Tip #3 – The joys that come from managing expectations

Secrets to a long love storyexpectation

I’ve been thinking that I am probably about due for the next instalment of “Secrets to a long love story”, but what to write about next? I have a bit of a list of topics, but nothing was really tickling my fancy, until I wrote “Seven steps to a happier me”. And it hit me. Managing expectations!

Managing expectations is a basic that goes beyond marriage or even personal relationships – it extends to pretty much any relationship you’ll ever have. And if you manage to master this skill, you’ll avoid a world of trouble and hopefully end up with a few more smiles on your face.

1. Managing your partner’s expectations of you keeps you out of trouble. For years I have been giving this little piece advice to all of my male friends, but despite my insistence it is a mistake that is so easily made.

A few months ago I had a farewell do to attend. However the farewell happened to be on the same day that hubby was leaving for a week or so away. My plan was to have a few drinks then head back home around 6:30 so I could catch hubby before he went away. The problem was that (as per usual) I had more than just a few – I got carried away by the socialising, the banter, the fun and it only takes someone shouting me another beer/wine/cider (or an espresso martini in this case) for me to stay on. I ended up calling him at 7:30 saying I’d be home in an hour, and he ended up needing to leave before I got home. I was not very popular that night.

Surprisingly, it’s not the first time I’ve done that 😛 I had every intention of keeping time, but… If I had just been honest with myself I’d recognise that I get carried away in social settings and I should have just said goodbye to hubby that morning. That way he wouldn’t have been waiting for me to come home, and most importantly he wouldn’t have ended up disappointed.

I think that’s the key here. Most people don’t mean to disappoint, and they have every intention of keeping their promises and commitments. But if they had a good hard look at themselves they’d probably recognise that they may have overpromised, which most often leads to under delivering. And if you do find yourself in a situation where you look to be falling short, inform your partner sooner rather than later. That way you’ll have an opportunity to reset the expectations before it’s too late and you’re really in the poo.

2. Managing your own expectations keeps you from being disappointed.

disappointmentI’m pretty lucky that although I wasn’t particularly popular that night, hubby wasn’t completely angry with me. As I mentioned before, that event was pretty much on form for me, although in my defence I hadn’t offended in years (I had gotten much better in managing expectations in recent years). My “relapse” wasn’t entirely unexpected from my hubby’s perspective, and he adjusted his expectations when I didn’t call on or before my planned 6:30 return. He knew then that I’d probably be more than an hour late, and started prepping for his own departure. When I did finally call he voiced his disappointment, but he was pretty much over it straight afterward.

Moving away from my own flaws, a friend of mine (lets call him Mr A) used to go out for massive boys nights out. He’d tell Mrs A that he’d be home late, however unfortunately he’d often just not come home at all. This used to result in massive and frequent fights between the two of them. In a way, I thought that if Mrs A just adjusted her expectations to think boys night = he won’t be home, then she would have ended up with a lot less stress and tears. That’s not to say he shouldn’t have explicitly told her boys night = I won’t be home; it’s just common courtesy and respect. However sometimes it doesn’t really matter who was late for what at the end of the day. If you can learn to manage your own expectation of others, you end up with much less disappointment, and possibly pain. Proactive expectation management is almost a self preservation technique. It’s the difference between realism and optimism.

3. “Uncertainty and expectation are the joys of life.”
William Cowper

Managing expectations gives you an opportunity to surprise and delight. As your partner is so used to knowing what’s coming up, any positive activities that you do plan will have a much bigger impact. There was a time when hubby was away (on a different trip) and as per usual he’d call me in the afternoon to recount the day’s activities and say good night. We finished our conversation and said we’d see each other the next day upon his return. About half an hour later he appeared back at home (scared the bejeezus out of me) and gave me a big kiss and hug. He’d come back home early because he missed me, and it was SO nice to have him back to warm my bed.

Managing expectations is a weapon that, if used properly, can smooth out so many bumps in a relationship. And the best thing is that it is a weapon that everyone has access to. You don’t need to be a Cassanova or a psychologist. You just need to be self aware and remember to communicate.

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