Consider this… If you were craving nachos, would you go to a Chinese restaurant? No! Because you know that in a Chinese restaurant, they don’t serve nachos. In fact, they probably wouldn’t even have the ingredients to make them. If you really wanted nachos, you would go somewhere where they serve them, right?
Now think about who you go to when you are craving support, encouragement, guidance, unbiased advice, loving feedback, or acknowledgment. Do you go to people who are consistently able to dish out what you are hungry for? Or do you go to people who do not have what you need on their menu and then find yourself consistently discouraged and disappointed (again)?
Most of the time, we know what we are craving when we reach out to someone else. If someone in your life has consistently reacted and responded in a way that has not satisfied your needs, chances are they do not have the ingredients to do so. Continuing to go to that person, hoping that someday what you are hungry for appears on their menu, is like continuing to walk into a Chinese restaurant when you want nachos. You may get fed, but not with what you truly wanted to eat. And now the only leftover you have is an Expectation Hangover.
We cannot change people. I repeat: we cannot change people.
This can be especially challenging when you really want a significant person in your life, such as a parent or romantic partner, to be able to satisfy your cravings. However, sometimes they just don’t have the ingredients to do so. Other people are not wrong if they don’t live up to your expectations; they are who they are. Accept what they do have to offer you. When you are too focused on what you are not getting from someone, you are missing out on what they are giving.
Here is an exercise for you to complete to prevent future Expectation Hangovers when it comes to other people:
- On a sheet of paper or a Word doc, make two columns.
- On the left side, write a list of your common “cravings” that involve being supported by others. For example: someone to just listen, an objective resource for feedback, some- one to laugh with, someone you feel safe to be vulnerable with, a person who will offer time and physical assistance when you need help with a move or project, someone who is encouraging, and so on.
- On the right side, write a list of the closest people in your life and those you interact with the most.
- Play a little game of connect the dots. Draw a line from the need on the left to the appropriate person or people who are capable of fulfilling that need. If you have needs that do not have a match either practice fulfilling that need inside yourself or take responsibility to create some new relationships in your life that can satiate that intention.
Make a commitment to yourself that you will stop going to people who cannot dish out what you are craving. Love and accept them for who they are; they are doing the best they can. Be grateful for all the people who do match up with some of your cravings — there may be a lot of cooks in your kitchen that you might not have been aware of because you were hanging on to expectations of others.
Finally, drop expectations in all your relationships and create agreements instead. One of the main reasons we end up with a relational expectation hangover is because we expect other people to be mind readers. They are not! Communicate clearly what you would like in a relationship, ask that person if they are available and able to give it, ask what they need from you, and then agree on your agreement. Communication like this will save you so much unnecessary heartache and improve the quality of all your relationships.
It is an act of self-love to be responsible and honest about how we get our needs met rather than expecting them to be met. And remember, the person you can always go to for unconditional love and acceptance is your Loving Self.