Now that I am a parent I rarely sleep in. But on the rare occasion that I am able to snooze a little longer, I wake up with great expectations. I imagine that my husband has cooked breakfast for everyone, and that there is little left for me to prepare or clean. I slowly drift out of bed happily assuming that he has read my dreamy mind, but he hasn’t.
On the flip side, you’ve had a nice night out with your wife, and you are envisioning great sex when you get home. You had a delicious meal and shared laughs at a new movie. You are feeling close to her, and can’t wait to hold your wife in bed. Instead of your dream ending, your wife tells you that she’s going to bed. She says it was such a nice night that she can’t wait to relax into sleep.
Expectations Propel Emotional Dependency
Do you take either of these scenarios personally? I know how easy it is to blame others for how we are feeling. But when we take something personally, our perceptions are actually making us angry. When we let our expectations shape how we feel, we are married to our expectations instead of our spouse.
I’ve spent time being married to my expectations, and it makes me miserable (and probably my spouse too). In the above situation, my hubby wasn’t avoiding responsibility; he was taking care of himself. And he wasn’t downstairs thinking about how great it is that I do everything. In reality we both contribute to the family in our own ways. And if I’m doing it all, it’s because I don’t stop myself.
I still enjoy breakfast made for me, a great conversation, or even someone else emptying the dishwasher. But expectations make us dependent on these things for happiness. There is a difference between enjoying our spouse and being dependent on what they do to make us happy. We can still enjoy when someone does something to be closer to us, but how do we become less dependent on it?
Choose Your Own Path for Happiness
Taking responsibility for our own happiness is how we can enjoy our spouse more. If you can make yourself mad by living by your expectations, you can also help yourself feel less tense by living by your choices.
Do you believe me or have I lost you? Let me get back to how I found choices when I only thought I had expectations.
I walk into the kitchen and no one has anticipated my dreamy desires. I realize I have a choice. I can be angry and resentful that no one took a task off my plate. Or I can choose to still not cook breakfast, and let everyone grab their own quick meal. In the end, I still got what I wanted, I just wasn’t dependent on anyone taking it off my plate.
When we turn the expectations we have for others into our own choice for self, it frees us from having to be angry or tense. The change in our thinking is what allows us to feel more relaxed and content.
3 Steps for Making Liberating Choices
So how do you choose your own path for happiness?
1. Decide to become less regulated by your environment – What our family does impacts us, but we can become less regulated by what others do/don’t do. We can learn to become more self-directed without pulling away from others.
2. Identify what choices you have in front of you – When you find yourself hoping someone else will make you feel better, look at your choices. What can you do or not do in order to decrease your own stress level?
3. Live based on what is instead of what could be – Instead of waiting to be happy or waiting on someone else to change, let even your smallest but current choices guide you to less stress and more contentment.
Each step you make toward directing more of your own emotions is a step toward more confidence. The more you find you always have a choice, the more contentment you will find within yourself. And the less you expect others to make it all better, the more you will enjoy their company.
Photo Credit: “Kiss Me” by Mariana Amorim