We, as people, have underlying expectations in our daily lives that govern how we interact with others and choices we make. We not only have expectations for ourselves but for other people around us.
Expectations often arise out of a hope or desire we have. For example, one might hope that others around you would be respectful to you. That person might hope that someone would open the door for them, or let them go first in line. Having that hope or desire is not a negative thing.
If a person does not open the door, it is easy to look past and let it go. However, when our hopes or desires become an expectation, things begin to change. When we expect that someone would open the door for us and they do not, our expectation has not been met. A person then might feel frustrated, irritated, or sad and have difficulty letting this instance go.
In relationships with friends, coworkers, spouses, children, and families, we have expectations as well. When we are in a relationship with another person of significance to us and if an expectation is not met, it can begin to add resentment into that relationship. Resentment can be created when we do not move past a hurt, or are unwilling to forgive a person. Resentment is often accompanied by bitterness.
So how do we work through unmet expectations?
First, we must recognize when an expectation is unrealistic. An unrealistic expectation is something one person believes must happen but is very unlikely to be accomplished by another person. For example, in a relationship a spouse might expect that their spouse would simply understand how they are feeling without saying anything. This is unrealistic as the other spouse is unable to ever truly know what the other person is feeling. Changing that expectation means recognizing that your spouse is human and needs you to share your thoughts or feelings with them to be able to make a change.
Secondly is changing expectations to desires or hopes. When changing an expectation to desire it helps us to think differently about the issue. If you hope that your spouse will clean the house and he/she does not, you may feel a small frustration, but it is easier to let go than if it was an expectation.
Lastly, if a hope or desire goes unmet, we have to begin working on forgiving the other person. Forgiveness does not mean that what someone has done is okay, but rather that we do not want to hold onto that anger any more. Let the other person know what bothered you and what could be changed in the future. If you feel you have difficulty letting past hurts go, or find it difficult to let go of expectations, it might be time to talk with a counselor.