Expectations are the demise of healthy relationships

Expectations are the demise of healthy relationships

The other day I woke up to the sound of the bin truck coming down the street. It startled me, I was not wanting to acknowledge its presence as I snuggled back under the covers in hopes of a few more moments of stillness and warmth. 

However, I had this gut feeling that our bin had not made it to the street. Could I trust that it was there and yes it would get emptied? No, I had to get up and peek through the curtain which revealed that - nope our bin hadn't made it out. 

I knew our bin was full. Hubby and I had been talking about it. We had spent the weekend filling it while cleaning out the house of the last of the kid's reno rubbish. Knowing our next task was going to be clearing out the garden rubbish, I wanted that bin empty.

Throwing on a jumper and my trusted Blundstone boots.  I was met with the cold morning air a shock to my face this early in the morning. I fought with the bin as I dragged it down the stairs to the street in front of our place. The Bin truck was currently working on the bins next door. The driver signalled that I was "this close" by showing me the distance of about two inches between his thumb and index finger. 

I laughed and nodded knowing yes, yes indeed it was very close. I walked back to the house acknowledging my hearing for alerting me, my gut for nudging me and thankful that I completed the task. 

The thing is, I was also filled with resentment by the time I walked back through the door. Why?

Well, I had expected my hubby to have taken out the rubbish. He leaves very early to walk to work, why didn't he take it? It's fairly obvious it's bin day with all of them dotted in front of the mismatched hedges that form the fences on our street. Did he not have to dodge them as he walked to work?

Gah, it rattled me. Well, I held a grudge for the whole day. 

Enough to let him know in a tone he wasn't ready for when he walked in the door that "Yes I took the bin out this morning!" and that how the hell did he not realise that it was bin day, plus didn't we talk about this last night. 

Here's the thing - stuff like this is where many relationships are tested. It's in the small stuff. This issue was resolved that day, but many couples don't solve these small issues and they let them slide. 

The moral of this story is: I expected Roy to take out the bins, he usually does it so why didn't he? Plus there was a whole discussion the night before how we had to make sure it went out. However we didn't agree on who was actually going to take out the bin that night, I just assumed.  From here this led to frustration that I made the mad dash out of the warmth of the house to get the bin out just in the nick of time. I wasn't ready for a cardio exercise that early! 

When expectations are not met, they can weaken the relationship to the point of tearing it apart.

What happens when our expectations are not met? 

Disappointment and frustration are often the first things that come to mind when someone doesn't meet expectations. Why? Because we assume they would do, be, say or behave in a certain way. So when they disrupt our belief of what we expect of them, this shatters our concept of who they are and how things are supposed to be. 

What I see within myself and my clients when expectations are not met my brain kicks in with a spiral rollercoaster of thoughts. It's split between blame, resentment and self-doubt. Plus numerous other things that stretch between how things should be and why something didn't happen the way that I fore sore it happening. 

Healthy Relationships are ones where people communicate clearly what their expectations are. It's not about being perfect, but rather being honest and realistic about what each person wants and needs from the other. When expectations are not met, it's important to have a conversation and work together to find a solution. This can involve adjusting expectations, compromising, or finding a new way to meet each other's needs. In unhealthy relationships, unmet expectations can lead to conflict, mistrust, and even the breakdown of the relationship. 

This is a gentle reminder that other people can't read your mind. It's important to share your expectations with others so they understand what it is you need/require/desire.

Managing Expectations

Our expectations come from a deep-rooted belief that we hold true. Many of my clients describe the weight of these expectations as heavy where their mind is consumed by anxiety-inducing thoughts that leave them feeling exhausted. Becoming aware of our expectations is the first step in navigating through them. This involves paying attention to your thoughts, feelings and behaviours and noticing when a rise of frustration or resentment comes up. These subtleties help us to finger-point where to get started. Now, don't go out searching for them, they will come naturally. Something will just rub you the wrong way and you might find that you react in a certain way. 

For example, when my expectations weren't met by hubby and the bins, I held it in, I allowed it to aggravate me which then led to me reacting negatively towards him when I saw him. Trust me I have learned a far better way now to deal with these minor grievances. However, it stemmed from why didn't he do the task we talked about. 

The next step in addressing our expectations is to check in and ask if are they realistic? Are they fair? Are they achievable? Are they in line with your values and priorities? Be honest with yourself.

From here I like to go one step further - Are these expectations worth worrying about? Do they need to be a big deal? For many holding on to expectations, they are constantly waiting for something. This can be wanting to be supported in a certain way, to a task being completed in a certain time frame or hoping that someone would notice their effort. 

Expectation is a bitch. 

The thoughts that spiral out of control that then go out searching for evidence that your way of thinking is right cause the conflict in relationships. 

Stop and use these three powerful questions when you realise that your expectations are not met. 

  1. What is the root cause of my expectations not being met? It's important to understand the underlying reason why your expectations were not met. Was it due to circumstances beyond your control, or were your expectations unrealistic or unfair? Understanding the root cause can help you adjust your expectations in the future.

  2. What can I learn from this experience? Instead of dwelling on the disappointment of unmet expectations, try to shift your focus to what you can learn from the experience. Perhaps you can identify areas where you need to adjust your expectations, or maybe you can learn new skills or approaches to achieve your goals.

  3. How can I communicate my expectations more effectively in the future? Communication is key when it comes to managing expectations. Ask yourself how you can better communicate your expectations in the future. This might involve being more specific, setting clear boundaries, or having more frequent check-ins with the people involved.

Communication is key

It's important for both people in a relationship to communicate their expectations to each other. This can help to avoid misunderstandings and ensure that both parties are on the same page. There is nothing worse than walking around assuming the people around you know how you are feeling or what you need.  Here are some ways to communicate your expectations to others:

  1. Be clear and specific: When communicating your expectations, it's important to be clear and specific. Avoid making assumptions or using vague language that can lead to misunderstandings. State your expectations in a clear and concise manner.

  2. Use "I" statements: Instead of blaming or accusing the other person, use "I" statements to express your expectations. For example, instead of saying "You never listen to me," you could say "I would appreciate it if you could listen to me when I'm speaking."

  3. Be open to feedback: Communication is a two-way street, so be open to receiving feedback from the other person. Listen to their perspective and try to understand their point of view.

  4. Set boundaries: Setting boundaries can help to manage expectations and ensure that both parties are on the same page. Make sure to communicate your boundaries clearly and respectfully.

  5. Follow up: After communicating your expectations, follow up with the other person to ensure that they understand what you are asking for. This can help to avoid misunderstandings and ensure that both parties are on the same page.

By using these communication strategies, you can effectively communicate your expectations to others and build stronger and healthier relationships.

After I realised that my expectations of Roy had totally blown out of proportion, this was also a loving nudge from him to call me out that neither one of us had called who was going to take the bin out. We both spoke honestly, very directly (we are both blunt) and agreed that it wasn't anyone's fault and that I got my knickers in a twist over a bin was just ridiculous. It really wasn't something that had to eat me up that day. So after we worked through this. I went off for a walk to clear my head and shift my energy. I came back in the house and cooked dinner and the conflict was resolved. 


Instead of living with unmet expectations that cause disappointment, frustration, and resentment in your relationships. Invest in clear communication while managing your personal expectations, checking if they are realistic, fair, and worth your energy. Ultimately, how we handle unmet expectations can determine the health and longevity of our relationships.

Start by addressing the small stuff and working through one issue at a time. It's a life investment, and I know that once you iron out a few of those creases you will find a new depth to your relationships. 

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