Friday, 22 July 2016

Hope Versus Expectation

I read all the comments you fabulous people leave on my blog. I'm sorry I don't always reply to them.

They are always kind, wise, often very funny, sometimes extremely poignant, and really helpful - both for me, and for all the lurkers our there.

(It's okay, no shame in lurking! We've all done it. Come out when you're ready).

Sometimes a comment gets stuck in my head and it takes me a while to figure out why.

That was the case with this one from Tams62:  My therapist has tried to lead me down a path of "hoping" for things vs "expecting" things...It has helped me to not feel so let down and discouraged.

I loved the distinction between 'hope' and 'expectation' but wasn't entirely sure why, then yesterday I worked it out....

Yesterday was hard.

I had to clear up the house in Scotland, pack the cases to go South, lock away anything staying North, empty the fridge and all the cupboards, clean, squeeze everything into the car (leaving enough space for three children and a dog), then drive for nine hours back to London.

Usually Mr SM and I share all this. Yesterday, as Mr SM had fled back to the office several days ago, I had to do it all on my own.

And, you know what? It was easier.

(The packing bit, not the driving bit. Nine hours without a co-pilot is hell. We made it, fuelled by coffee, Rowntree's Fruit Gums and an eleven hour long talking book of Philip Pullman's Amber Spyglass to keep the children happy. But by the end I had to be levered out of the driver's seat, a gibbering wreck).

I tried to work out what made it less stressful, and I realised that on previous occasions I've spent an inordinate amount of energy worrying about what Mr SM is doing (or not doing).

Usually on a packing day I get up at least an hour before Mr SM does, so by the time he saunters out of bed (at a reasonable time) I'm already feeling like a martyr.

He then has this really annoying habit of deciding to deal with endless e-mails when we only have a short amount of time left before we can leave.

I bang and crash around him, loudly emptying cupboards, washing up and harrumphing, as my blood boils to the point that steam is coming out of my ears.

He's used to this, so just types away regardless, issuing storm warnings to the children. ("Watch out folks, she's gale force seven, gusting eight!").

By the time we leave I am super stressed and extremely cross. It takes an hour or two of the journey before I'm back on speakers with the husband. (I suspect he relishes the peace of the silent treatment).

But yesterday I had absolutely no expectation of Mr SM doing anything (except going to his office several hundred miles away). And I was calm, organised, relaxed, happy.

The reason expectations are so toxic and so stressful is that they involve other people's behaviour, which is out of our control.

When people refuse to behave how we expect them to we take it personally. We get upset, or angry. And, if you're in the early days of quitting, this can be a major trigger.

If you expect nothing, you can't be disappointed.

But hope is different. Hope is about being eternally optimistic and positive. It's a good thing to hope that someone will help you, so long as you don't expect it.

I've also realised that men, and children, are very much like puppies.

Nagging them to do stuff just doesn't work and makes the whole household unhappy.

Instead, rewarding them when they behave the way you'd hope encourages them to carry on.

So now I try really hard not to nag Mr SM to load the dishwasher, but when he does so without asking I go totally overboard with the praise and thanks. (You'd think he'd split the atom rather than just put a few dirty plates in the right place). And he is - I think - doing it a little more.

I found this great quote from Stephen Hawking:

My expectations were reduced to zero when I was 21. Everything since then has been a bonus.

I'm not sure I'll ever get my expectations down to zero, but I'm working on it, and doling out lots of puppy treats along the way....

Love SM x

P.S. If you're receiving this by e-mail, I hope the title has now changed to something less embarrassing! If so, it's all thanks to amanconcernedforhiswife. If not, I give up.


  1. The email post title has changed! It worked!

    It's a long hard drive and no doubt you'll be tired and stiff today. But the weather will be better in London.....

  2. Worked brilliantly SM.
    Love the hope v expect, must remember that.
    Thank you for still helping me along with all your blogs, so many resonate with me.
    Day 397!

  3. Oh I bet I could out-martyr you on a good day, after all EVERYTHING is ALWAYS left to me and NO ONE EVER helps. I know I got mine from my dad as I can suddenly hear his voice coming out of my mouth. I do feel a little peeved for you re Mr SM, sending emails and issuing storm warnings, gosh I think Martyr Ginger would have cuffed him round the ear but then again I am single so maybe your approach works in terms of keeping a partner.

  4. This so resonated with me! The state of the house is a real trigger for me - a toxic mix of others not tidying up, and Too Much Stuff (husband and son are hoarders). Husband doesn't really see the mess, whereas I want to hire a skip (I made the mistake of mentioning a skip and he practically went into orbit). Also whenever I think of sorting stuff out, lurking at the back of my head is the expectation that I will not finish. So I am going to hope for a tidy house instead....

  5. Thank you SM and Tams62. This is somewhat of an eye opener. The choice between eternal optimism and an aggrieved sense of entitlement. Wow! I like to think I'm fairly hopeful but this has really got me thinking . .. Also thanks for the change in title . Flossie x

  6. Wow! I had to laugh because I thought you were describing me for a minute! So true- I think strings are attached to expectations- Hope feels so much lighter-

  7. I too loved that distinction that Tam62's therapist made between hope and expectations. I have found it very helpful this week as I had some stuff going on in which I would usually "expect" someone to act/be/react in a certain way. Instead, I hoped that the would. The result was that I was disappointed! hahaha! But, I will take disappointment any day over anger...which is what I got when I had expectations! xo

  8. Dear SM, yesterday was kind of a tough day, I went to bed sad/angry and woke up this morning feeling about the same way UNTIL I opened this email! It certainly was a wake up call and a reminder to try and use hope versus expectation and would have been a help to me yesterday. I am glad it was a help to you as well. I am touched that across the ocean we can share and support one another.

  9. This is so in alignment with my last blig thought that it is eerie! I really like the hope v expectation concept. And the praise is something I am working on. I hear Ginger on the martyr thing too...ditto. thanks for another great post!

    1. Yes I know, it's a good wake up call for me both SM and HD's posts I realise I need to work on my expectations and coaching!

  10. Mr. SM 'relishing the peace' of the silent treatment. Oh, too funny! Too true. My spouse excelled in laying low and just waiting for the storm to pass. And, when you think about it, a much better technique than trying to engage/reason with a harridan.

    And, as always, you raise such good, wise points. (As did Tams).

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  12. Expect nothing and anything else is a bonus! It's a good motto when it comes to dealing with husbands (lol) We are on holiday now and it's a miracle we ever get anywhere together with 3 kids as he does nothing to help organise or pack and it drives me crazy. It used to be a huge trigger for me and I would get pissed in a rage as soon as we arrived on holiday. I now have other ways to cope but it can be hard at times. There's a funny 'tale of the unexpected ' where the wife leaves her husband stuck in a lift and goes off on her travels herself as he always keeps her waiting..... It made me laugh and I often quote it to my husband!

  13. Awesome distinction. Expectations can be such a killer for me. I expect so much. I often expect such greatness that reality could never live up. Your post reminded me of some Buddhist stuff I read and was delivered in a nice easy to read package. Very cool!

  14. Yes, the email change worked! Love this post, thanks. I still mainly lurk, but just wanted to say that - certainly in part thanks to reading your entire blog on my day one - I'm now past day 200. Bless you x

  15. I've heard something very similar from a good friend - that you need to treat a man like a puppy and excessively praise. It goes against the grain (when do I get any praise?) but does seem to at least nudge them into better behaviour