20 August 2009

Lay Down Your Arms; Gather Your Friends

When you feel the world is crashing all around your feet,
come running headlong into my arms,
breathless. I’ll never judge you,
I can only love you.
Come now, running headlong
into my arms, breathless
~ “Breathless” by Better than Ezra

verb (used with object)
1. to look forward to; regard as likely to happen; anticipate the occurrence or the coming of: I expect to read it. I expect him later. She expects that they will come.
2. to look for with reason or justification: We expect obedience.
3. Informal. to suppose or surmise; guess: I expect that you are tired from the trip.

In Noun form, the word most recognized would be ‘expectation’. Expectations are dangerous things when they are not agreed upon by all parties involved. We have all seen relationships dissolve due to misaligned expectations. I am not merely referencing romantic relationships. Jobs have been lost due to unstated expectations. Companies have gone bankrupt. Friendships have dissolved. And yes, Marriages have ended. All because no one took the time to formalize their expectations.

When I was going through divorce counseling, we spent a lot of hours discussing and clarifying our unstated expectations. Through these discussions we discovered that all of our expectations differed from one another’s. Some of us even had opposing expectations for a successful marriage. One woman said she had the expectation that her husband should call or text her frequently throughout the day, while he was at work. Another woman said that one of the reasons she and her husband were getting divorced is that he never gave her any ‘away time’. He texted and called her during the work day and it made her feel trapped and harassed. Neither of these women ever asked their respective husbands if it was something he would agree to. In fact, neither one even mentioned that she had this expectation at all.

I was forced to look at my own relationships with family, friends, and my spouse. I realized that half of my disappointment in life was due to unstated expectations not being met. I spent the rest of divorce counseling learning how to clarify and state my expectations so that the other person was cognizant of what I expected and we could both make an informed decision as to whether or not a successful relationship can be accomplished.

I will admit that this process is not always so black and white, as sometimes we don’t know what our expectations are until they are not being met. I have an expectation that men should hold doors for women. I think it is a courtesy that is due to the fairer gender. Consider it old-fashioned or even archaic. I have this expectation every day. While living in Texas, this expectation was met 95% of the time. Even men with their hands full would step ahead of me to hold the door. In Nebraska, I sometimes find myself stopping at a door and waiting to allow the male to ‘catch up’ and open it. It has led to some awkward situations, where we both just stand there looking at the door. These situations cannot be prevented with strangers. I understand that we are going to be disappointed sometimes.

I have an unstated expectation that people won’t run me over with their car or steal my checkbook -- but I don’t HAVE to state those expectations, the law does it for me. One would think that “respectful communication” would be another expectation that should not have to be stated aloud – yet, people are disrespectful all day long to one another. If a person would speak up and say, “My expectation of you is that you will speak to me respectfully. If you cannot meet that expectation, then I will no longer do business with you.” perhaps they wouldn’t feel like a doormat every time they are confronted by a rude customer service agent.

Yesterday, NBF and I sat down and actually discussed the concept of unstated expectations. We both clarified what we expected in our very non-traditional relationship. We acknowledged that one of the reasons we are so non-traditional is because we both have set very clear expectations and agreed to meet each other on them. I know very few dating couples who have done the same. Generally these types of discussions are initiated in relationship counseling prior to a break-up.

Here is a cute example of why acting on unstated expectations is not a good idea. The following situation could have gone much smoother than it did for poor, little Jonathan, Age 10.
Mid afternoon the Mom receives a call on her cell phone from a ‘Sarah’.....calling for Jonathan.

Mom: He's not here, Sarah. Did you want me to have him call you later?”
Sarah: Yes, have him call me at 4:30
Mom: He'll still be at soccer practice; I will let him know you called.
Then, an awkward silence commences. The mom is waiting for the girl to respond.
Sarah: I go to school with Jonathan.
Mom: Right, well, I’ll tell him you called.

When the message is given to Jonathan, he denies any knowledge of how this girl could have possibly obtained the phone number. After 20 minutes of intense interrogation, he admits that he “thinks he actually may have given her his phone number”. which was actually his Mom’s cell phone number. He should have stopped there – but instead he decided this was the opportune time to lobby for a cell phone.

“"Well Mom, I don't HAVE a cell phone so I can't give her MY number"

She none-so-gently reminded her son that they have a HOME phone. She also reviewed his diminishing prospects of ever getting a cell phone.

Just like with Jonathan, Sarah, and J’s mom, there are relationships where expectations cannot or will not be met; but they cannot be severed. Think about all the times your family or your co-workers have not met your expectations. It is a part of life. Still, things go so much smoother if expectations are established and agreed upon. Next time, perhaps Jonathan will let his mother know that he gave her cell phone number out and that he would like her to handle the phone call with decorum. And, I am pretty damn sure that his mom has set the expectation that Jonathan will not be getting a cell phone of his own, any time soon!

SHOUT OUT: to the Merlos who will have baby Izabella tomorrow!

PERSONAL NOTE: Thank you for being honest and open.

CONFIDENTIAL NOTE: Thank you for reading my mind so that even the unstated expectations cannot come between us.

Eidetic Vision

Main Entry: ei·det·ic Pronunciation: I-'det-ik Function: adjective : marked by or involving extraordinarily accurate and vivid recall especially of visual images - an eidetic memory Merriam-Webster's Dictionary, © 2002 Merriam-Webster, Inc.