How to Kill a Relationship! (Or Save One!) – Part 3
Relationships are tricky!
They’re also essential. We’re just made that way. Even God, in ancient scripture, says, “It’s not good for man to be alone.”
You may not be an expert, but here’s one clue that may help you navigate the ebbs and flows of any relationship.
Expectations. The number one relationship killer.
Like a coin, there are two sides to this, so hang on to the end.
“Expectation” is a two-edged sword. It can sever a relationship quickly.
First, it burdens the other person to comply with what you’re looking for. The word itself comes from Latin, and the root “spectare” means “to look.” You’re looking for something from them, and that means there’s some criteria of yours they’ve got to measure up to. A deed. A deadline. A demeanor. Etc.
Do you like it when someone gives you the feeling of being obligated… when you are pressured to make a decision based on their expectation? Do you feel respected? Probably not. So why would you do that? You’ll get an answer for that in a moment.
Second, expectations set you up for failure in the relationship. It’s simple… if they don’t meet your criteria, you feel let down. You feel disappointed. In truth, you just didn’t get what you wanted.
This is not to say that there isn’t give and take, a sharing of likes and dislikes, and a willingness to go along with what they want. But it is to say that
Expectations are, unlike hope, closer to an internal, even unspoken, demand. They can become the source of blackmail in your relationship. “If you don’t meet my expectations, I’ll feel bad, and you’ll pay!” Probably you don’t actually say that, but in your mind you do. Rejection is soon to follow.
Hope just means you desire something that you don’t have right now. It doesn’t tie the other person’s behavior and responses to your sense of security or worth or stability. But hope is not tied to your acceptance of the other person.
There is a simple cure for this. It’s one of those “simple, not necessarily easy” solutions. I’ve been in this trap of expectations myself, and when I saw this answer to the problem, it turned me around. Not that I’m an expert at it, but it’s a huge shift in thinking and in relationship skills.
And that’s what it takes. A shift in your way of thinking.
The answer came from something I read that Jesus said about himself. It was this:
“I have not come to be served, but to serve…”
Living in a relationship marinated in expectations simply means, “I am here to be served. And you are here to serve me.”
Shift your thinking:
What if you took this approach? “I am here to serve you.” When you start to put someone else’s needs above your own, and you begin to think of serving them instead of yourself, it’s a game changer for your relationship.
Here’s the other side of the coin…
Become a server, absolutely. And yet…
You should not be in a relationship unless you know your boundaries. Otherwise, you may set yourself up for unhealthy situations where you are abused and taken advantage of in ways that are no longer in the realm of relationship. You end up in abusive situations, whether physical, emotional or verbal.
When you know who you are, what your purpose in life is, where you’re headed, what your standards are, you will be able to serve without being taken advantage of. Get a grip on the principles in the previous post, How Jerry McGuire Got It Wrong – Relationships Part 2.
A relationship is, obviously, a two-way street. As you serve, keep it that way. To be healthy, you take the attitude of serving, in an environment of mutual acceptance.
Your best hope for a great relationship is one in which you can serve the other without expectation, and where they respect you and your boundaries, and accept your serving as a gift.
How about you? Need to give up the expectations in order to preserve a relationship? Need to discover and apply your personal boundaries so you can be everything you’re meant to be?
I hope you find the best of both sides… service as a two-way street.
How have you experienced expectations?