By Dawn Obrecht, M.D.
Expectations. Sometimes they get us into trouble! We may think the person who invited us to eat dinner with them is going to pay... they may not plan to do so... bummer to find out after ordering beyond our budget. Sometimes our children or a friend may assume we know where and when to meet them, even though the time and place has changed from last time. Sometimes it's a bigger deal... we may think we are in a monogamous relationship; the other person does not. We may believe we can smoke (anything) in a friend's home or car and not realize they or their spouse/roommate/family have a no-smoking (of anything) policy. Our friend/sister/daughter may think it is perfectly OK to help herself to our clothing; we may NOT be OK with this, and only discover the missing items when we are planning on wearing them ourselves.
The solution for many of these examples is COMMUNICATION. We did not necessarily get lessons in this as children... gotta' learn as adults or pay the consequences.
A friend of mine moved into a large two-story house after several years of living in a smaller, one-floor place with her wonderful husband. One day she did the laundry, folded it and put it on the bottom stair. Wonderful husband went upstairs, stepping over the stack of laundry. Less than wonderful wife became more than perturbed. After calming down, she maintained a modicum of composure and gently, through clenched teeth, questioned him about not carrying the laundry upstairs. Clueless about the cause of her perturbation, wonderful husband said, "what laundry?" "Oh, that pile of stuff? I would be happy to carry it upstairs, even put it away. Why didn't you ask me?"
A few weeks later, a friend of my friend's called her, fuming, saying that she had put the laundry on the bottom stair andů guess what? Her own wonderful husband stepped over it, even though he was empty handed and clearly going the same way as the laundry was trying to go. Please note: this is a common problem with husbands and wives. Wives expect husbands to read minds. It's perfectly obvious the laundry needs to go upstairs. Husbands expect wives to make requests for what they want; they don't see stacks of laundry and they automatically step over obstacles. Neither spouse comes equipped with terrific communication skills, but both are trainable.
Neither of my friends' husbands objected to carrying laundry; it just never occurred to them to do it. They completely missed the pile on the stair. Neither wife thought to ASK for what she wanted. Wonderful husband #1 now knows anything on the bottom stair is meant to go up, and carrying it will get him points for later use. He has been collecting points, and cashing them in, for 20 years. Wonderful husband #2 is dead. He never learned the lesson. Make specific requests; discuss expectations; it can save a lot of heartache.
Gotta' go feed my birds. I'm so glad the hummers and finches, grosbeaks, and so many others are back! But they really have expectations! They want me to fill the feeders; they swarm around making lots of noise, dive-bombing me when I go outside, and complaining when the feeders are empty. They EXPECT me to read their minds! Why don't they just communicate by asking for what they want? Hmmm. I guess they are doing that in their own way. And if I keep responding to their demands they don't even need to ask nicely!
Dr. Dawn Obrecht is the only MD addiction medicine specialist on the western slope of Colorado. She is a Fellow of the American Society of Addiction Medicine and her office is in Steamboat Springs. or email@example.com