Chuck Chapman identifies the #1 relationship mistake we make and tells us how to fix it.
Chances are you are doing something that you’re not necessarily aware of that is screwing up your relationships. It’s causing you a lot of pain and discourse with your significant other. This thing is the source of nearly every argument, it’s the germination of all resentments, and it ultimately leaves you disconnected with the one you love. The one thing you and I do to screw up our relationships is…we have expectations.
Everyone has expectations; you do, I do, she does, they do…we all do. An expectation is a core belief that the other person should do something…that they shouldn’t do something…that we should be allowed to do something…or we shouldn’t be expected to do something in some way that is different from way we want things to be. Expectations are our ego driven desires to control people, places, and things to conform exactly as I say, think or plan with little fluctuation. Basically it’s me acting like a diva.
When I have an expectation, my ego is attached to the outcome and because I am unwilling to have it any other way than my own, I tend to make things difficult for everyone around me. Yet the funny thing is that when I have unmet expectations, I am the one who ultimately suffers! As Byron Katie says “When I argue with reality, I lose—but only 100% of the time.” An expectation is arguing with what is. It always ends with defeat.
Nothing will kill your relationship faster than having expectations. An expectation is a resentment waiting to be born! When someone doesn’t meet my expectations, I judge them harshly, creating distance as a means of self-protection and get bent out-of-shape like a pipe cleaner caught in a garbage disposal. The resentments grow, because I feel justified in my expectation. The reality is that my inability to release my expectation only serves to create division rather than a solution. Think back to your most recent argument and ask yourself if there wasn’t an unmet expectation that led to a resentment.
“Wait just a second…” you may be saying to yourself. “Do you mean to tell me all expectations are bad? If I don’t have expectations won’t people just walk all over me? I mean if there were no expectations, there would be chaos in the world!” Here’s where we need to make the distinction between an expectation and a basic human right. I believe that as humans we do have certain rights: the right to safety, security, fidelity, respect, etc. When I’m clear on what my rights as a human are, then I can set limits on what I will tolerate and what I will not. For example I won’t tolerate being called names, being yelled at, or being disrespected, because I have a basic human right to safety and consideration. I can set a boundary by simply stating, “I won’t tolerate being treated with disrespect.” It’s important to set boundaries, and it’s my responsibility to set the limits when someone is infringing my rights. The distinction is that an unmet expectation leads to resentments, whereas a boundary is setting a limit on unacceptable behaviors.
So how do we overcome expectations and resentments? Like any other bad habit, we need to replace it a positive one. Replacing a habit takes a conscious effort and practice…through repetition. I love the quote by Bruce Lee, “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” So here is your kick: “I am responsible for releasing my expectations.”
There is massive power in this! By making a monumental shift in thinking and behaviors, we move from a me-centered perspective to aspiring to be others-centered. By releasing my expectations, I now move forward in repairing my resentments. I do this by making amends and admitting my ego-driven expectations and their consequences. Trust me, when you practice this you will find peace and calm for yourself and in your relationships such as you have never experienced before.
Practical tip: I have found that one of the quickest ways for me to change my perspective from me-centered to others-centered is to practice what I call the Three A’s: Adoration, Admiration, and Appreciation.
1. Adoration: When I adore someone, I have reverence for them, I respect them and I am committed to them. Adoring is an act of love that reflects of the qualities in the person I’m in a relationship with. I remind myself what is true. When I aspire to adore I change my game from what you’re doing to me to how I treat you. No one ever starts a significant-other relationship with someone they don’t first adore. If you’re having a hard time, think back to when you first met. What was it that you adored? Make a list and write it down.
2. Admiration: When I admire someone, I value their personal qualities, abilities, competence, and skills. I appreciate what they bring to the table. I hold dear their contributions. What we admire is often the things we are grateful for. Make a gratitude list for your special person. How do they contribute to your life? If you can’t find something to be grateful for, think about what you would miss if this person was suddenly taken from your life. Life’s pretty fragile and can change in a instant. Add to your list all of the things you admire and for which you are grateful.
3. Appreciation: This is where the rubber meets the road…When I appreciate someone, I acknowledge my adoration admiration towards them. Appreciation is a verb, an action, a implementation. Want to end a resentment fast? Read your appreciation list to your significant other. Sure, it requires an act of humility, courage and vulnerability, but it’s true act of strength!
My experience has been, that when I am vulnerable, and communicate adoration and admiration through appreciation, the power of resentments from unmet expectations dissipates like sunbeams burning through a mist. Love is a always an act of self-sacrifice. When I turn my ego from centered-towards-self to centered-towards-others, I act in accordance with my values. Give it a shot…all you have to lose is…your expectations.