Unspoken Expectations Lead to Disappointment

“He’s not calling!!! Why is he not calling?” These words kept running through my mind.  “*Andrew said he would let me know if we were going to hang out tonight, so why isn’t he trying to reach me?”  I struggled with whether or not to call him.   It was 4 in the afternoon and I still didn’t know how my evening was going to pan out. 

This was my mental battle one night a few years ago…confusing and frustrating at best. It was a new relationship. Andrew and I had made potential plans for an evening date. Either a movie or dinner was on our agenda. One of the issues was the busy day he had and he was not sure if he was going to finish all his commitments in time to go out. He said he would let me know later in the day if he would be available. My response was to ask him to keep me updated.  

This is where my unspoken expectation led to disappointment. I wish I had asked him to define…later. When he contacted me at 10 that night, I felt let down, grumpy and irritable.  I had turned down other offers from my friends in anticipation of an evening with him. 

The next day I began to think about my disappointment and what had happened. And, I wondered:   from where do expectations come?

Typically they stem from two places: 

  1. Family
  2. Past experiences

Mine came from the former.

Families play a huge part in what we believe and to what standard we hold others. In this scenario the phrase “keep me updated” is a commonly used request in my family. It means that if we are making tentative plans, we will keep in contact with one another to update if we can keep the date. If we encounter anything that will affect our plans we make it a priority to inform them immediately. This is done out of respect for the other person.

Every family has a belief system.  It may not be verbalized but it is implied through the family’s conduct. My belief system involved respecting other people’s time as if it is our own.  When I did not hear from Andrew until 10 o’clock I felt like my time was not respected. Honestly, it offended me.

Here are some tips on how to have healthy relationships in spite of expectations and belief systems:  

  1. Recognize what expectations are present.
  2. Decide what belief is attached to that expectation. 
  3. Determine if the expectation is reasonable and realistic. (Are you asking too much of another individual? If so, dig deeper to try and figure out why you would have such high unattainable goals for another person.)
  4. If the expectation is reasonable and achievable, express the expectation to the other person.
  5. Be specific. (You have a right to your needs and you have a right to express why they are important to you.)
  6. Allow room for negotiation and compromise. (The other person may not feel the same way you do or may need to tweak something in order for it to meet both of your needs.)
  7. Follow through with what you have agreed upon as suitable to your relationship in terms of expectations.  

I have learned to follow these steps in my relationships. I realize if I had known this information several years ago, the evening would have had a different ending.

I would have communicated with Andrew that if he was not able to free himself by 4, I would be able to go out with my friends and we could have a date another day. Instead of going to bed disappointed, I would have enjoyed an evening with friends and the satisfaction that my needs and expectations were being met in my relationship with Andrew. 

 ~Robin

 *Name has been changed to protect privacy