At some point of time or the other in your life, you have wondered whether you’re expecting too much from your partner. Motivational coach & speaker Craig Harper observes that often we make too much of our expectations, starting to believe them to be the moral standards others should adhere to. And through this we cause pain and heartbreak to none but ourselves, especially when it comes to our expectations from the person closest to our heart. Other people never hurt us through their actions – we hurt ourselves by comparing their actions to our expectations.
A 3 step process…
If you look at your significant other, what do you see? Ask yourself – why did I fall in love with him (or her)? List down all the reasons. Also, list down all the flaws you see in them now – all the hurts they’ve caused you. As a next step, try to explain why you felt hurt by a certain action/behaviour.
But you’ve already listed down why you felt hurt – she was rude (or lied/didn’t help with the housework/didn’t give your family as much importance as you’d like/doesn’t share your political views/thinks your favourite game is crap….put whatever she/he does that puts you off…), that’s why. Right? Wrong.
Feeling anything is a three-step process, not a two-step one. I call it the Expectation-Action-Reaction, or the EAR framework in which humans experience emotions.
The EAR framework of human reactions
Here’s how it works.
Step #1: Expectation. The root of any positive or negative feeling is an outcome vis-à-vis our expectation. This is pre-existent in our mind, resulting of a complex blend of our beliefs, attitude, culture, background, conditioning…etc.
Step #2. Action. Something happens. Let’s say he/she behaves rudely with you.
Step #3. Reaction. You react according to the below formula:
Your reaction = Action – Expectation
Thus, your reaction is a function of both the action, and your expectation, and not the action alone. Also, as is clear from the formula, your reaction will be positive or negative depending upon the action, as compared to the expectation.
So should you stop expecting at all?
Now go back towards the start of this post. You’d listed down all the good attributes. So should you change your expectations from your partner? Should you not expect anything from them at all?
Craig, in his post, concludes, “the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour”. So his point is that the variable Expectation should basically be a moving average of all past Actions, and hence is likely to “follow” the variable Action. This would mean the difference, i.e. your Reaction remains close to zero. Perfect recipe for a peaceful life!
Only that, it’s not. I’m a diehard fan of Craig and his blog, (and I think he belongs to the oxymoronic species of honest motivational speakers) but I don’t quite agree with this last bit. Well, not completely.
The only way you can stop expecting anything from your partner is if your love dies. True, the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour. True, if you have been hurt too many times too badly you have the right to protect yourself emotionally by limiting your own expectations. But as soon as you tell yourself, “she’s going to behave in x way always”, you limit all future possibilities for your relationship.
What’s the solution?
Remember you listed down all the reasons you fell in love with them? If you’ve followed my suggestions, by now you’ll also have all his/her Actions & your Expectations noted. Now look at them closely. Is there any correlation between your expectations and why you fell in love with them? You probably won’t find any.
Love your partner for who they are. Consciously remind yourself of the special person that you fell in love with. Stop projecting the “ideal them” (according to you) on to the “real them”. Tell yourself, “I love Jane (or John) for their qualities x, y & z which are unique. And I don’t blame them for not possessing qualities a,b &c, ‘cause they are not as important as the uniqueness of my spouse/partner for which I love them. I will continue to love them for their unique qualities x, y & z and that’s all I’m concentrating on.” Consciously leave all expectations aside. Be prepared for them to continue to behave in the way the’ve always behaved, but keep an open mind for the future. Concentrate on why they make your life special, and leave aside what they don’t give you (as yet).
You’ll find more often than not, you’ll start living the change you want to see.