Something recently happened to me. Actually, this something has been happening for a few years. Ok, maybe a lot of years.
For the last 14 or so years, I’ve heard the comment “Resentments are just unspoken expectations.”
For those of us in recovery, resentments are deadly. Learning about my unspoken expectations of others has been huge for my journey to a higher self.
A few days ago, I had a huge aha moment.
Others may have unspoken expectations of me. Crap. Let me give you just a few sketchy examples of how I came to this conclusion and maybe you can relate.
Not long ago, I was told something, and I responded. My response was not what was expected.
Being in a very surprising situation that was done for my benefit, I didn’t do something the other person expected me to do.
Being asked a question, I gave a response when the person only wanted me to listen.
It has taken me a few years to realize that in this relationship I’m in, there are some expectations of me that I’m not meeting. Nor will I be able to 1) because I don’t know what they are and 2) the expectations seem to want me to be someone I am not.
Maybe you have a relationship like that or have had the expectation=resentment scenario play out in your life. Maybe in your marriage where you expected the fireworks of falling in love to last forever. Perhaps with an employer who had unspoken expectations of you. A big taboo subject is sex. We (women especially) have the expectation that our partner knows exactly what we want.
As we move through life, we believe and trust that our everyday expectations and even our bigger, life expectations are going to all happen.
When you think about expectations, they are simply something we make up about how things SHOULD be; How someone should behave; How the event will go. But what happens when our expectations meet reality, and that reality is very different than what we had expected?
Resentments march in.
Now let’s talk a little bit about reality because it plays a major role here. Reality is what goes on around us. Sometimes we are aware of it and sometimes, not so much. We have very little, and I stress very little control over reality.
This thing called reality can be torn apart from the expectations we have of life, of others, of the weather, of the government, and so many trillions of other things. Our reality puzzle looks one way and then all of a sudden, we get a puzzle piece that doesn’t fit with the picture of the puzzle on the box.
So what next, what do we do when our expectations are not met? OR when we can’t meet someone else’s expectations. What thoughts go through our heads and how do we respond?
If I had a crystal ball, I could answer that for you. I’m not sure I have an answer. Here is what I do and maybe that will help you.
When it is an expectation I have of something or someone the first thing I notice is that this is an expectation of mine. Unless I realize that, I’m stuck on the path to resentment.
Then I ask myself “Who made that rule?” “When did I decide it had to be that way?” “Am I willing to live with the situation or do I need to change something?”
And then I try to be open to the results of what comes from my self-talk. Sometimes I choose to talk to the person, sometimes I choose not to if I think it won’t change anything. Sometimes, I just wait.
Sometimes the expectation is of me and I don’t know it. My first thought when I become aware that an unspoken expectation is directed to me is, “Oh SHIT, what did I do now? I am such a bad person.” My go-to thought is always, “I screwed up.” Or “I’m guilty.” Usually, I think I should apologize. Even if I didn’t know I wasn’t meeting someone’s expectation. (Lots of personal development and coaching has eliminated the guilt.)
Next, I ask myself “Did I screw up intentionally?” “Am I willing to work toward meeting their expectation?” Sometimes the last question is difficult to answer. In my situation, it means letting something huge go. And it may be the best for everyone involved. For the time being.
No matter the outcome, unspoken expectations that have led to resentments hurt. Perhaps realizing that your reality is totally different from even your closest friend’s reality will help in you being empathetic and trying to understand their model of the world.