With just over 14 months sober, I can honestly tell you life as I used to know it is dead and buried. Goodbye chaos. Goodbye troubles. Goodbye anxiety, exhaustion, worry. I know have peace of mind in my life. I can now approach difficult situations with a level head. I don’t get too up or too down.
I have a pause button–fuck I could have used that 36 years ago. So how did I do it? Why was it fairly easy for me to turn my back on booze and walk into “normalcy?” I am so glad you asked! I thought I would list five tips that have been highly effective in maintaining my recovery.
Control Those Emotions–When you are able to keep your emotions in check, the likelihood of you wanting to go out and bash your head into a bottle of vodka are slim. Never getting too up, or too down, an even-keeled approach to life keeps you stable and in control.
Nip It In The Bud–Life is going to deal you hand after shitty hand. If one of them gets out of control–resentments, problem with another human, depression, anxiety over a topic–nip it in the bud! Confront situations causing you instability and deal with it, asap! Burying emotions or situations is going to cause you problems as issues and situations build up.
Find What Works and Work It–Are 12 step meetings your thing? Perhaps your religion? How about meditation, reading, writing, singing, dancing, walking, hiking…you get the idea. Find what works for you and keeps you in that happy place and work it! Do it, and I mean frequently! Don’t go overboard, of course, but do the activities that give you pleasure, keep you grounded.
Meditate, Meditate, Meditate—Did I mention MEDITATE? I am guilty of not doing this as much as I should. But I will tell you, the benefits of meditation are so numerous, I am surprised it is not practiced in every school in this country.
Start off with just 5 minutes a day, then build up to over 30 minutes. You will thank me a thousand times over.
One Day At A Time–12 Step meetings may not be my thing, but boy are their slogans dead on! Yes, living each day for itself will keep you from biting off more than you can chew. It will keep you from languishing in the past, and worrying about the future. We only have today, embrace it and stay sober. JUST FOR TODAY. Want more great slogans? GO HERE!AND HERE!
Well, there you have it. There have been other things that have helped me stay sober, but these five principles have been my bedrock. They have been my go to ways of living and today I can honestly use the word happy in my vocabulary. What has kept you in recovery?
So we’ve been talking in the last few posts about unrealistic expectations. I talked about what they are, why they happen, and I created a great 30 question quiz you and your partner can have fun answering. The main reason I have been posting on this is that I have been unfairly using unrealistic expectations with my girl, and I wanted to learn how to stop before I pushed her completely away.
I’d like to get into how to manage expectations and ways to openly express realistic expectations and how to make those expectations agreements. Here are the links to the previous 3 posts:
1. Identify Faulty Assumptions–For some reason, when we get close to a person, we start to demand that this person act in a certain way. We reason that “if you loved me, you would…” This type of reasoning is based on two faulty assumptions
That love can be defined in a certain way
That the other person agrees with this definition
Neither assumption is reasonable, and once you accept that your way of thinking is not the only right way, you’ll find it easy to reject the assumption and therefore adjust or even completely drop your expectations.
2. Seek To Understand–People show love in different ways, as explained by Gary Chapman in his book “The Five Love Languages”: words of affirmation, acts of service, quality time, gifts, and physical touch. Someone else may speak a love language that you do not understand because your love language is different.
When someone tries to love you in their own way, it is you who may not understand. This does not mean that they are not trying. It is not their actions that you need to change, it is your understanding.
3. Observe Carefully–When you stop expecting a certain behavior from others, you free yourself to see more clearly. You will start to observe what they actually do, instead of constantly seeing the gap between what they do and what you want them to do.
4. Recognize The Consequences–You would probably be upset if somebody loved you only when you behaved a certain way. Spouses or partners who feel they are not good enough for their partners may seek acceptance somewhere else.
Relationships are not transactions. If you’re in a relationship because of what you get out of it, it is a transaction. We all have needs that have to be met, but it is futile to expect the other person to meet these needs. It is easy to let go of expectations once we accept responsibility to meet our needs ourselves, and are in a relationship not for what we can get but for who we can be.
