Have you ever noticed when you purchase a car, you start seeing that specific make, model, and color everywhere?
Well, I set the intention of this blog to realize and release my unrealistic expectations, and now they are popping up everywhere.
My boyfriend Matt owns his own business. He works a lot, typically six days a week, 12 hour days.
A few Saturdays ago, he had taken the day off. He said he had a few errands to run in the morning and would be back in a bit.
My daughter, Phoenix, and I proceeded with our morning routine, and we went down for an afternoon nap. At 3:00 PM, we emerged from our room, and Matt still wasn’t home. I was instantly annoyed. He had taken the day off, which I assumed meant we would spend the day together.
Matt eventually got home a little after dinnertime. While Matt ate his dinner at the table alone, I stared at him, frustrated and sad the day was already over. He asked what was wrong and I said my complaint that I had told so many times before: that he works too much and doesn’t spend enough time with his family.
He was silent for a few minutes and had a strange look on his face. After asking multiple times what his problem was, Matt said, “I don't think we are going to be together much longer. I can't seem to meet your expectations no matter what I do”.
I usually would instantly launch a rebuttal, but the word “expectations” got my attention, and I was so surprised by the bluntness of his statement.
Instead of reacting to the statement and emotions that arose within me, I thought about what he said.
What were my expectations for him?
On the surface, it’s what I always say in our arguments...
1. He works too much.
2. He doesn’t spend enough time with his children and me.
But what are my expectations that I imply to him through my words?
1. We are in debt, and I am stressed that we are.
Solution: Matt must work more to make more money.
2. We need a bigger home for our growing family.
Solution: Matt must work more to make more money.
3. Things need to be done around the house that only he knows how to do.
Solution: Matt’s days off from work is the only time he has available to get these things done- hence there is no time left in the day to spend with us.
So what I was stating that I wanted was opposing my underlying expectations.
I had never honestly examined my expectations of Matt and how they affected our relationship. Both my stated and implied expectations were the heart of almost every argument we have ever had.
Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotic Anonymous literature state that expectations are premeditated resentments and that if you find yourself feeling resentment, you can almost always trace it back to your expectations.
Seeing my expectations for Matt on paper, it is easy to understand that there is no way for Matt to please me and that I will always harbor resentments as long as my expectations remain unchanged.
So what do I do?
I don’t want to be in debt.
And I do want a bigger home and more time with my partner.
Self-help, spirituality, and psychology have all explained in a multitude of ways that money, success, or another person cannot make me happy.
I can blame my thoughts, emotions, and situations on something external, but ultimately, I am the only person responsible for those things.
When I base my happiness on Matt’s behavior, I make myself feel powerless to my emotions and believe it is Matt’s fault if I am unhappy. In a way, it’s nice to play the victim because then I don’t have to do anything. I don’t need to change anything about myself because “it isn’t my fault.”
But isn’t it?
Didn't I have the premeditated resentments, aka the expectations in complete conflict with one another- impossible to achieve simultaneously?
So what now?
Matt does work too much and is not home a lot.
We are in debt, and we do need a bigger home.
But when Matt is home, me complaining and arguing with him is wasting time together that we do have.
And most importantly-where is my gratitude?
I get to be home with my daughter when so many others would love to do that, but it's not an option in their lives.
If I want our financial situation and Matt's availability to change immediately, I always have the choice to go back to work. I have chosen this path to be home with my children, and Matt supported that decision.
I failed to address my expectations when our life changed, and we went down to one salary while our family and bills grew. I didn't realize my unrealistic expectations were causing most of our arguments and the root of my unhappiness with our relationship.
Now that I realize that expectations were the core problem, the solution seems obvious, releasing the bullish*t and loving Matt and our life just how it is because I chose this life, and I do not want to do anything at this moment to change it.
If I decide I do want to change the circumstances, I have the power to do so. That's the whole point. I am the only person who can control my life.