I think so many people think expectations and standards are the same things when they really aren’t. They are related, but not similar in how they should be executed.
An EXPECTATION is a strong belief about how something is going to happen in the future or an estimation that someone is going to achieve something. They are internal and based on fiction. They can also lead to disappointment because they don’t take into account the other person’s motivations or willingness to meet them.
When you create expectations of how someone else will behave they are based on your own desires and not any proof that they are even capable of meeting them.
A STANDARD is a level of quality that is accepted as the baseline of what is acceptable and is generally the basis of judgment. A standard is factual and drives good decision-making.
So, where I see people mixing up expectation and standards are in relationships and even in business.
Expectations are assumptions and in making them, we assume the other person is in agreement. Then, we place those expectations on them, many times without their knowledge or understanding. Then, we get frustrated as they don’t succeed in meeting the expectations they don’t even know they are supposed to be meeting.
Then, if you are a poor communicator or handle disagreements passive-aggressively, this can doom a relationship as resentment deems the unwitting partner as the villain in the relationship. Some expectations are unrealistic to begin with or based on childhood wounds. The expectation for them to behave in a certain way may be based on treatment received or not received in the past.
But, a partner may feel they are within their rights to be angry when these expectations aren’t met. The other partner feels attacked for no reason.
Sometimes, we don’t even know we have the expectations until our partner doesn’t meet them. It can be disorienting to realize your partner isn’t on the same page. However, we are all a product of our past relationships and upbringing. We grew up in different households and had different experiences which shaped what we believe about how a relationship works.
Without communication and compromise, expectations can ruin relationships. But, our expectations help us discover our standards and we can use both to create healthy boundaries.
Healthy boundaries in a relationship are the foundation of trust. When you can communicate to your partner exactly what you need without accusations or hurt feelings, then you give them the tools they can use to love you in a way that feels loving. Or, you both can discover that, maybe, you are not as perfectly matched as you thought. Either way, you can progress in a way that is less damaging and more authentic to both partners.
Standards are basically your operating principles.
When it comes to your standards, they are how you conduct yourself and they affect what you may expect from your partner:
Are you someone who operates in transparency or do you covet your privacy?
Do you expect to be communicated with throughout the day or is twice a day fine for you because you’re not that communicative?
How do you spend the holidays? Is time with your family mandatory or do you barely speak?
How do you handle your money? Are you frugal or generous? Do you save or spend every penny you have?
How do you treat people outside the relationship who may affect your relationship? Is talking to an ex a big deal to you? How do you handle flirting?
These are areas where you have expectations that sit on top of these standards and from them is where your boundaries lie.
Some of them, you will know immediately based on previous relationships. Others will become painfully obvious as a moment happens where the action you predicted isn’t handled the same way you would have handled it.
And, then is when you have to readjust your expectations. Check your standards and express your boundaries for future interactions. But, this is not a dictatorship. Your partner may see it differently because they are basing their actions on their own set of standards.
Maybe to them, they don’t want to travel all over the city visiting family on holidays. They would prefer both families come to visit. That’s their standard. From there you find a compromise. This year everyone comes to you and next year, you travel.
Knowing what is important to you, how to express it in a collaborative manner and not making your expectations law are key to having better relationships.
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