If You Care about Me, You'll Read My Mind
Coping with Expectations and Disappointments
By Elayne Savage, Ph.D.
Unstated wishes and unrealistic expectations can be set-ups for disappointments. And before you know it, your relationship is slipping off track – this is true of romantic relationships, work relationships, and friendships.
When Resentment Takes Up Too Much Space.
Maybe it was the broken promise or the forgetfulness or the thoughtlessness, especially if it happens repeatedly. When we feel hurt trust begins to erode and resentment grows in its place. Resentment turns into anger and anger mutates into alienation. You begin to realize that these negative feelings are beginning to take up so much space in your relationship that there's barely room for connection (or intimacy.)
Misreadings and Miscues
Unclear communication leads to misunderstandings which leads to disappointments. You may think you're giving a clear message, but, in fact, the only thing you are giving out are hints or indirect requests. And then you get upset because your partner or coworker misreads you. After all, if they care about you, they'll read your mind! Right?
All too often we give out mixed messages. For example, Janie asks Jordan,. "Could you pick up a color cartridge for me at the office supply store, if you get the chance?" Janie asks. Jordan takes her "if you get the chance" to mean it's no big deal if he does or doesn't. Janie is upset when he doesn't show up with the cartridge, thinking he's dismissing her request. She takes it personally, thinking, "If he cares about me, he'd do this favor for me-I must not be important to him." Janie feels rejected and resentful. She doesn't realize how she dismissed her own request as not crucial.
How do we keep from getting hurt when disappointments seem to be lurking around every corner?
Seven Surefire Ways to Avoid Disappointment in Relationships
- Try not to have unrealistic expectations/anticipations
- Don't put someone on a pedestal or make them your icon
- Don't get involved with "potential," hoping to change them
- Don't look for "proof" of love – hoping the person will read your mind
- Try not to fool yourself into believing exaggerated promises
- Avoid having hidden agendas and secret contracts
- Be sure and check things out with the other person
It Really Is OK to Ask for What You Need
Another way of avoiding disappointments is by recognizing what you do need-and asking for it. The trouble is as children many of us became expert at anticipating the needs of others – we never gave ourselves permission to have needs. As adults, we have to practice recognizing that we have needs and it's OK!
Practice asking yourself:
- "What would make me feel good today?"
- "What do I want? What do I need?"
- "From whom?" (Yourself? Someone else?)
- "In what way? What form would it take?"
- And then ask yourself "how I would know this need is met?"
Our relationships would go more smoothly if we could clearly communicate what matters to us If we expect our partner or friends or coworkers to read between the lines, it's just a set-up for hurt feelings, anger and resentment.
Why not think about it as a "space" issue. Would you rather fill up space with resentment? Or do you opt for connection and intimacy in your relationships?
© Elayne Savage, Ph.D.