So much distress in family centers on the notion of expectations. We have expectations of ourselves, our significant others, our family and our friends. We even have expectations of how events should go, such as birthdays, holidays, family gatherings. How many times do we set ourselves up with outlooks that we have and get disappointed when things don’t turn out like we had seen in our mind’s eye? How much discord in families is centered on unmet hopes?
In each area of our intra and interpersonal life, the ability to manage expectations will serve well. That is not to say that expectations are always dangerous; shared expectations around behavior, responsibilities, and outcomes can be quite beneficial, as long as they are agreed upon with a solid plan of achieving them. But so often our expectations are silent wishes, a testament to our own ego of how things should be.
Parents have expectations of how children should behave, perform, be seen as, etc. We think a child should be more outgoing, a better student, more of a leader, a better athlete and get disenchanted when they fall short. Siblings are disappointed in each other when they start the phrase with “He should” or “I wish she”. Relationships break down because they are built on what we wish for instead of what is. We hold plans in our heads that bring us satisfaction but include others who are incapable of (or don’t want to) meeting those expectations. We set others up to disappoint us, and then we get angry at them.
What is it about expectations that get us in trouble? Can you look back honestly at the disappointments in your life? How many of them are wrapped up not meeting the expectations you had for yourself or you had of others? How many family business issues are entangled in expectations in ourselves or others? How many times do we have to fight our dreams of what we thought would be, against what truly is?
Let go of and mourn the dream of what should be, and accept the reality of what is. Relationships will be based on acceptance and understanding, so important in families. What will happen is a better version of the dream than what was kept in the head.