5. Ask For Agreement–If an expectation you have is important because it touches on non-negotiable values or morality, seek to convert that expectation into an agreement. Agreements are not expectations. Expectations exist in your own mind, often without the knowledge of the other person. Agreements are explicit verbal commitments by both parties on a set of acceptable and unacceptable behaviors.
Decide on what is non-negotiable to you. Highlight these to the other person and explain why it is so important. I’ve found that calm discussions work much better in this case than yelling matches. IF you cannot convert a non-negotiable expectation to an agreement, you’ll have to make a tough choice. You have to decide whether to let go of the expectation or the person.
Let go of your expectations. With one simple change of thinking, you free two people at one time. The other person is free from having to behave in a certain way, and you are free to love better. Letting go is hard, but definitely worth it.
6. Talk Openly About Your Unrealistic Expectations–Telling your loved one that you realize, for example, that it is unreasonable for her to always be available for texting, and explaining you will no longer have such an expectation, will surely relieve her that the burden of your unrealistic expectation has been lifted from her back. And yes, that is an example of an unrealistic expectation I have had for my own partner.
Three Keys To Managing Relationship Expectations
Identifying Relationship Expectations–It may be near impossible to identify every expectation we have of every relationship in our lives. Still, we can try to identify as many as we can for the most important relationships. This is especially important for relationships that are already under strain. This happens when one or both parties are not living up to the other’s expectations, or quarreling about whether these expectations are reasonable.
Make a list of all the expectations you have of your partner relationship. It helps to start each sentence with “I expect…” This reinforces the fact that expectations don’t exist out there, but only in our minds. It also helps us take responsibility for our relationship expectations.
Making this list can be quite a wake up call, as we usually don’t realize how many expectations we have of a person. Seeing our list in writing can also help us to get rid of the unrealistic expectations, so that we can focus on dealing with those that are most important. Once you make your list, cross off all the ones YOU YOURSELF do not do 100% of the times. Then, put yourself in the other person’s shoes and honestly ask yourself if what you are expecting is reasonable or not. That should pare your list down pretty significantly.
2. Communicating Relationship Expectations–There are two things to bear in mind when communicating relationship expectations. Firstly, focus only on the most important so we don’t overwhelm the other person. Secondly, choose the right time. Ideally we should communicate only the single most important expectation we have and deal with that. However, it may be tiresome to have this conversation about relationship expectations several times, so focusing on the most important three at one time is a good compromise.
Whenever possible choose the right time. Communicate the expectation BEFORE there is a chance to fail to meet it.
3. Seeking Agreement on Relationship Expectations–An expectation that is not identified nor communicated remains an expectation. Once an expectation is communicated, however, there is a chance of reaching agreements. It is crucial that in seeking agreement, we respect the other person’s right not to agree.
If the other person is aware of your relationship expectations and accepts these are reasonable, there is a high chance of reaching agreement. Present your expectation in as reasonable a way as possible.
The other person may not agree to our relationship expectations for two reasons:
They find the expectation unreasonable.
They cannot commit to meeting it.
When there is no agreement, your expectation remains an expectation. You will then have to decide what to do about it. It’s very difficult to let go of expectations you have of the future and of your partner. Still, it’s the one thing that can improve your relationship dramatically.
Allowing our happiness to depend on someone else will make us miserable since we can’t control another’s actions. It also places a huge burden on the other person to make us happy, a burden that is not fair because no single person can fulfill all our needs.
1. Live In The Moment–Not everyone has the blessing of being with a person who loves them. Whenever you find your mind wandering into the future, bring it back into the moment and enjoy it, whether you’re with her or doing something else in your life. This moment will never come again. Live it to the fullest.
2. Be Grateful–It’s very human to desire certain outcomes. Only those who learn to be grateful can escape the never-ending spiral of wanting more rather than being happy with what we have. And we have so much, if only we had eyes to see. Whenever you find yourself wishing for more in the relationship, shift your focus instead to what you already have, and count your blessings.
I have learned quite a lot over the last day or so about my shortcomings in my relationship. I have certainly come to appreciate not only why I have been doing this, but also what to avoid and how. I do plan on one other post regarding using CBT and Emotion Regulation when you might find your emotions getting caught up–usually because of an unrealistic expectation–and how to keep yourself centered and avoid further harm to your partner and yourself.
