Expectations, a killer of trust, connection + romance!
The tragedy of expectation:
Unfortunately I have learnt the hard way, that when I expect my loved ones to act, react and behave in exactly the way that I want them to, then I find them moving further away from my heart and less likely to act in the way the way that I was hoping for.
I painfully remember a time when I really wanted my partner to respond to my messages “more quickly” during a particularly difficult period in my life. I wanted his attention, care and support to mirror and hold the pain that I was going through, so that I could trust that he really cared about me. This is understandable, that I would want to experience support and care during a time of distress and hearing from him regularly was a strategy that deeply met a core need for reassurance in those moments too.
Yet the more I expected from him, the less I would get. The more I pushed for a certain way of receiving care, the less space was available for him to show me his care in his own unique way, or even in the way that I was asking him too (i.e. a quicker response) because I was already hurt and upset by the disappointment of him not meeting my hopes and expectations and would reach out to him before he had a chance to respond to me with his own free will (which was actually what I was longing for more than anything!).
As you can imagine this was very painful and confusing for him too. I remember his expressions of helplessness and feelings of frustration as he so wished to experience my trust and to be seen for the love and care that he had for me, which felt so obvious to him that it was confusing to receive my anxiety and stress about not hearing back from him. He too was experiencing distress and needed support and understanding which I was not able to give him either, and so you can see two hurt people can easily fall into a cycle confusion, exhaustion, pain and misunderstanding because they both need attention and neither one has the space to give it to the other (how to create this space between you is another topic I will come back to in the future!)
The saddest part of that story was that I hated my own expectations, I wanted to relax into experiencing a true sense of giving from the heart that comes when someone knows that it is safe for them to say no, welcome for them to offer a different contribution, and given because they REALLY want to and not because they are afraid of losing my love, respect or acceptance of them if they do not submit to my demands.
The dichotomy and true tragedy of how my expectations were expressed and received in this scenario (and many others!) is that by pushing for my need for reassurance to be met by: “him reaching out to me more often / quickly” my own hopes backfired on me by creating more distance between us. My judgment, blame and anger towards him for NOT doing as I had wished, certainly did not create a welcoming environment for him to truly hear my vulnerability and wish for reassurance.
So what can we do differently? Meeting our needs without expectations:
Looking back on that period I wish I had the skills, knowledge and resources that I have now, and that I was able to express things to him in a way which supported both of us to stay connected and feel fully heard and understood.
Here is just 1 example (there are literally many ways!) of how I could have asked him for reassurance:
“I notice that it has been 4 hours since I sent my last message to you.
I feel anxious and insecure as I wait to hear back from you because I really long to experience reassurance and support during this very difficult week.
I also want that you only respond if you have space and feel a wish to connect, never out of a sense of duty, guilt or pressure.
So I wonder if we can do an experiment for the next 2 days, where you put a reminder to check your phone every 3 hours and if your busy and cannot respond - send me something like “I love you and I want to support you and I am busy so I will check my availability to respond in another 3 hours” ?
How does that sound? OR do you have another idea that feels more
do-able for you? "
In this example I may be using a lot more words than a simple “why didn't you text me back?” OR “I really wish you would respond considering what I am going through..”.
Yet above, I am clearly sharing my feelings honestly, expressing my need and desire and building trust by asking him if my suggestion works for him. In this way I am taking his needs into consideration and moving away from the expectation into a more creative space where we can find a way to dance together.