Well, What Did You Expect?
I remember I sat with my to-be-husband in a pre-marital counseling session – a sort of deer in the headlights look on my face, but an excitement in moving forward toward marriage. Now, 14 years later, I still remember one part of the “10 Commandments of Fair Fighting” that our counselor gave us.
Expectations need to be clearly defined and mutually agreed upon.
This was the type of direction that we did not really digest until our lives began to weave together…and what one person thinks and expects is not always known to the other person. Where we would go, what was important in our schedule, how we would talk about any given topic.
What Is An Expectation?
As thinking humans, it is natural to have expectations…they help us organize our thinking, our days, our lives. In a relationship though, it takes some practice to move away from mind reading and into strong and gracious communication.
An expectation is a strong belief that something will happen, a belief that someone should do or achieve something.
This month, we are writing about why some friendships fail. Our blog on female friendship addresses a variety of topics that example what can happen between two women in a friendship, anything from the delight of really knowing someone to the pain a broken friendship causes to the female heart.
Unmet expectations are often a reason that a friendship breaks down. Small disappointments based on miscommunication, lack of honesty, inconsistency, personal change can all lead to fractures in a relationship. Overall, most of us have some basic expectations when we enter into a relationship with another person – emotional safety, loyalty, availability, consistency.
Some expectations are normal ways we exist in society that most people adhere to…I trust that you know not to:
- lie to me
- steal from me
- betray me
Expectations: Getting What I Want
One of the simplest ways to find out what your expectations of another person is watch what happens when you do not get what you want. Wanting is not a bad thing, until we place our well-being in the hands of another person…creating a situation where if they do not fulfill our expectation for their behavior, we get upset.
Common responses when with an unmet expectation:
- the emotion anger
- “But I thought…”
- “I can’t believe you…”
- “You knew I…”
- “You should have known…”
There are also ways that we have expectations set for others that they may not have agreed to:
- level of sharing in a relationship
- ease of friendship
- value the same things
- always agree
Surprised By The Unknown
Trust and safety are both big factors in the development of a true friendship. Every one of us has experienced pain at the hands of another, and often protect ourselves with isolation, vows or emotional distance in order that no one can hurt us again.
The result of holding ourselves back from one another is that we feed that little monster called Fear, and we leave a lot of space for miscommunication and misunderstanding, as well as people working with a lack of knowledge. If my friend does not know certain things about me, and yet I have an expectation for her to behave as if she does, I am setting the friendship up for failure.
An assumption is something that is accepted as true or as certain to happen, without proof.
Sweet and nice. These are two adjectives very often used to describe women. And we believe it, because most of us are sweet and nice…However, we cannot assume that all women are fit for healthy friendship, for honesty, for depth, for endurance. Many are not. More than that, we cannot assume that any person knows what we think and feel.
Also, it is easy to not voice an expectation when we fear rejection, and so much easier to make an assumption.
But we know what making assumptions does…. :)
A Changing of Seasons
Seasonal friendships is a topic we refer to often on our blog. Life is constantly changing, our roles as women are constantly changing as we enter into our own different eras. A friendship can definitely fail when new circumstances change – you no longer have cancer, are no longer married, now have children, got married, got a job, have a shift in your belief systems, etc.
A great thing about seasonal friendships is that if we enter a friendship without putting pressure on it to last forever, we can hold the friendship loosely, letting it move with both women’s lives. As our seasons change, we can remember one another fondly and wish each other well in our new circumstances. Also, change gives us a great chance to know our friend in their new role – as a working woman, as a mother, as an unattached single woman. The place the woman holds in your life might be different - she may no longer be a best friend, but might be more of a friend or an acquaintance.
The Past Becomes The Present
Another way expectations impact the stability of a friendship is that we decide who someone is based our previous experiences. When we live with one foot in the past and one in the present we do not allow ourselves the chance to heal from past hurts and move forward, and we do not trust that there really are needles in the haystack – women who really do make for good, caring, loving friends. The same way that a woman can have a bad experience with one man and think “All men are pigs!” We can think of all women as catty, bitchy, selfish, backstabbing or shallow.
Clearly Defined And Mutually Agreed Upon
Discussing expectations is a great way to build the trust and safety that a true friendship requires. This helps keep the air clean between two people…and makes it a bit easier to talk about when something goes awry.
When something is clearly defined, this leaves less room for misunderstanding.
Example: What does “On Time” mean to you?
- 5 minutes early
- right on time
- within 10 minutes of the beginning
When something is mutually agreed upon, both people feel a sense of understanding, importance and control. One person’s well-being is not elevated above the other’s. The “mutually agreed upon” increases the fairness and attention I give to my friend’s thoughts, needs and interpretations – and cuts down on the chance that I demand something of a friend that she has not agreed to.
While talking through expectations can seem a bit awkward, it offers two friends the chance to discover more about who they are and what they desire out of the relationship. None of us jump into something hoping we fail…but most of the time we want guaranteed success. Considering the role expectations play in our relationships is one way to prevent a friendship from failing.
Have you had the chance to see what spoken or unspoken expectations do in a friendship? We’d love to hear!
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