This video I recently posted on my Facebook page is one of the funniest videos I’ve seen in a very long time. It not only gave me a good laugh, but also made me think a great deal about how this seemingly harmless situation is the perfect example of what I believe is the main reason most relationships fail.
As you could see in the video, a well intended younger sister is trying to convince her older sibling to participate in what is commonly known as a ‘Trust Fall’ while their father rolls the video camera. The exercise is quite simple, one partner closes their eyes and lets themselves fall down while the other catches them. When performed successfully, it is meant to build trust and commitment between the partners, while you surrender your control.
Why did this experiment fail? Simply, because there was an unmet expectation. The younger sister and the dad both expected that the older sister would fall backward. They’ve probably done the exercise a dozen of times and clearly knew what to expect. The problem was, they failed to communicate the direction of the fall to the older girl. The result was probably a good bump in the head!
How often in our relationships we do exactly the same? Whenever we start a new relationship, hire a new employee, sign up a new client, or decide to share a house with a friend, we very quickly start creating all kinds of expectations about how things ‘should’ and ‘ought to’ be. Then, when these expectations are not met, and we start communicating to others how ‘our expectations are not being met’, then all hell breaks loose, and then the relationship begins to go south.
I believe that we human beings were not put on this planet to live up to the expectations of others. Deep down we all have a rebellious, free spirit in us that knows it was not put here to live up to another mortal human being’s expectations. Therefore, whenever we hear the word “expectation”, that rebellious spirit rises, and with it a lesser likelihood of that ‘expected something’ to happen. By expecting something, we actually make it go away. We chase it away anything that is build from expectation, because it is build on a one partner’s idea of what is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. It also places all responsibility outside of yourself because it will always be someone else’s fault that you’re unhappy because your expectations are not being met.
In my coaching practice and in my life I’ve never seen ‘expectations’ work. It doesn’t bring people closer together, it doesn’t make one partner more faithful or happier. Quite the opposite, it creates terrible stress, pressure and resentment. No wonder it’s easier to rebel!
So, what is the solution?
Agree to make agreements
It’s the more loving, heart-centered, and spiritual way of getting what you really want.
Simply, if you want someone to do something, or to behave a certain way simply create an agreement. Don’t just ‘expect’ them to do it because it’s the right thing to do or because that’s what you would do if you were in their place. They just won’t. Or haven’t you noticed it by now?
So, if your partner is late for dinner with you and the kids, how about saying, “Let’s you and I create an agreement. I would like to have you at dinner on time. You’re that important to me and to our kids. Your arriving in late does not work for us. It’s not wrong, it’s not unjustified, it simply does not work in what we’re creating for our family. Now let’s you and I talk so we can get an agreement; and an agreement is something that works for you and me, otherwise, I don’t want you to agree to it.”
So we work on an agreement together, we shake hands. We now have an agreement. And an agreement is something that works for both parties. An agreement is co-authored between two people who give their word and then keep it. People like to honor agreements to a far greater degree than they live up to expectations.
In every relationship – including your relationship with yourself – you always have two choices: You can have relationships based on expectations, or relationships based on agreements.
Which will you choose?