So I’ve been hearing this one thing a lot from readers and clients of mine who are trying to move on after their divorce or major event in their life.
“It wasn’t supposed to be like this.”
“We were supposed to grow old together.”
“I was supposed to retire in a few years, but now I have to go back to work because of the
“I was supposed to be on his health insurance, but now I don’t know what I’m going to do.”
I should be….
Ah, the language of expectations. Or rather, unmet expectations that now haunt us. It’s these expectations we had about our lives and marriages and how things “were supposed to be” that are now keeping us stuck. It’s those unmet expectations that are holding you back and maybe making you feel angry or resentful.
But here’s a truth bomb for you, my friends.
We have a hard time recovering because we can’t let go of expectations or what we assumed about how our life would be.Here’s a hard truth for you all: we subconsciously think of our marriage and other relationships as a vending machine.
We assume that if we put X amount of time into a relationship, or make X amount of sacrifices over the course of a marriage, than we are entitled and guaranteed a certain output, a certain “Y.”
But guess what?
That’s not how it works.
The expectations we adopted early on in life
Here’s what you need to know. This idea that if we made sacrifices, we’ll be rewarded, is absolute BS. But as women, we drank that Kool-Aid because that’s what our misguided puritanical society told us.
From an early age, we’re fed the lie that:
- if we are good and work hard enough and
- make the sacrifices and
- do all those things that good girls do and
- check off the list of putting our spouse’s needs before our own and
- we focus on his goals and not our own goals
- and we define ourselves as a couple and not as an individual,
then, that means we get the payout of a comfortable retirement, financial security, and a stable and comfortable marriage where we’ll grow old with that person.
But seeing that you’re reading this, you KNOW that’s not how your algebra equation worked out.
You KNOW that regardless of how many coins you put into that shitty office vending machine, and no matter how many times you pushed the E3 button for that Snickers, and no matter how many times you pounded the machine when the little whirly thing got stuck on the candy bar that wouldn’t drop, and no matter how many times you stuck your hand in that little door at the bottom of the machine…you didn’t get what you put into it.
Your investment did not pay off. The algebra equation did not turn out. You were not rewarded for your sacrifices.
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How it makes us feel when our expectations aren’t met
Ta-Da! Your expectations were not met. And how does that make you feel?
Does it make you angry? Bitter?
Did it make you feel like you got the short end of the stick?
Did it make you feel like you were the latest victim in a Ponzi scheme?
Have you caught yourself saying, “I did everything in that relationship and now I’m the one who has to start over, while that SOB is with his new girlfriend, or taking trips to Mexico, and I’m here alone just struggling to get by. I feel like I wasted the best years of my life with that jerk. And I’m
left with nothing.”
And you know what? All of it is true.
And all of your feelings are valid.
Great, you’re right. But now what? What do you do now?
When your expectations haven’t been met, you’ve got two choices, and two choices only.
1. You can choose to remain in that space of feeling like you got screwed over with the divorce or breakup.You wouldn’t be wrong. It’s understandable, but it’s not going to get you anywhere.
2. You can take it o the next level and DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.
2 steps to help you let go of expectations
Here’s where you start.
Take a quick survey of everything you still have and write that crap down and be exhaustive and specific about it.
Do you have your health? Do you have any kind of income coming in?
Do you have a job? Do you have health insurance? Do you have a support system? Do you have a good therapist? Do you have a divorce coach?
Do you have interests or hobbies you would love to pursue but haven’t had a chance to? Do you have some f**king goals and aspirations and dreams that are yours alone that nobody can take from you?
WRITE. IT. ALL. DOWN.
If you are lacking in any of those areas that you listed, write down EXACTLY where you would like to be with those things that have NOTHING to do
with your ex.
For example, if you were expecting that you’d be on your ex’s health insurance and you’re not, what can you do now to make sure you’re covered? To whom can you reach out to help you figure that out?
If you were expecting to stay in your house where you’ve lived for the past 20 years but you can’t swing the mortgage, what can you do to find a housing situation that you can afford?
If you are going to have to go back to work when you thought you’d retire in 5 years, what things can you do finance wise (taking on a second job, cutting down on expenses, etc.) to make sure you’ll still be okay?
3 things a mindset shift will accomplish
Here’s what we’re doing here. We’re shifting the mind-frame of not getting what we expected, to taking ACTION to making sure that we’ll be okay, regardless. Doing so accomplishes 3 really good things for us.
1. It’s shaking us out of our learned helplessness, where we think we’re going to be stuck and miserable because our life circumstances changed.
2. It’s forcing us to get up and empower ourselves and let us be in charge of our own future. It doesn’t matter if your life is now different than you expected. That point is completely moot so it’s not even worth wasting your time thinking about. You have too much work to do to keep ruminating on how thing didn’t go.
3. It’s building the resilience you deserve and showing you how strong you really are, even if you don’t know it yet. By shifting the focus on YOU, defining your future for yourself, and no longer relying on somebody who obviously wasn’t that dependable anyway, you get to take matters into your own hands.
Because like it or not, you don’t have a choice.
So, how about you? Are you struggling with unmet expectations? And if so, what can you do about it to move on?
Martha Bodyfelt is a divorce recovery coach whose website “Surviving Your Split” helps
divorced women over 50 get their confidence back so they can get ready for their second
act. For your Free Divorce Goddess Recovery Kit, stop by http://survivingyoursplit.com/ or
drop Martha a line at [email protected].