Some of our best thoughts come when we’re doing mundane things don’t they? I was busy just shampooing my hair today, loving the fragrance and feel of the new brand I just started using, when the concept of happiness and all it’s critical components bounced into my mind. I reflected on the simply fact that Happiness is all about Expectations! All kinds of happiness. And when it comes to relationships – there is actually a relationship equation that features happiness as the critical component.
What ever we do in life, from the mundane to the extreme, if we start with a set of expectations, then we are already setting ourselves up for failure. Because… and here’s my favourite expression: ‘What If” comes into play. What if its great, what if it’s bad. What if I wasted my time? What if he or she doesn’t really like me? What if he or she does, really really like me? What if we fall in love? What if we don’t? What if there are… oh, it goes on and on.
Imagine if we walked about in the supermarket with raging expectations about every item we put into our trolley. Will that be good for me, or bad for me? I saw that advertised on the telly and it looked good, but what if I hate it? What if I love it – should I get two? What if the bread is actually three days old? what if the cheese is moldy? Maybe the milk was left out too long? Now, we really do need to have expectations – around lots of things. We buy a new car or go on a holiday and we expect, no, demand a certain level of satisfaction, don’t we? In fact the more money we spend, or time we invest in anything, the further up the scale our expectation barometer rises. But when it comes to dating, or love, or relationships, our expectations in today’s world are completely out of whack with reality in so many instances.
With dating, relationships, love, by the time we’re hitting our middle years, we’ve mostly been through the mill a time or two. Some of us may even be into our third or fourth serious relationship. And every person we’ve slept with, loved, or been hurt by will have had an impact on our expectations of what the next person is going to be like. And we hold back, don’t we? We hold back because we know what hurt feels like by now. We know how we want the fairy tale to end, but we also understand the realities of all the fairy tales we read as children now. We get that those kind of happy ever afters are probably only myths, lies fed to children.
What is the relationship Equation?
If we consider that our expectations have a total bearing on our opportunities for happiness, it might change the landscape for us regarding relationships everywhere – in all parts of our lives. From our bosses, co-workers, children, lovers, mothers, and even with ourselves. I was talking with a lovely friend the other day who changed jobs recently, and has been loving her new environment with delightful people and no co-worker issues – which have plagued her through no less than three past positions now. She was settling in, happy as a kid in the sandpit, when a new woman started in her office – the type who snarls, snitches, gossips, and throws her co-workers under the bus any chance she gets. My friend was almost resigned to the fact this would happen. Because she expects at some level that her work environment is most likely going to have some people associated issues. Another friend recently broke up with a new man she’d been seeing for a while because he had specific expectations of a behaviour that he was unable to move past with a new partner. Even though he was clear that ‘on paper, you’re perfect!’
What if we recognise that it’s our expectations that are setting us up for failure at every turn. What if we stopped having those expectations and tried to treat every new experience as just a new experience?
Last week I went kayaking and camping with my new partner. I’d never done that before – at least not the raw style of camping that did not boast toilet blocks, running water or BBQs. And we had to paddle across about 10 Kms of ocean to get to the island, with a group of very experienced kayakers. I had no choice but to throw out all my expectations of sleeping in a tent, bugs, weird food, and most of all, when it came to some pretty rough seas on the return journey, I even had to give up expectations of making it back to land without capsizing. I nearly did capsize several times in 2-3 metre waves and high winds – it was terrifying for me. And part of my battle internally was the thought of how I might ever stay with the kayak, let alone climb back into it while in such seas. I realised – by giving myself a very hard talking to at the time – that if I worried about how that might go, I’d never make it – because the fear of ‘what if’ would paralyze me.
This was part of the thinking process going through my mind this morning. If we allow our expectations of failure, success, or ‘how it might be’ and ‘it must be what I’m expecting it to be like’ then we allow those expectations to literally form our reality. Instead of that, we need to set aside the past, the predictions and the way we think we’re going to see something and instead focus on what’s currently happening. “How is this different – and is that ok – why, or why not?”
Asking ourselves some serious questions about our expectations is key to managing those. Our expectations are key to our happiness, and our happiness is a critical part of the Relationship Equation. It really is that simple.
Wishing you happiness today,
Dixie Carlton is The Relationship and Dating Coach for Over 45-65y/os Seeking to Ignite New Happiness in Life.