deep in yourself to find those of which you aren’t consciously aware. If your feelings get hurt take the opportunity to ask yourself why. Was the expectation that wasn’t met an expectation you even realized you had?
So go out and create the relationships that work for you. Help each other to know what expectations exist. Because what you don’t know can hurt you.