So we already looked at how many implications the word “expectations” has on relationships. We have looked into how important it is that our partners know what our expectations are. But there are many more issues that come up because of this word.
What happens when others know what our expectations are, but will still not work to meet them? I recently had a woman share about a weekend visit from her mother. Her mother lives out of state so she only gets to see her a couple of times a year. She expected her mother to spend time with her and she and her sister had planned a picnic with her one day. She let her mother know and layed out exactly what she expected of her. Well, she has a brother in her family that is the “favorite.” Her mother ended up skipping the picnic to hang out with him instead. She was very disappointed. She just kept saying, “she did not live up to my expectations.”
We started to look back at this woman’s family history. Her brother had always been the “golden child” in the family. There was example after example of times when the client had expectations of her mother that fell short. She always built up their visits in her mind, and they would (in her mind) spend a lot of wonderful time together, but when push came to shove it never ended up that way. It ended up with her mother spending a lot of time with her brother, and little time with her and her sister. Each visit she would build herself up ready for something to be different, just to be knocked down and hurt. It reminds me of one of the toys, the big tall plastic toy with the weight in the bottom. You hit it at the top and it falls over, but do to the weight it just pops right back up again.
What does this woman do? I wish I had a wonderful treatment here, something that would work so that the next time her mother showed up for a visit it would be a wonderful and connected experience. The truth of the matter is there is nothing that can be done to change how her mom is going to treat her visits. We cannot change or control people. Her mom is aware of her expectations, she has laid them on the table, but her mother is incapable of meeting them. It is not who she is. The client wants nothing more than to be able to feel equal with her mom, connected, important; but that is not who her mother is. So the answer to how we deal with this is to grieve. Grieve that her mother cannot be the mother she wants or needs. Grieve that we have these expectations that cannot be met for her. Next time her mother comes for a visit, she will not have visions of connectedness and a lot of time spent together. She will not get punched in the teeth and be knocked over. She will take the trip for what it is and nothing more.
One of the hardest issues to work on is realizing who those in our lives really are and what they are or are not capable of. As painful and messy as this work is, ultimately it will change our lives and keep us from getting kicked in the teeth, over and over again. The truth will set you free.