Having realistic expectations for others involves realizing that all of us are less than perfect. Instead of looking to others to meet our needs, we must take responsibility for our own life and make necessary changes that are in our best interest. We must leave our self-blame behind and find ways to untwist our thinking and behavior to make our lives more fulfilling and manageable. It is important to value and accept our partners and friends for who they are. It is in our best interest not to spend our energy trying to change them to fit an image of what we believe we need and what they can provide for us!
So in my other post Relationships Unrealistic Expectations (1), I basically introduced you to the fact that I have slowly burying my girl under unrealistic expectations. My goal in posting some things over this weekend is that I could gain a better understanding as to WHY I was doing that, WHAT unrealistic expectations are and HOW I can prevent myself from this type of behavior.
Often we have an idea of what our partner should be like. We might expect them to clean up after themselves, be considerate, to always think of us first, to surprise us, to support us, to always have a smile, to always be present. Not necessarily these expectations, but almost always we have expectations of our partner.
Having some expectations is fine–we should expect our partner to be faithful, for example. But sometimes, without realizing it ourselves, we have expectations that are too high
to meet. Our partner isn’t perfect–no one is. We can’t expect them to be cheerful and lo
ving every minute of the day–everyone has their moods. We can’t expect them to always think of us, as they will obviously think of themselves or others sometimes too. We can’t expect them to be exactly as we are, as everyone is different.
High expectations lead to disappointment and frustration, especially if we do not communicate these expectations. How can we expect our partner to meet these expectations if they don’t know about them? More importantly, how can we expect our partners to meet expectations that are too high or unrealistic? How do we know if they are unrealistic in the first place? Here’s a thorough list of unrealistic expectations. Check off each one you think you are guilty of, or perhaps that someone expects of you.
((I have put !! next to the ones I feel I sometimes engage in, a few more than I thought, being brutally honest with stuff like this can be extremely uncomfortable, but do you really want to lose your love? I know I sure as fuck don’t.))
We will meet all of each other’s needs. (!!)
They will know what I’m thinking or feeling without me having to say (and vice versa).
They will never want to discuss feelings or talk about the future.
We will spend all our time together. (!!)
We will agree on everything.
They will earn a certain amount of money or have a certain status.
I will not budge from my ideals of how they should look.
They will never challenge me.
They will always make me feel happy. (!!)
We will immediately know that we belong together, so we will definitely get married.
They will always do what I say.
I will not have to change, but they will change for me.
They will be stronger in their faith, so they will always know what to do.
I will only date the person I know God has told me to marry.
It will be easy.
My partner should always give me unconditional positive regard and constant reinforcement (!!)
My partner should always take responsible for all my feelings, happiness, and well- being.
My partner should always compliment me- and always tell me he/she loves me. (!!)
My partner should be the person I imagine her to be- or- who I want her to be.
My partner and I should have all the same likes, beliefs, wants, and needs.
My partner should be able to know what I am thinking, feeling; and always know my wants and needs.
My partner should spend all of his/her free time with me- never apart. (!!)
My partner should be sexual – all the time- anytime. (!!)
Relationship should always have passion and excitement- never boring. (!!)
When I assign my attention, value, and time to my partner, he/she will reciprocate (!!)
Yeah, doesn’t look pretty does it? Well, if you read my earlier blog post you will know that much of time this is not a conscious choice you make. There are many factors involved in this type of behavior–unless of course your are a sociopath, and why would you be reading this blog anyway? The good news is there’s help. It’s called KNOCK THE SHIT OFF!
Actually, I’ve got a pretty good mass of information I boiled down here, and then I want to talk about using CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), and Emotion Regulation skills that will tidy up this behavior for you. Finally, it is very important for you to be honest with your partner and ask them to help recognize when you are engaging in these expectations! Before you know it, your relationship will rocket ship to a new orbit—oops, unrealistic–will be at a much more harmonious place than you even thought was possible!
We will have fun together.
We will be open with each other and grow in trust and commitment.
I will remain true to myself as I seek to change for the better.
We will work through disagreements.
We will have a similar view of relationships.
Sometimes we will need some space, but we will always try to communicate well.
We will share core beliefs and values, and enjoy debating areas where we differ.
