LETTING GO SERIES: In Relationships, Keep Your Standards HIGH. Ditch the Expectations.
Last week, I wrote a post briefly touching on releasing past hurts. The topic resonated, leading to more questions; a bunch of them about relationships. How do I know if I'm with the right person? Why am I dissatisfied? In response to those questions, today's post is about untangling standards from the expectations we bring into relationships that can unwittingly sabotage us.
Standards are good
Let's first make sure we're all on the same page as to what expectations are versus standards. Simply put, expectations are a firm belief that something is going to happen at some point or a feeling that someone is going to achieve something. I point this out because people can use the words expectations and standards (a level of quality, something that is accepted as a norm and generally used as a basis for judgment) interchangeably, and they are two very different things.
When I was a teenager if I brought a boy home, it was mandatory that we sit in the living room with my father. In classic dad fashion, he'd mostly glare and occasionally grunt. It was beyond uncomfortable for the boys, and I felt terrible for them. After the boy would leave, my dad would talk about the things that were important; being self-reliant, honesty, respect, love, and so forth.
I didn't necessarily get it at the time, but he was helping me to create high relationship standards and to understand what I deserved. In the years that followed, I came to realize the value of those conversations. They would come to mind when I made poor choices or felt emotionally wrecked by that guy who was so wrong for me. It took a while but, I learned to rely on my standards and say, "no thank you," to people and things that were incompatible with them.
Those conversations with my father did not stop me from making mistakes, but they helped me to realize when I had veered off course. And life, regardless of what our parents may or may not have taught us, gives each of us ample opportunity to learn! If you feel like this area of your life could do with an upgrade, today's the perfect day to establish a new and improved relationship intention. Here are some quick tips to get started:
1. Making a list (the infamous list!)
Include everything that you want and don't in a partner. It's just as important to know your dealbreakers too. Vague and generic characteristics like tall, good-looking, blah, blah- won't help you. You've got to go deeper than that. You're using this exercise to tune into what matters to you and identifying the junk to discard.
2. Examine your criteria
Your criteria can be highly influential. It's the filter through which you weed out or keep those whom you consider of value. If your litmus test reads anything like, I'm looking for a neurosurgeon with eight-pack abs, interested in traveling to India, and who loves to cook Thai food. Houston, we have a problem! These are expectations, not standards, and they aren't realistic. It would be far better to broaden your parameters. Instead of one particular type of professional with a specific physique, be open to meeting an ambitious and health-conscious partner. Of course, it would be great if they had similar interests, but (again) be open to trying new things as well. Writing this stuff down helps you to see what's influencing your decisions and if you've been disregarding folks too quickly.
3. Future Potential
Unlike house buying, where good bones and potential are great. In relationships, being enamored with who you think someone could or should be doesn't often work out. If you find yourself thinking or saying, “so much potential" or "she/he could be...”, more than looking at who the person is or what they're doing in the present that's a red flag waving. You're bringing unrealistic expectations into your relationships. You're in fixer-upper mode.
4. Live in the present
The current state of affairs is just as important. What about all those beautiful qualities you need beyond their job or appearance; friendship, sense of humor, a person that gets you (or at least tries), intimacy, a superfan/cheerleader, and the ability to be yourself.
5. Most relationships develop organically
If you're like me (impatient), you want what you want when you want it; whether it's food, a change of habit or partner. Now is the preferred timeframe. It's unfortunate for impatient folks like myself, but there aren't too many things that work that way in life. There's generally a waiting period in which things develop, organically. How many times have you heard someone say, "I wasn't even looking for someone and..." or "I realized I had feelings for (insert name of friend)." That's why standards mean so much more than expectations. When we stop seeking based on a set of rules, magical things can happen. Free up the energy previously directed toward outdated ideas, make room in your life for new opportunities and people to enter your head and heart space. Let go of what no longer serves you.