PQ 5.11 — What do I expect of others, and why?
Here are a few pieces I’ve written about the tricky nature of expectations:
- You Get What You Expect, Kinda: Resilient People Aren’t Always Positive
- Happy Poly-Days, Because for Some? Holidays Are Basically the Worst
- It’s Not a Cure-All: 8 Things Polyamory Doesn’t Fix
I’ve learned to not expect a lot of people. And recognize that they have a lot going on in their own lives. Whether they’re a friend, a lover, or a spouse, I’m not the only person in their life. And our relationship not their only responsibility.
I frankly wouldn’t be all that interested in spending much time with a person who didn’t have much else going on in their life. Someone without other interests or passions. Something driving them. Whether that’s a career, artistic endeavors, volunteer work, or being there for family, friends, or other loves.
Knowing this, it’s folly to expect that we can get everything we want all the time.
However, this doesn’t mean that we can’t ask for what we want and get it sometimes.
The key to managing our expectations around other people? Knowing the difference between what we can control and what we can influence.
The 3-Bucket Model of Control
As I wrote in a previous post, an important distinction to make is between things you can control, things you can kind of control, and things you can’t control at all.
Let’s think of this as 3 buckets.
In the first bucket are the decisions you consciously make. Simple stuff like what you choose to wear in the morning. And more complicated stuff like how you talk to your partners. Maybe you can’t always control your initial emotional reaction to something, but you can control the actions that you take based on that emotion.
The second bucket is the influence bucket. Let’s say a friend or loved one asks for your advice about something. You can tell them what you think, but they still make the decision what they’re going to do with your input.
The third bucket is stuff you can’t control. Weather. Traffic. The actions of strangers or of people who don’t care at all what you think.
Control and Expectations
When our expectations of others are unreasonable, we are filling that first bucket with things that belong in the second or the third.
And as one would expect, the long-term outcome of doing this? Not great. A lot of disappointment lies down that road.
On the other hand, if we place everything into that third bucket? We’re also doing ourselves (and our loved ones) a disservice. We cannot be completely passive. And it’s important to let people know what we want. What we need.
When we’re afraid to tell them and worry that we will ruin the connection by communicating these things, we deprive others of the opportunity to be there for us. It can be difficult, and I’ve fallen into this trap myself. A string of bad relationships had taught me that to ask for help and to share what I wanted was dangerous.
But what I’ve learned over the years is that people tend to look very similar so long as you are saying yes to everything they want from you and asking little to nothing of them. But by putting ourselves out there and walking that line, calibrating that balance of give and take? That’s when we really know that a connection will work for us and our life.
To return to today’s specific question: It’s been a long road getting here, but my expectations of others form in hindsight. How I find they typically behave over time. And my expectation of everyone is that it’s possible that they might change in ways I don’t expect.
This post is part of a series in which I answer each of the chapter-end questions in More than Two with an essay. For the entire list of questions & answers, please see this indexed list.