We will seek to bring out the best in each other.
We will consider each other’s needs.
We will spend time apart.
We will encourage each other.
We will make every effort to talk to one another openly and honestly.
We will share a connection that we will want to nurture into something more.
We will be open to God speaking to us, together and individually, about our relationship.
To be treated respectfully
To have a partner who is caring, supportive, loyal
To share common interests (not all)
To compromise and negotiate when problems arise
To feel safe, secure
To respect personal feelings
To be trustworthy and honest with each other
To be empathetic or sympathetic
To be connected/close, more often than not
To have a satisfying sexual relationship
To be emotionally and physically faithful
To not abuse alcohol or drugs
To feel like best friends
The one thing that shatters relationships and ruins friendships more than any other is expectations. When we say that someone is not meeting our ‘needs’, we usually mean that he or she is not living up to our expectations. True needs are very few, but expectations are limitless.
When a person’s behavior does not match your expectations, you can try to change their behavior, or you could let go of your expectations. The first is an exercise in frustration and causes untold damage to relationships. The second is also difficult, but possible and worthwhile. Learn to let go.
Understanding Unrealistic Expectations
Steps To Avoiding Unrealistic Expectations
CBT and Emotion Regulation
50 Question Relationship Quiz
Letter To My Love
Have a great Relationship PDF, on me! Click below to actual file:
You might want to refill your coffee for this. I have been in an incredible relationship with Bec for just over 3.5 months. (HI!) My temptation here is to write it all out for you, but I won’t; it’s not the purpose of my post.
There is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that will be together forever. I thought I knew what love was, boy was I wrong! And you know what? We WILL be forever together, if I manage to get my head out of my ass. Let me explain:
With very few exceptions, things have been going along incredibly well. But over the last two weeks or so I began to feel more and more distraught. Why didn’t she seem to respond as I thought? Why wasn’t she putting out the emotions I expected? Why wasn’t she answering my questions about “issues” I was having? Notice any trend in that paragraph? Ya, too many she’s and not enough I’s.
Also, pretty much through our entire relationship I have not been handling my emotions very well. Feeling emotions too intensely, feeling them too often, creating emotions and situations, and on and on. I knew better than to not apply my Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Skills to my relationship; they have been working so well in other areas of my life. But I failed to take notice of my lack of work on this. Bottom line:
Yesterday I had two major emotionally demanding episodes that made me realize, I had to take a step back and take a hard look at what was happening. There was no way I was going to crash and burn Bec and Me. YOU CAN BET THE FARM ON THAT! So I told her I was taking the weekend to figure things out. Ya, a whole two days. But I’m a quick learner.
During my morning coffee I was contemplating how I got us into this mess, and how I was going to go through an entire weekend without my best friend, A friend who I had been in contact with every single day without fail since February 22, 2017. And suddenly two words just hit me like lightning: emotional pressure.
Yes! That’s what it must be like dealing with me sometimes! I put her in an emotional pressure cooker…wait a minute, that sounds a bit odd. I grabbed my phone and within a minute I came across truly dreadful words: UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS. Ugh. The very thing I promised her I would not do, I was doing with full force. I had always told her that I never wanted to overshadow her, that I always wanted to make sure she has the room to be who she was and how she was. And I wasn’t delivering.
A favorite thing I love to say to her is that “I will not walk behind you, so you might feel me pushing. I will not walk in front of you, so you might feel me pulling. I will walk beside you, so you might feel my love.” In the interest of satisfying my own unrealistic needs and wants, I lost sight of the importance of maintaining that. Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t been a complete ass, there are many many fantastic things about us–and my part in this relationship–but this needs fixing pronto!
It’s no wonder I felt so terrible. It’s no wonder I am sure she started to feel it. It’s no wonder she had fewer and fewer answers for me: Some of my expectations were so unreasonable and so impossible to meet, she must have started to feel smothered, started slowly to shut down emotionally, and I was feeling denied. Isn’t it fun when you’re sitting around one day, a year of recovery under your belt, and you discover that work on yourself is not nearly as completed as you think? No, not fun at all.
