The Little Shaman is a spiritual coach & specialist in cluster B personality disorders, with a popular YouTube show and clients worldwide.
When dealing with toxic relationships or people in general, one of the things it's important to remember is that our expectations play a huge part in things. Having expectations means having assumptions or preconceived ideas of how things will go. If these expectations are realistic and reasonable, then it's usually fine. If they are not, we often suffer hurt and disappointment. The fact that our expectations are not met means specific things to us about ourselves because of our beliefs. For example, if your belief is that people who care about someone will remember their birthday, when someone we care about doesn't remember our birthday, we conclude that this means they don't care about us - even though it may or may not actually mean that in reality. We've come to this conclusion and are now hurt or disappointed because of the beliefs we have and the expectations attached to that.
We are hurt not because of the other person's actions, per se, but because of what we believe their actions mean - about ourselves and in general. This is not about whether our beliefs are right or wrong in and of themselves; that is really up to us to decide. The important thing to understand is how these beliefs shape our expectations.
It's also important to understand that nothing about this diminishes someone's responsibility for their actions. If our partner is unfaithful, the fact that our own beliefs about their actions hurt us does not mean their behavior was OK. It's still wrong. They are still responsible for doing it and absolutely nothing changes that.
So what does it mean to have realistic and reasonable expectations? To have reasonable and realistic expectations means that our expectations fit the facts of the situation. For example, you don't expect to get groceries at Home Depot. Why? Because they don't have groceries at Home Depot. You came to that understanding by going to Home Depot and seeing that they don't have any groceries there. You now know they don't have them there and you do not go there expecting to find them.
Now, let's say Home Depot advertised milk but when you got there, they didn't actually have any. Once you saw that, you would probably not go back there looking for milk again - no matter what. It is the same with toxic people. They may be advertising things they don't have in order to attract people, but it does not take long to see that these things are not actually there. This is where our expectations need to change.
For most people, the belief that someone does certain things when they are feeling certain feelings shapes many of their expectations regarding relationships and other people. If someone loves the other person, they will do x, y and z. If they do not love the other person, they will do a, b and c. If someone's behavior does not fit into these beliefs, we often either re-frame their actions to make them fit or we discard the information that does not jibe. This is necessary to feel that our expectations are being met, because the beliefs attached to them are important to us.
For example, if we believe a partner's faithfulness is a reflection of our worth, the expectation is that a partner will be faithful as long as we are good enough. If a partner is unfaithful, the conclusion based on this belief is that we are not good enough and this actually caused the infidelity. This actually makes no sense, realistically speaking, because a person's actions are not controlled or determined by other people in any way. However, there are still many, many people who believe this. Their belief makes it real. It makes it true for them.
If infidelity happens in this situation, there are a few solutions that present themselves according to the ego's belief structure that created the expectation: the infidelity can be denied or ignored, it can be explained by blaming an "other" (such as the person the partner was unfaithful with), or the person can attempt to control the situation by changing themselves to be perceived as "better" so that the infidelity will stop or not happen again. Nowhere in any of this is there room for the idea that the partner was unfaithful for their own reasons, and this often does not even occur to people. Why would it? Their partner's fidelity is based on their worth and they are therefore controlling their partner through their perceived value. There is no other explanation.
Because of that, all of the ego's proposed solutions here attempt to resolve the wrong problem and reinforce a person's belief that their partner's fidelity is contingent upon their own worth. Making yourself different will not make someone faithful. Nothing will make someone faithful if they choose not to be. Even the best-looking, smartest, kindest and richest people have been cheated on. It's not about anyone else but the person choosing to be unfaithful. It's really important to accept that this has nothing to do with us and stop trying to control, change or fix things we have no control over.
This is the same dynamic that is often present in toxic relationships. The expectation is that if the person loves us enough, their behavior will change. When this does not happen, the belief is that this is because we are somehow responsible for this lack of love. This is often heartily reinforced by the toxic person - but it's important to remember that the belief generally did not start with them, unless they are a parent or other important caregiver. It was already there and they are simply pressing that button over and over. Changing or ending the relationship helps, but not enough. We have to change the button.
Changing expectations is about accepting the reality of the situation. Remember, you can't get groceries at Home Depot. It doesn't matter how much you want them from there or what you offer to pay. You can't get groceries at Home Depot because Home Depot has no groceries to give to you. They don't have them and they never will because that's not where you get those things. Once you can see that, it makes no sense to keep going back and trying to get them. Your wanting them to have groceries, or your belief that if Home Depot cared about you, they would carry groceries has nothing to do with reality. They don't have them and that's it. You can either go somewhere else to get what you want or you can keep being hurt and disappointed when you don't get what you want from a place where they don't have it.
In this same way, we have to accept the reality of a relationship or a situation. It doesn't matter how much you want something or even how much you deserve it. It doesn't matter how much you ask for something or complain about not getting it. If someone does not have it to give to you, then they don't. You can either accept that or keep being hurt and disappointed by the fact that you are not getting it. You're not asking too much. You're just asking for it in the wrong place.
Changing your expectations changes your experience. When we don't have expectations designed to reinforce beliefs about ourselves and our worth, it's a lot easier to see people's behavior for what it actually is and not to personalize it. We can see abuse, infidelity, dishonesty, disrespect and everything else others do as what it really is: the reflection and sole responsibility of the person engaging in these actions - and that's it.
It's important to challenge our beliefs in these situations as well. Where did we get the idea that our worth is determined by someone else's perception of our value? Where did we get the idea that we somehow control or are responsible for the behavior of others, or that the things others do are about us? Where did we get the idea that loving us is all that is required for somebody to change? Where did we get the idea that simply desiring something means it's possible to get, or to do? When they are said out loud, a lot of these beliefs make no sense, and it's important to put them to the reality test so we can see if they pass. Many will not and if they don't, we can work on creating more realistic beliefs and having more realistic expectations to go with it.
This is not easy. Many of these beliefs are things we've carried our entire lives and changing them can be difficult. Sometimes people don't even realize they have them. Changing our expectations can sometimes feel to people that they are lowering their standards. But remember that having realistic expectations has nothing to do with choosing to have someone in your life. Actually, it works the opposite way. When you accept how things really are, it's a lot tougher to make or accept excuses for toxic and abusive behavior.
Having more realistic beliefs and expectations enables us to make more informed decisions because we are not clouded or motivated by what we think someone's behavior means about us and our desire to control, change or undo that. If you have more realistic beliefs and expectations, it's easier to stop giving people chance after chance when they've shown they have no ability to change their behavior and/or no intention of doing so. If you refuse accept that Home Depot does not have groceries, it's going to be difficult to ever stop trying to find them there.
peachy from Home Sweet Home on July 03, 2020:
Any person with a logic thinking would understand that . Once bitten twice shy