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  • Writer's pictureJerry Brook

Relationship Structure Part 2 of 4 - Expectations

Expectations. We all have them.

Some people would have you believe that expectations are a bad thing. The fact of the matter is, expectations are not a bad thing. Bad expectations are a bad thing.

Unreasonable, contradictory, unrealistic, or false expectations are bad expectations. Unfortunately, for most people, this is a common state of being.

Expectations are normal. Expectations are natural. They are necessary for progress, they are a part of learning, and they are a necessary component of an ordered and civilized society.

Even animals have expectations. A cat, for instance, might expect that a branch will hold its weight. Other species may expect that other animals will want to harm them.

Where do these expectations come from?

Expectations come from our past, from our previous experiences. They stem from the way in which we perceive things that have happened to us and the relative significance of it all. Each of these experiences contributes to and comes together to form the basis of our learnings.

Simply put, our experiences create our expectations.

Bad (or false) expectations come from interpreting situations or events incorrectly, from incorrect perceptions, and sometimes from wishful thinking – in other words, what we would have liked to happen – with no regard for whether that even actually could happen at all.

Fiction, imagination, ungrounded assumptions, fantasy … these all form the basis of unreasonable, unrealistic expectations.

What do you need? What do you want?

Where expectations are concerned, there are two distinct parts: your needs and your wants.

Needs are requirements, necessities, essentials. Unequivocal, absolute must-haves.

Wants are desires, wishes, fancies. Wants are ‘nice to have’ but certainly not essential.

To be clear, simply having wants is not what is unnecessary. It is important to have desires as motivations to move forward in life. It is the thing that is wanted, itself, that may be unnecessary.

In some cases, needs and wants may be part and parcel of the same thing. For example:

I need to eat, but, I don’t want to eat just anything.

Some needs and wants will inevitably overlap. Some will be aligned, and some will be separate and supportive. However, when needs and wants are counter to each other, it can lead to problems.

Aligning our needs and wants

  • Needed – Wanted This is a win-win. Our needs and wants are associated, or at least not at odds with each other.

  • Needed – Not Wanted When your wants are not associated with your needs, you may experience feelings of being pushed to do things that you really don’t want to. I have to do this, even though I don’t want to.

  • Not Needed – Wanted When your needs are not associated with your wants, you may tend to neglect that which is necessary, avoiding what needs to be done in favor of what you want to do.

  • Not Needed – Not Wanted No issues.

Managing expectations

One of the most important things that you must do in a relationship is to manage expectations – both yours, and those of the other parties in your relationships.

If your expectations or the other persons expectations are unrealistic or unreasonable, the relationship is guaranteed to suffer. You can’t be what you can’t be, and you can’t get what can’t be given.

In order to manage expectations, you need to understand what these expectations are: both yours, and that of the other person. You need to know what these expectations are as well as where they are coming from.

You need to understand these expectations in order to determine: first, are they reasonable? Realistic? and secondly, can you, or they, succeed in meeting them.

Even when expectations are reasonable and realistic, not everybody is either able or willing to live up to them.

Think about this: if you don’t know or haven’t given any thought to your own expectations, your needs, and your wants, then how on earth is anyone else going to be able to even attempt to know you?

Even if people know their own expectations, if they don’t convey or communicate their needs and their wants to the other parties in the relationship, then others can’t be expected (there is that word again!) to collaborate.

Are your expectations inconsistent?

People tend to be compartmentalized. That is to say, they don’t see both sides of a situation, much less the big picture. They see either needs or wants, but not both together.

By only focusing on one thing at a time, they create situations that are inconsistent, or worse yet, contrary or counter to themselves. Bottom line, if your needs and wants are not aligned, they just don’t play nicely together.

All too often people “want what THEY want, exactly WHEN, and ONLY when” they want it, with no concern for the other parties in the relationships, or even for their own needs.

Your Expectations challenge

This week’s challenge is for you to consider your needs, your wants, and your expectations. Compare your needs and your wants. Are they aligned, or are they counter to each other? Are your expectations real and attainable, or are they simply flights of fancy? Let me know some of your expectations, and we can delve into whether they are realistic, reasonable, and manageable.

Good Together: your guide to healthy, happy relationships

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