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  • Writer's pictureJodi Bogart

The Trouble with Hidden Expectations

Underneath the surface, there are hidden expectations lurking in the nooks and crannies of your day-to-day life. Sometimes when you think that you’re unattached to the outcome and going with the flow – WHAM – you find that your feelings are hurt, or you’re resentful, angry, or disappointed. What happened?

I’ve learned a few things about expectations over the years. One being that they can be sneaky and hidden until you discover that you are disappointed with things that didn’t go how you had planned.

A perfect example is when my birthday rolls around. I thought that I didn’t want people to make a big deal about it. Apparently, that’s not the case! A couple of years ago, my husband asked me what I wanted for my birthday, and I told him that I don’t want or need anything. I woke up on my birthday, and he wished me a happy birthday and gave me a kiss. As the day went by, I anticipated that a bouquet of flowers would show up on the table or a card would be left on my pillow. By the end of the night, I thought surely a birthday cake would present itself!

No such luck. Over the course of the day, I could feel myself growing angry, resentful, and hurt. I must have told my kids the same thing when they asked me what I wanted, because I didn’t receive anything from them either.

I had thoughts like; I do so much for others... I can’t believe on the day of my birth, my family isn’t doing anything to celebrate me... How hard can it be?... What is wrong with this picture?... Don’t they know that I want something – a card, flowers, birthday cake – something that marks this day as special?

Once I got over my hurt, I got clear on my part in this situation. I had made an assumption that even though I said I didn’t want anything for my birthday, surely my family would still mark the day in some celebratory way.

The fact was that when I told them that I didn’t want anything, they listened and took me literally.

I realized that it was my job to get clear and figure out what would make me happy on my birthday. I clearly had hidden expectations, and it was up to me to communicate my wants and desires so that I wouldn’t end up disappointed in the future. When I told my husband and children that I was hurt and the reasons why, they felt awful and wanted to make sure it never happened again.

I believe that the people in our lives want to make us happy, but they don’t always know how unless we tell them.

Hidden expectations can show up with our friendships, partnerships, coworkers, parents, children; basically in any relationship. How often have you had the thought... This person should know how I feel or what I want. Isn’t it obvious...? I’ve learned the hard way that people, especially men, are not mind readers. The more that I can communicate my needs and desires, the more everyone wins!

Ultimately, I’m responsible for my own happiness. Of course, we all have expectations in relationships, and it’s important to express them. However, it doesn’t mean that all of our expectations will be met. By communicating, you are opening the door for discussion and negotiation as opposed to assuming that your partner, child, or friend “should” know what will make you happy. Not communicating expectations sets us up to be a victim as opposed to being empowered and speaking our truth, needs, and wants.

It’s so easy to make up a story when our expectations aren’t met. We can tell ourselves things like; people don’t care about me, I’m too much trouble, or I’m not worthy. When our feelings are hurt, it’s easy to believe any of these statements. It’s a slippery slope, it never feels good, and, more importantly, it’s not true.

The next time you find yourself disappointed, angry, annoyed, or resentful about a person or situation, ask yourself if you are holding onto an assumption of how you thought things would or should have gone down. You may discover that a pesky, hidden expectation is at the root of your upset.

The more I let go of any preconceived ideas of how things or people “should” be, the more I am living in the moment and the happier I become. It’s also a way of getting clear about what I can and can’t control.

Sometimes it’s necessary to have a conversation with someone about your expectations. Here’s the funny part about having that conversation... you have to let go of your expectations. The other person will either hear you and honor your needs or they won’t. Time will tell, but the beauty is that you can then decide how you want to move forward. You’ve empowered yourself, because you had the courage to speak about your wants and desires.

I’m happy to share that my birthdays are no longer disappointing. I have discovered what makes me happy, and I’ve learned to communicate how I want to be celebrated on my special day.

Sending you big hugs!



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