At its core, it is our attempt to control or change others.
High expectations becomes a double edged sword. We become resentful when our expectations are not met, and others become resentful because we are not accepting them as they are.
And none more so than with family!
Probably because we feel more safe and “entitled” with family, our expectations are usually greater and more freely expressed. And because we have more “history” with divisive family issues, our expectations tend to be negative ones.
A prime example is when adult children—often reluctantly, but dutifully–return home for the holidays. They are apprehensive and expect that recurring issues from the past will be drummed up again by their parents and siblings. My advice is:
Let go of unrealistic family expectations.
The more we can lower our family expectations, or keep them realistic, the more peace and serenity we will have and the stronger our family bonds will be.
Here are three ways you can reduce or let go of your family expectations.
*Determine what “perceived” needs underlie your expectations. Most often, our family expectations are derived from deep needs we have, whether it be the need to be loved, accepted, or the need to “help” other members.
Consider, however, whether the need is something that others can really fulfill?
Or, as is more often the case, is it something that only you can fulfill?
Once you recognize this essential truth, your expectations will diminish, whether it be with family or others in your life.
* Be more grateful for what your family gives you. Instead of thinking about family members’ annoying traits, focus on the good things that you enjoy and appreciate about them. Similarly, be positive and open-minded. Don’t assume or anticipate conflict or unpleasant behavior based on past history. Trust that you will be able to deflect or disengage from any upsetting behavior or problems that might arise.
*Accept your family for whom and how they are. Don’t try to change family members. No one is perfect or without flaws. Are you? When you accept your family as they are, it not only avoids resentment and dissension, but also strengthens family bonds.
I have come to believe that all families are to some extent “dysfunctional” and that we do not have the power to change family dynamics by ourselves. Expecting that we can do so–usually by using controlling means—only makes matters worse.
However, we do have the power to change our own role within the family dynamic.
Making the shift from expectations to family closeness
We can choose not to expect, not to engage, not to react and not to pressure, and just be as accepting of our family as we can. As we begin to do this, a “shift” can occur in which our family feels safer and more trusting and reacts and responds to us in a more loving manner–and therein I believe lies the best hope for bringing us the family closeness we seek and desire.
Please share with me your beliefs and experiences with family expectations and what successes you have had when you were able to lower them.
In the meantime, remember to
Let it Go!