And as if that’s not good enough, guess what the number 1 and number 2 killers of relationships are? #1. Lack of Communication #2. Unrealistic Expectations! And most of the research I’ve gone through on this is usually unkind to the “perpetrator” of said expectations. As if I am intentionally trying to be control, wield power, cause victimization. It’s actually a bit funny. Here’s some of the reasons I have discovered for why people are likely to create unrealistic expectations both on themselves and their partners:
Sexual Abuse Lack of Healthy Examples Substance Abuse
Lack of Adequate Parenting Repeated Relationship FailuresPoor Interpersonal Skills
This list in and of itself is pretty much self-explanatory. I did find it quite interesting that a majority of psychiatric sites blamed this, as well as maladaptive relationship tendencies, primarily on the individual’s need for re parenting. Yeah, looking to be parented again because the first go around was so much fun. No thanks!
So what’s up with all the talk about unrealistic expectation stuff? Funny you should ask! I happen to have been headed in that direction, what a coincidence, IN THE NEXT POST! In the next post I will discuss:
Well folks, I guess it’s time to introduce you to the three personalities that represent me. Technically I don’t have Split Personality Disorder. According to Freud, our psyches are structured into three parts the id, ego and superego, all developing at different stages in our lives.
And, while he insisted that these are not parts of the brain, or any way physical, somehow my id and superego popped out of my head in the form of Robmoji and AnnaMoji. You heard right, my id and superego are emojis!
Before I introduce them to you–some of you already know Robmoji–I want to give you a crash course in psychology 101. According to Freud’s model of the psyche, the id is the primitive and instinctual part of the mind that contains sexual and aggressive drives and hidden memories, the super-ego operates as a moral conscience; and the ego is the realistic part that mediates between the desires of the id and the super-ego.
The ego develops in order to mediate between the unrealistic id and the external real world. It is the decision making component of personality. Ideally the ego works by reason, whereas the id is chaotic and totally unreasonable (perfect description of Robmoji).
Often the ego is weak relative to the headstrong id and the best the ego can do is stay on, pointing the id in the right direction and claiming some credit at the end as if the action were its own.
The ego engages in secondary process thinking, which is rational, realistic, and orientated towards problem solving. If a plan of action does not work, then it is thought through again until a solution is found. This is know as reality testing, and enables the person to control their impulses and demonstrate self-control, via mastery of the ego.
I’m the one who has to live with these two. Over my 35+ years of addiction, I have been weak relative to the headstrong Robmoji and the best I’ve been able to do is stay on, pointing Robmoji in the right direction and claiming some credit at the end as if the action were my own. But in recovery I am getting stronger and stronger and I am more willing to hand the reins over to Annamoji, because she really is the glue.
The id remains infantile in it’s function throughout a persons life, and does not change with time or experience, as it is not in touch with the external world. The id is not affected by reality, logic or the everyday world, as it operates within the unconscious part of the mind.
The id engages in primary process thinking, which is primitive, illogical, irrational, and fantasy oriented. This form of process thinking has no comprehension of objective reality, and is selfish and wishful in nature.
Robmoji lives up to his reputation as id: he’s impulsive, arrogant, sarcastic, disrespectful and lives for him and him alone. So please, don’t ever take what he says seriously.
SuperEgo (Annamoji)–Above I
The superego’s function is to control the id’s impulses, especially those which society forbids, such as sex and aggression. It also has the function of persuading the ego to turn to moralistic goals rather than simply realistic ones and to strive for perfection.
The superego consists of two systems: The conscience and the ideal self. The conscience can punish the ego through causing feelings of guilt. For example, if the ego gives in to the id’s demands, the superego may make the person feel bad through guilt. The ideal self (or ego-ideal) is an imaginary picture of how you ought to be, and represents career aspirations, how to treat other people, and how to behave as a member of society.
So, basically, we are all in a struggle to balance these different deeply rooted parts of our self. Because of my childhood trauma, Bipolar Disorder I, Borderline Personality Disorder (thanks Robmoji), and alcoholism, my id and ego have suffered greatly.
Annamoji, my superego, has been the glue that has kept us together. Therefore, I have decided she is the best one to tell my entire story through something she wants to call “Chronicles of Rob.” Unfortunately, Robmoji is going to continue to be Robmoji.