I was told long ago that the secret to a happy life was to not have ANY expectations. I have to admit that in my first 25 years I experienced a lot of unhappiness at times because I expected certain outcomes and then plans changed. Each time a plan was changed I had a hard time transitioning to the new schedule, or new plan. My expectation was not met, and therefore I was disappointed. It wasn’t that a need wasn’t met. I may have thought it was a need at the time, but looking back I realize now that it was only an unfulfilled expectation. If an expectation is met, you are left just NOT upset. If a need is met, you are happier, more fulfilled, better off. So the goal is really to differentiate between needs and expectations both for yourself, and for those that you provide for.
In my 30s I released much of my attachment to things, and places, schedules, and began to see everything as temporary. When we would move to a new location, I would tell myself, “enjoy what you can of this place now, because you won’t necessarily be living here in 2 years.” I released the expectation that I would continue to enjoy the same standard of living, or the same location, or same possessions. This helped me to appreciate what I had in the moment.
I learned much about relationships and our own capacity to give to those we love in some classes by Alison Armstrong. Although we would wish to give our loved ones what they need and want, we often lack the capacity. We only have so much to give. Part of that problem is that we don’t actually clarify what those top needs of our loved ones actually are. We spend our time, energy, money and emotions on satisfying what we think they expect of us. In other words, we spin our wheels satisfying what we perceive as an expectation. We know that expectations don’t enhance someone’s life as much as fulfilling a need will. A little clarity could go a long way in helping us decide the ” worth-it factor.”
Let’s face it, we have a limited amount of resources. Even if someone is at the top of our list, we aren’t able to give what we don’t have left. Men’s brains are constantly evaluating the “worth-it factor” when deciding to take on a task of any sort. Women also use this equation subconsciously. In order to calculate if something is worth doing, you take the VALUE of the Outcome, (upside, result, difference made, change) and subtract the amount of resources that it took, in time, energy, money, and then also subtract what you are giving up to give this or do this. The ending number is your answer. If it’s a positive number than it is definitely worth doing, and if it’s a negative number it will not seem worth doing. Even it you come out with a zero, it is NOT worth doing.
Let’s give you an example. If the outcome of a clean garage is worth a 400, and it costs you 100 in supplies, and 200 perceived in energy, plus you had to give up 5 hours of your workout sessions, and laundry (cost 100), you come out at 0. Is zero worth doing? Not usually. It only means you are surviving. You are not getting ahead.
Now we add on that extra positive piece of appreciation. This is VERY important to your equation, and can make all the difference in the world. Let’s say your husband and kids come to garage and they are impressed with what you have done, and say thank you. Now he can get to his tools, without knocking over the laundry and that saves him frustration, and your kids can get to their sports equipment without hitting your car. This is worth 400 to you!
So this is DEFINITELY worth doing to you.
Let’s give another example. A man is deciding whether or not to buy you flowers. He might not see a great big value in some dying plants in a jar cluttering your table, and then he adds the costs of $40 for the bouquet, and time spent away from work driving to the store, and he is trying to make this decision. In addition, that $40 could have purchased a month’s worth of car washes. This would be what he is giving up.
However, last time he gave you flowers, you were SO grateful. You hugged him, and told him each afternoon how they were brightening your day. That is worth A LOT. He may just decide to buy those flowers, because the appreciation makes it worth it. The appreciation can make a negative, not-worth-it equation turn into a positive when you make someone happy.
It must be pointed out, that women and men will tend to do ZERO balance equations for people they are dependent on. A man will not see a task worth doing, but because it is for his boss, he will do it. He might not see the point in it, and be frustrated, but he will still do it to keep out of trouble. Women might do the same thing for their husbands, or whomever they are dependent on.
I just want to get back to the clarifying portion of the short list of items that you provide for your main relationship. You provide certain things that you believe that the other person expects of you. You also assume that it brings them a certain level of satisfaction. We are making a lot of assumptions, and could do better by finding out those top 5 things that really bring them the most fulfillment and happiness. If we stopped putting as much of our energy towards things that are not yielding lots of positives, and sorted out what would really make a difference, then the list of what we provide, and what they need could be matched.
Let me take a moment to say that I understand that you must spend energy on things that you don’t enjoy doing. That could be paying bills, folding and putting away laundry, or going to a job you don’t enjoy. Yes, all of this gets plugged into your own “worth-it equation.” At the end of the day, it does take your energy, and time away from providing to your loved ones what they also need.
Providing for others comes with inherent value, and this is what we are taught as Christians who serve others. My purpose in this article is only to bring an awareness that we make a lot of assumptions of what others are expecting and needing. It’s important to sort out needs from expectations. Needs bring much fulfillment and happiness, and wellness. Meeting an expectation might only keep the person from getting upset. This is an important exercise for couples to start using, in asking themselves and their partners what truly makes a difference in their lives.
For a successful relationship, especially a marriage, both parties should be striving to meet the needs of the other without bankrupting their capacity. So evaluate what you need, and ask your partner or your children the same. Then focus your energy and commitment on things that really matter, instead of perceived expectations.
Copyright 2017 Marya Jauregui